I had the opportunity to attend this game live with my dad and sister yesterday, and I haven't yet re-watched the game on rewind (my power went out last night, which was probably a blessing in disguise). When you're in the stands, I think, you don't really get a full view of the action, you don't benefit from replays on most plays, you typically end up just watching only one part of the action, and thus, can't really form a complete perspective on the game. So, with that as a caveat, here are a few of my observations from being there live. Keep in mind they might be pretty inaccurate, for the reasons stated above.
After a loss, I usually work myself through the five stages of grief pretty quickly. As the clock was winding down to triple-zeros, I sat there in stunned disbelief that the Hawks were unable to hold on to that one-point lead in the fourth quarter. I was unable to believe that that stupid Cardinals receiver had been able to make that catch in the endzone even after Maxwell had deflected the pass. I couldn't believe it that Carson Palmer had thrown four picks and Seattle somehow still lost. I couldn't believe that the refs didn't call it a fumble and then did call it an interception. I couldn't believe Seattle had gotten the ball on the three yard line, couldn't punch it in, then missed a chip shot field goal. I couldn't believe that Seattle's receivers dropped so many catchable passes. I couldn't believe they got all those stupid penalties at the worst possible times. Ok, I could believe that part.
All this denial soon turned to anger. This lasted a while. I usually skip bargaining, then head straight through to depression. Depression set in pretty quickly, and lasted until this morning, really.
Here I am, at acceptance.
Here's consolation, if you need it. You probably do, because that shit sucked. But here's consolation:
Seattle played exceedingly poorly on offense - to the tune of Russell Wilson's worst day as a pro, perhaps, they had several costly screw-ups on special teams, had several extremely questionable turnover-involving calls not go their way, and barely lost to a 9-5 team with one of the best defenses in the NFL. Put another way, Seattle's defense is so damn good that an absurd amount of crap can go wrong in the other phases, and this team was still in a very good position to win this game against a very good team.
So, while I'm concerned about many things that happened in this game, the big picture that you may need to step back and look at is that Seattle just lost to a really good football team. The Cards made several amazing plays on defense, a few unbelievable plays on offense, and won a divisional slugfest that they absolutely needed to win. This is the NFL. It ain't easy.
A few notes:
After one or two Arizona drives, I looked over at my dad (not kidding) and told him that Carson Palmer was going to throw four picks in this game. You could just tell - he was throwing it into extremely tight windows early on, and while he had completed a few of those for nice gains, you just knew that he wasn't going to shy away from making dangerous throws. Palmer also has that Eli Manning-esque void of any discernible conscience or memory, or emotion, and just kept challenging Seattle's corners.
I was totally exaggerating when I boasted about the 'four picks', but Seattle actually did end up intercepting Palmer four times. Two were on tipped passes, I think, which I would attribute to the pass rush, and two were from Richard Sherman being really good at football. Sherm should've had another one in the endzone but was thrown down by Michael Floyd.
The one touchdown that Palmer did throw in this game, which turned out to be the major difference, was deflected by Seattle corner Byron Maxwell, but Floyd was somehow able to bobble and corral it while falling down at full speed. I mean, seriously, how often is that going to happen? Great play. Maxwell still played it pretty damn well.
Arizona ran the ball 43 times! Seattle gave up a few chunk plays, but held them to 3.2 yards per carry overall. In general, from the stands, it felt like Seattle was completely dominating on defense. I truly believed that they were going to force a turnover every time they got onto the field - they were that amped up.
As a side note, it's really fun watching this defense. They're very multiple, a lot of guys play. Lots of athletes - Avril, Clemons, Irvin, Wagner, Smith, Chancellor - all huge fast guys. Throw in a couple of technicians like Richard Sherman and Brandon Mebane. Add in the electrifying Earl Thomas. They're just fun to watch. They're very fiery, talk shit, dance around between snaps.
There was one series in the fourth quarter where Michael Bennett was just on fire - livid. He was acting like a berserker. I watched as he screamed - not yelled - screamed at the opposing offensive linemen as they came to the line and got into their stances. I can only guess he was telling them of the impending carnage or something, and then he perfectly timed the snap and penetrated the line to blow up the play in the backfield. I believe he got the fumble later in that series, but the call didn't go Seattle's way. Either way, he was, like, playing at an elevated level of consciousness. He'd reached football nirvana. You've seen him pacing about pre-snap slapping himself in the head and working himself into a frenzy perhaps? This is the intensity that Seattle's defense brings. I think it starts up front too. The guys that are always getting the defense pumped up, get them dancing, get the crowd into it - it always seems to be Bennett, Mebane, and Red. Vets.
The Cardinals ended up with 307 yards of offense (Seattle's NFL leading average of opponent yards per game falls to 283.1 yards per game), and a meagre 4.4 yards per play. That 4.4 yards per play is actually less than Seattle's NFL leading average of 4.5 opponent yards per play. The problem here is that the Cardinals held the ball for 37+ minutes (to Seattle's 22), a large part in due to the Seahawks' seven 3-and-outs on offense.
Ultimately, they'll probably blame themselves for giving up the game-winning touchdown (penalties were a huge deal on that drive), but to me, the defense played more than well enough to win this game for the Seahawks. Fact is, they got almost zero help from the offense. I mean, when Malcolm failed to score on that interception return and the offense couldn't get three yards or a field goal? A pit in my stomach, signaling a looming defeat, started growing rapidly at that point.
I don't think one game can tell the story of a team, but going back a few weeks - San Francisco, New York, and now Arizona - the offense is really not clicking. The run game has been much less effective, and Russell Wilson has seemed to be more inaccurate than he was in the middle part of the season.
As stated, I will have to re-watch the game again to try and get a better feel for what the offensive line did, and just in general what the gameplan was offensively, but from the stands, a few things struck me:
It was weird how often Jermaine Kearse was getting targeted. It seemed like every play was drawn up to go his way. Kearse missed a pass at the sideline that would have been a first down early on (I wouldn't call it a drop, I guess, but he got both hands on it), then let deep ball on play-action just fall through his hands later on. To his credit, Kearse did make an amazingly difficult catch later in the game in the redzone, but the theme of the first half seemed to be receivers not making plays. Wilson was off - make no mistake, but his receivers did not seem to bail him out in any way.
Doug made that sideline catch but then the ball squirted out when he landed. He seemed to have position deep on another pass and it got broken up. Golden Tate made a big catch but then fumbled the ball away. Zach Miller kept trying to one-hand catches. It's hard to see things from the stands, but it seemed that every time a throw was made downfield, you'd think for a second that Seattle had come down with it, but then the ball would squirt out at the last second. Maybe we're just used to seeing Seattle's receivers make these catches, but I found myself yelling for someone to catch the damn ball. The way things have gone, you forget that Seattle has been missing two of their top receivers in Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin for most of the year. That showed up today. Of course, Wilson's throws were to blame as well.
Ultimately, Wilson finished 11 for 27 for 108 yards passing. I think I looked up in the fourth quarter at one point and he had like 43 yards of passing. I mean.... atrocious.
Again, this is just my primary in-game reaction, but it just felt like Seattle's offense had been distilled down to a two-call playsheet: Deep bomb on play action or run for 2 yards. There really didn't seem to be any intermediate game to speak of... Zach Miller was invisible, they didn't try any screens... they didn't try any bubbles. Just.... two plays. Throw it deep or hand it off. That's how it seemed from the stands, though I'm sure that's a major oversimplification.
Major credit to the Cardinals defense, of course, but we've seen three weeks in a row of really, really sloppy execution by the offense. It's concerning.
Robert Turbin tackled himself on one kick return and then forced a fumble on himself on another. I'm guessing he's done returning kicks.
Those were some of my impressions from the live viewing. I'll hit the tape today to try and get a more complete opinion on things, of course, but overall, just a frustrating game to watch.
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