GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Kevin Kolb #4 of the Arizona Cardinals walks up to a huddle during the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 9, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Carindals defeated the Seahawks 20-16. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
I don't know about most folks, but for me, I expected exactly what I got. A tough game against a good defense, and a Seahawks defense that did just enough to win on the road. What stunned me was how many people expected some kind of 21-3 dominance. I was shaking my head through tweet after tweet, forum post after forum post. I just didn't understand how this was such a blindside loss based on the situation going in. These things may have already been mentioned in the commentary but I wanted to share my thoughts on the game.
1. It's the NFL, on the road. Fans, I know you hate this kind of talk, but all games on the road are hard. I bring this up because the talk going in by many painted the picture that this would be a cake walk. It never is in this league. Despite one of the worst first half performances in recent memory, the coaching staff made changes and subsequently, with under a minute left in the game, the Seahawks were in position to win. Russell Wilson's first game was up and down, make no mistake, but on the final drive, he made four throws into the endzone that hit receivers' hands - this gave Seattle a chance to win on the road, despite his or the rest of the team's play that had led up to that drive.
2. The offensive line lacked communication inside. Rookie RG J.R. Sweezy played like the rookie he is, and Breno Giacomini looked weak on several motion plays where his block should be the key to the play.
3. It's the first game against live NFL armor piercing bullets. Preseason vanilla defense rubber bullets are no substitute for the intensity of regular season football. From the 1st half to 2nd half, the team started to really feel itself out and the offense caught up to Arizona's intensity. The O-line didn't play at a Pro Bowl level in the 2nd half, but they picked up more pressure and gave Russell Wilson space in key plays down the stretch.
4. Golden Tate was missed in this game. He found success last year in some redzone spots. He is also the best Seahawk receiver, in my opinion, when it comes to catches in tight spaces - especially in traffic. This didn't seem to be talked about much in the threads at the end of the game, but there is no doubt in my mind that if he gets on the field for a few key plays, he would have been a factor.
5. Pass rush. The Cards threw hot almost all game; anytime either John Skelton or Kevin Kolb held the ball at all, the Seahawks were able to apply pressure. Nervous about the rush? It's always gonna be a bit tougher on the road.
6. The final 11-play, 80-yard drive by Kevin Kolb is classic sports.
I know most folks are of the opinion that Kolb sucks worse than Jimmy Clausen, but this just isn't the case. Give a guy a winnable situation, with nothing to lose, and no consequences, and the defense looks bad.
It's the situation we see played out in sports all the time. Baseball teams square up a guy and smack him around for 3 innings and 6-7 runs and the lineup gets a good rhythm, and then a reliever comes in and strikes out eight and gives up 2 hits over 5 innings. Or, in basketball, you get the guy who scores 15 points off the bench in just six minutes of playing time. Why does this stuff happen? Imagine you've got a feel now on defense for how Skelton is playing, you've built your timing your rush and your fundamental defensive keys to how this guy is throwing and then all the sudden - bam - there's a switch and your rhythm and sense of timing is completely gone.
I want people to look at what happened and learn how to watch this team and look for the right things, not to come in with lofty unrealistic expectations, only to slowly bleed out until the final stab to the heart. As Thomas Beekers might frame it, use "context sensitive analysis". That last drive, and really the second half in general, were foundations for the future for an offense that featured a rookie quarterback making his first start, so don't be too quick to throw away this game as a total loss. It wasn't.
So it didn't go like you expected. Are your Super Bowl dreams faded like 70's wood panel walls? Fire everyone? For me, it was a tough game on the road that Seattle had a chance to win despite taking the Cards' best shots.