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Seahawks lay waste to Cardinals: Making sense of the senseless and whole lot more facts

We can try to comprehend what happened but in the end it's just a blissful anomaly.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports defines the word Senseless as "a 1998 Marlon Wayans/David Spade comedy where the main character can see boobs from far away really well and smell farts from the other room." Indeed, a Wayans/Spade collaboration does seem rather senseless, but Spade lost Chris Farley and was not in a very good place. Also not in a very good place right now: Ken Whisenhunt and the Arizona Cardinals.

I've written it a few times now and every single time I still feel like I've made a mistake. "There's an error here somewhere, how could I miscalculate something as simple as a final score?" But that is how it feels when you write 58-0 for a professional football game: Like you're doing something wrong. I used to intern in the sports department of The Seattle Times, taking in high school scores and writing little blurbs about the games sometimes. A score like 58-0 is often just another Friday for high school sports. However, this was not "any given Sunday" when you beat a team by this many points and in this fashion.

This is just senseless. Never in my entire life did I think I would ever see something like this:


It's not that the Seahawks aren't unequivocally better than the Arizona Cardinals right now, because they are. It's not that looking at the above doesn't give me feelings I haven't felt for a box score or woman in years, because I am emotionally hard. It's just that Sunday was a tragicomedy of events and it's not quite an accurate representation of the divide between Seattle and possibly the worst team in the NFL only because no professional team is "58 points better" than any other professional team. This was simply the best case scenario for Seattle. A comedy of riches bequeathed by John Skelton, Patrick Peterson, Ken Whisenhunt and a surprisingly ineffective Arizona defense. This was an absolute dream game for a team and fanbase that has exhausted more sweat this season in the first twelve games than Larry Flynt pulling himself up a flight of stairs.

You can't make sense of this margin of victory, of the absolute domination that this league might only see once a decade, though you can make sense of the fact that Seattle was playing at home against a team that has lost eight straight games, with the worst quarterbacking situation in the NFL (and maybe one of the five worst ever), and that for once the turnovers were going in your favor over and over again. And boy were they ever. On the Patrick Peterson muffed punt and recovery for a touchdown, Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders had this to say:

That's a really, really rare play. There's only about 15-to-20 muffed punts every year recovered by the punting team (as opposed to fumbled punts) and it is very rare for one to be returned for any actual yardage by the punting team. I went and checked. The last time I have a punt marked "ML" (muffed lost) and turned into a touchdown in our database is Week 4 of 2009. The punt returner was Quincy Butler of St. Louis. The punt from San Francisco hit him on the leg, then he kicked it accidentally into the end zone and Scott McKillop recovered for a touchdown.

Think about that for a second and put it into context of the game on Sunday. In the same game that saw the Seahawks put up a season-high 493 yards of offense, they also returned a muffed punt for a touchdown. In the same game that saw the Seahawks allow a season-low 154 yards of total offense, they also had three players combine for an interception on Skelton that included Walter Thurmond popping the ball up to keep it alive for Bobby Wagner. In the same game that saw two Seahawks run for 100-yards for the first time since 2005, they also saw Peterson, one of the best punt returners in the NFL, muff it twice.

You could have selectively chosen five plays in this game to transfer over to happenings in your five individual losses (to change the outcome in our favor because this is my world) and the Seahawks still would have beaten the Cardinals by at least four touchdowns. This wasn't just an annihilation of one superior team over an inferior one; it was that plus like six or seven gifts from Arizona that we didn't even need. It was like the Cardinals were both of our parents and they just got divorced four months before Christmas.

This game was understandable up to a point, but 58-0 doesn't feel okay to write for an NFL box score because it just shouldn't happen. The Seahawks did everything right, the Cardinals did everything wrong, and I really can not imagine that Ken Whisenhunt will keep his job after overseeing the team that went into this game with an eight-game losing streak and left with one more loss and -58 points in your seasons total differential. Amazing how far the Cards have come (left?) because between November 6th of 2011 and September 30th of 2012, they were 11-2 with two wins over the Seahawks.

Ben Muth, also of Football Outsiders, said it better than I ever could:

Watching the Cardinals this year has been like watching a sports movie in rewind.

Indeed, the Cards collapse is absolutely senseless. Here are a few more things about the Seahawks, the game, and the outlook that I will try my best to make sense of.

The Senseless Russell Wilson

We spend a lot of time on the quarterback, I know, but Wilson warrants a lot of time. In case you didn't notice yesterday, a terrible quarterback situation will break your team and a good quarterback situation can make your team. The Cardinals passed on Wilson (and Nick Foles, who would not have even needed to get a new drivers license at the DMV had Arizona selected him) and now they've lost nine straight games. The Seahawks provided themselves with two quarterback solutions and now they're making a case as being one of the top five teams in the NFL.

Edit: Apparently Seattle will be 1st or 2nd in FO's DVOA rankings tomorrow, depending on tonight's outcome between the Patriots and Texans.

People used to say that the Hawks could have been better than 4-4 to start the year if not for Wilson. Now I can't imagine that Seattle would be as good as 8-5 without him.

From a purely shallow perspective, it does not make sense that a team would be this good with a rookie quarterback. Though we have had to change our views on what it means to be a rookie quarterback, what with the success of players like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton (just from recent examples), it is still feels like a foreign concept to imagine that a rookie could perform as well or better than players that have been in the league for years. What is rare though is that not only are the Seahawks good, but Wilson is, are you ready for this, one of the best quarterbacks in the league right now.

If I catch heat for that, so be it, but once you move past the elite section of quarterbacks, reserved for maybe four or five players, he's got a solid argument against everyone else. The only part of that equation that perhaps distracts us from how good he is at this stage of his career is that Robert Griffin is better, but he's not better by much. Against anything that I would have predicted a few months ago, there are few players I'd rather have in a playoff game scenario than Wilson, and he's only played thirteen games.

In addition to just how new he is to professional football, it's senseless that Wilson was a third round pick and that he is where he is. Since the 1970 merger do you know how many rookie quarterbacks drafted after the first round have thrown 20 touchdowns?

Two. Wilson and Andy Dalton, who had 20 touchdown passes last year. The list of quarterbacks drafted past round one since 1970 to actually play significantly in their first season isn't very long, but Wilson is easily making the argument that he's the best to ever do that. He is also the first rookie quarterback, drafted in the first or anywhere else, to win his first six home games. To think that his first career home interception came in a 58-0 win. Senseless.

Over time Wilson will build an argument for where he stands in the pantheon of quarterbacks taken in the third round, a list that only includes a few greats (Joe Montana, Dan Fouts, Fran Tarkenton, and maybe one day Matt Schaub) but considering how many bad quarterbacks were taken in the third round, Wilson is already one of the better choices.

Finally, it doesn't matter what round you were drafted in, Wilson is having one of the best statistical seasons for a rookie quarterback since the merger. He became only the sixth rookie to throw 20 touchdown passes, joining Peyton Manning, Jim Kelly, Cam Newton, Dalton, and Dan Marino (who did it it in 11 games.) He has a higher yards per attempt stat than any of those rookies except for Newton. He has a higher QB rating than any of those rookies except for Marino. He has the highest completion percentage on that list. He has nine interceptions, compared to 28 for Manning, 17 for Kelly, and 17 for Newton. He needs six touchdowns in three games to tie the rookie record.

Wilson was the 75th overall pick in the draft. He was the sixth quarterback taken. He went after Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler. (Consider for a moment that Wilson fell in the draft only because of his height, while Weeden was not dinged for his age and Osweiler was not dinged as much as Wilson for being taller than any normal quarterback prospect.) Wilson was taken after the 49ers chose A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James, two players that have combined for two active games. The Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the league and in need of a quarterback. Jacksonville selected P Bryan Anger five picks ahead of Wilson. He was also taken after running backs Ronnie Hillman and David Wilson, and his 310 rushing yards rank ahead of both of those players. Different teams have different needs, but the value of Wilson to a team like, say, the Packers right now, would still be enough to warrant a selection ahead of 75.

None of that might make any sense because it's still unlike what we've ever seen from a rookie with his draft status and supposed deficiency of height. All of it makes sense, his success and the team's success, when you consider everything else about Russell Wilson.

Give John Schneider credit for seeing in Wilson what his college coaches saw in him, probably the only other people on the planet that would have taken him in the first round despite being under six feet. Give Pete Carroll credit for being willing to see it John's way. And please let's give Darrell Bevell credit for building an offense for Wilson and helping to make him as successful as he is. I never thought I'd be saying that last sentence, but I never thought I'd be thinking or seeing a lot of things right now.

Wilson only completed seven passes against the league's number two passing defense per DVOA, but they went for 148 yards. That's a team effort, Bevell included.

(His first and only touchdown pass came when Seattle was leading 31-0. Just seriously what in the dick happened yesterday?)

The Senseless Domination

86, 85, 73, 62, 58. Those are the five longest drives of the game yesterday and they all belong to Seattle. The Cards longest drive was 41 yards, their first of the game and that ended in a pick. The Cardinals had 13 drives (not including end of half kneel down) and six of them went for five yards or less. That will happen when you turn it over eight times.

Eight times. I still just don't get it. It gives me hope that one day I'll be able to have eight good things happen to me in the same day. So far my record is two, when I had a perfect 20 piece chicken McNuggets with hot mustard sauce while watching WWF Survivor Series back in 1998. Never forget.

The Seahawks could erase their passing yards or their rushing yards from the game and they'd still have more total yards than the Cardinals. The Seahawks gave up 97 yards in penalties and could have won this game with the Nibb High Football defense in for the second half. In a single 67-yard catch, backup tight end Anthony McCoy had more than half-as-many yards as the entire Cardinals passing offense.

Remember back in 2001 when the Seattle Mariners, the 116-win Mariners, blew a 14-2 lead going into the 7th inning against the Cleveland Indians, after the Indians had pulled most of their regulars? Sports are exciting in large part because predicting outcomes or having any kind of expectations of a certain result is sometimes rendered meaningless. I really wanted the Seahawks to "blow out" the Cardinals and feel good about a game that they knew they should easily win. I wanted them to "dominate" them. All that is to say: I wanted them to win by a score of, like, 35-10.

58-0... It still can't be right.

The Sensible Difference Between Last Year and This Year

All of this senselessness shouldn't undermine the fact that the Seahawks have improved by leaps and bounds from last season. Despite the fact that the Cards are the worst offense in the NFL, you don't just shutout opponents very often. (The last time the Cards were shutout was in 2003: 38-0 to the Seahawks.) This is also the biggest shutout for Seattle in their history (of course) going back to a 1984 45-0 win over the Chiefs. But let's not forget that last season we had to make all these caveats for the Seattle defense because they were playing against the likes of Caleb Hanie, Vince Young, and a depleted Rams offense around Sam Bradford.

They did not shut out any of those opponents. The Eagles scored two touchdowns. The Bears scored on a Hanie touchdown pass. The Hawks just faced the worst offense in the league and somehow made them look worse, which is not insignificant. Especially considering that Seattle was without Brandon Browner.

Last season was a step in the right direction as Seattle creeped into the edge of being a legit top ten defense, but only on the edge. This season is an example of when the plan goes right.

I didn't like the Bears as much as most people when they were 7-1 because I felt that their offensive ineptitude would be exposed against the great defenses that they had not played against: The Texans, 49ers, and Seahawks. Since beating the Titans 51-20, they are 1-4 and they lost to all three of those teams. I don't expect the same collapse for Seattle after a 50+ point effort because this offense has more than a single dimension. Huzzah!

Though I still hope that when I hear this:

"I'm glad we had a win like this. We needed it especially for our confidence," Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said.

That Mike-Rob doesn't mean they have the confidence of a team that can win a lot of games 58-0. I'd like to think that this team woke up today that the mindset that they were good but that they aren't too good to go play the Bills in Toronto and not show up. Getting a third road win will do a lot for confidence too, so don't senselessly lose to the Bills, please.

The Senseless Bobby Wagner

I have a tendency to think that everything Pete and John do in the draft is the right move on draft day. That Wagner would be a Pro Bowl linebacker and would "Lofa Tatupu" the defense into the Super Bowl. But that ain't right, that doesn't make sense for a second round rookie. There's perhaps less of an adjustment period for middle linebackers, but still an adjustment period.

Well if our third round pick can be in the race for Offensive Rookie of the Year, why can't our second round pick be in line for an award?

A lot of people are going to discuss whether or not Wagner is the Defensive Rookie of the Year, and that's fine, but it is amazingly inconsequential to me.

1. We can argue for days about it, get nowhere, and most people really still won't have a good understanding of what we're talking about. I am up at 7 AM on Sundays to start writing about football and I don't stop to take a break until about 4 PM, before heading back to do more work after a couple hours to watch Dexter. (When Dexter is gone after next week, I won't know what to do with myself.) I still don't have a great understanding of the importance of Lavonte David in Tampa, Luke Kuechly in Carolina, or Mark Barron in Tampa (good job Bucs) beyond mostly the numbers. Numbers aren't going to tell you everything. Bruce Irvin leads rookies with 8 sacks but would I consider him for a second to get the award? Not as a situational pass rusher that has eight tackles. It's more than just numbers.

2. Winning an award, especially one so relative to your draft class, means nothing as to the future success of Wagner or anyone else. If he is not voted to be a better rookie than David or Kuechly or anyone else, so what? Really, so the hell what?

Here is what I do know: Bobby Wagner is really good and he's gotten to that place faster than I would have imagined. He is also the perfect player for us right now, fitting one of our greatest needs from last season to this season while saving the organization from having to sign a free agent or retain David Hawthorne. Wagner > Hawthorne and it's not that close.

Maybe he had a statistical performance yesterday (8 tackles, 2 INT) that pops him into the lead for DROY. I would be happy if he won it and I'd be happy for him, but if he lost it I wouldn't even make an argument in his defense. I think the fact that we are winning is good enough.

The Senseless Anthony McCoy Game

I think we've been sensing that McCoy was capable of this (105 yards) but I could not imagine that he would be the first Seahawk this season to top 100 yards receiving. Still seems weird to say but the truth is that Seattle is still last in the NFL in attempts and they are successful because they spread the ball around. The only real reason that McCoy even got to 100 yards is because he had that 67-yard catch, the longest completion of the year for the Hawks.

And even more amazingly, if the third-year player had stopped there he would have had a single-game career-high by a longshot.

Anthony McCoy turns 25 in two days which only makes him a little bit older than Russell. He is a 6'5" tight end that has shown enough athletic ability to believe that maybe if he puts it all together, he could be the pass-catching tight end that's just right for this offense. I almost get the feeling that if Matt Flynn was chosen over Wilson that McCoy's job could be in danger because there's a clear relationship there between Wilson and him, sort of like if Deon Butler had made the team had Flynn been the guy.

There's a certain rapport between the two that leads me to believe that Wilson is going to help turn McCoy into a very productive player at his position. Yesterday was a sign towards thinking about McCoy in that fashion. He's only 50 yards behind Doug Baldwin now.

The Sensible Robert Turbin

It was fun to watch "the debut" of Turbin also. I have enjoyed watching Turbin in spurts this season and the possibility that he could be a feature back in the future has shown but I think we really all wanted to see what he could do with significant carries. Thankfully we could do that without anything naughty happening to Marshawn Lynch.

Turbin carried it 20 times for 108 yards which was very cool. But O Holy Night was that the worst run defense we've ever seen? According to Mike Sando:

The Seahawks gained 214 of their 284 rushing yards before contact


That's not very professional. Technically any one of us could have had a good gain yesterday on the ground, the Cardinals defense wasn't even touching anyone. It makes it harder to evaluate the success of a player like Turbin, but I think we already had the sense that he's good enough to carry the load if asked upon. Yesterday just showed that he can do it against a shitty defensive performance too.

Turbin was the ninth running back taken.

Just some quick hits so that I can let you finally get back to work:

- Richard Sherman should have no problem winning another defensive player of the week award. He is the best cornerback in the game right now and arguably one of the top five defensive players period. And hell, I imagine that if he did take Adderall, he stopped before his career-best performance against the Cards on Sunday. There's your appeal right there, NFL.

- The Seahawks move up to 5th in the playoff standings and really right now it's the Bears that have to watch their backs. The Bucs all but dropped out by losing their third straight game. The Redskins miraculously came back to win with Kirk Cousins, but if Griffin misses a single game that could do it. The Cowboys and Vikings are the only other teams at 7-6 and Seahawks hold the tiebreaker over both of them.

- Yay, SEA-SF has been flexed! I would honestly think that the Week 17 game against the Rams could have major implications as well but the Hawks are not going to play on SNF twice in a row. Can't believe they've bestowed their precious national coverage upon our little heads. America will get to watch both of our games against the 49ers. I feel like the Ravens and Steelers.

- A demolition is going to move you up in some categories and rankings. According to Pro Football References Simple Rating System (which includes Margin of Victory and Strength of Schedule) the Hawks are tied with the Giants for third best SRS score. Ahead of the Broncos, Texans, and everyone besides the 49ers and Patriots.

Seattle is also now 2nd in scoring defense, 3rd in total defense, 1st in touchdown passes allowed, 6th in rushing touchdowns allowed, 7th in turnovers forced, 8th in turnover differential (+8), and 6th in points differential (+98). Consider that Seattle outscored the Cardinals by 18 more points than they had outscored all opponents combined in the first twelve games.

There was no sense to this madness but it's a madness I'll embrace for as many times that Seattle wants to present it to us. I'm just happy that we could finally sit back and enjoy a game without the threat of masochism after another game that comes down to the final drive. Instead, this game's final drive could have either been the field goal that put them up 3-0 because their defense played so well, the Leon Washington touchdown to put them up 58-0 because their offense played so well, or a rare special teams touchdown on a muffed punt because luck favored them so well.

I can't necessarily make sense of an outcome like this, but I'm grateful I don't have to. Instead I will just enjoy it and be content that even when things don't make sense, like a rookie that was considered too short having an historic season, or a coach considered not good enough for the pros being successful, they can still be so very gratifying.

And if you've read this far, I guess you're as senseless as me.

Follow Me on Twitter, it makes a lot of sense actually.