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It Starts with Chris Spencer and Ends in Victory

Let's finish up with the run game and then explore the Cardinals passing attack over the next two days. An effective run game is not necessary for a team to win. Seattle was not very effective running against Jacksonville, but its defense was so dominant it didn't matter. Matt Hasselbeck was firing and the run was mostly used to grind out the clock.

Seattle would like to keep the run game in play, though. That is most dependent on having a lead or keeping the game close, but it also depends on Seattle getting the little bits and pieces rushes that keep defenses honest. It ran on the first play of each of its scoring drives. Greg Knapp frequently passes off play-action and so far Seattle's unspectacular but functional run game has made that possible. Play-action should be particularly important this Sunday.

The Cardinals secondary peaks. It tracks the quarterback and relies on its athleticism to correct mistakes. That will not work against Peyton Manning, but it can work against Seattle. The Seahawks lack a built in deep threat. Deon Butler is fast, Nate Burleson athletic and T.J. Houshmandzadeh is physical, but Hasselbeck floats his deep pass and Seattle is without a jump ball specialist. Deion Branch might be the best mix of speed, athleticism and route-running, but I no longer count on Branch to get targets. Instead, Seattle attacks deep by attacking the middle. The goal is to get good separation and trust the receiver to run the yards Hasselbeck can't pass. If the run game is viable, Hasselbeck can sell play-action and target Burleson on crossing patterns, Branch and Butler on post patterns and Carlson on a skinny-post attacking the seam.

Keeping the run viable could be a Herculean task. Seattle doesn't have a lot of power beside Chris Spencer to control the middle. Edgerrin James might be best matched for attacking inside, his first gear compensating for spotty and vanishing holes, but Julius Jones is the better back and deserves more carries. Justin Forsett also has a strong first gear and his smaller frame and young legs could power him through an inside crease. I am not ready to count on Forsett, but he could sure show something Sunday.

Whoever gets the rock is going to need to stay disciplined. He must move forward and pick his hole and settle for what's given. Seattle will not consistently win its matchups on the edge. Ray Willis faces one of the few defensive ends in the NFL that can best his reach. Calais Campbell will stay in plays Willis would wall other ends out of, and that should create a long edge on rushes right. It doesn't help that John Carlson has been Seattle's least consistent regular blocker. Kyle Williams will face a lifetime's worth of Darnell Dockett if Cardinals defensive coordinator has any sense. Stopping Dockett will be asking too much of Williams, and the Cardinals are sure to take advantage of that matchup by overloading the blindside. Seattle will strap a tight end to Williams hip, but a chip can backfire. A wide rushing defensive back or linebacker can turn a perfunctory chip by John Owens into a free release around the edge. Nothing would slow that faster than a few good gains off left tackle.

Seattle doesn't need and isn't likely to have a productive rushing attack. It does need a run game to kill the clock if it's ahead and a run game to slow the blitz if it's playing from behind. It needs a run game that can convert short yardage and chip away towards the first down marker, keeping the short passing game involved on third down. Seattle doesn't need a productive rushing attack, but it needs a rushing attack, and that starts with Chris Spencer, but isn't real until the ball carrier can get around Kyle Williams and Ray Willis.