The first half of Seattle's showdown with the first-place Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field was just plain ugly. The Seahawks continued to struggle to finish drives, needing to settle for a 9-3 lead going into the locker room. They needed some kind of jolt, something to get the momentum going. Then Cooper Helfet body slammed a dude.
On a blocked punt, Helfet picked up Rob Houlser and slammed him into the turf, giving the Seahawks the ball on the Arizona 24. Four plays later on 3rd and 13, Russell Wilson hit Cooper Helfet for the 20-yard catch-and-run touchdown, Seattle's only trip to the end zone of the day. It proved to be enough however as the Seahawks upset the Cardinals 19-3, improving to 7-4 while Arizona fell to 9-2 as their six-game win streak came to an end.
Wilson completed 17-of-22 passes for 211 yards and one touchdown. He was also Seattle's leading rusher with 10 carries for 73 yards. Wilson spread the ball around, hitting nine different receivers. Tony Moeaki had the most catches on the team with four for 34 yards. Ricardo Lockette had the most receiving yards with all 48 coming on a single catch.
Marshawn Lynch was never able to get going, finishing the day with 15 carries for just 39 yards.
On Seattle's first drive of the day, the Seahawks found themselves in a couple of short yardage situations on consecutive plays. Unlike last week's loss in Kansas City, Seattle went back to a more traditional set of play calls with handoffs to Marshawn Lynch. Their drive would stall as a pass to Lynch fell just shy of the first down, but Steven Hauschka came on to hit the easy chip shot to get Seattle on the board.
A run on 3rd & 1? What have they done with Darrell Bevell?— cover32 Seahawks (@cover32_SEA) November 23, 2014
The Cardinals would catch a lucky break on their second drive of the day. On the second play of the drive, Drew Stanton chucked a pass deep intended for John Brown. Byron Maxwell came in from behind to break up the play, but was flagged for pass interference. Pete Carroll was absolutely livid, screaming his head off on the sidelines.
Pac12 officiating crew working the Seahawks game, I see.— Scott Enyeart (@ScottEnyeart) November 23, 2014
The Seahawks caught their own break when Chandler Catanzaro pushed a 49 field goal wide right. The rookie kicker out of Clemson struggled with his accuracy during warmups as well, so you have to wonder if he just psyched himself out before the game even got started.
Late in the first quarter, the Seahawks had their first big play of the day as Russell Wilson hit Ricardo Lockette off a play action pass for a 48-yard completion. Just like that, it was 1st and Goal on the 8-yard line. Lockette had only had 46 receiving yards over the last seven games, surpassing that total with one catch. However, two sacks would stall the drive, forcing the Seahawks to settle for another field goal.
Byron Maxwell would redeem his earlier pass interference, intercepting Drew Stanton to give the Seahawks the ball on Arizona's 48-yard line. After a 19-yard completion, Russell Wilson was sacked to kill the drive almost as quickly as it started. Hauschka came on and nailed a 52-yard field goal to extend Seattle's lead to two possessions.
Seattle's next drive was stalled after Wilson was sacked on back-to-back plays, the fourth and fifth of the half for the Cardinals. Protection in the pocket has been an issue all year for Wilson with a thin offensive line, but that issue has been especially prominent as of late. On his fourth field goal attempt of the first half alone, Hauschka would have his kick blocked, keeping the game at 9-0 Seattle.
Wilson sacked for 5th time in 1st 1 1/2 qtrs. 5th Arizona sack of half. 2 without blitzes, 3 with. Hauschka's FG blocked. #Seahawks— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) November 23, 2014
Arizona had their longest drive of the half late in the second quarter, lasting 15 plays for 74 yards over the span of 5:14. It was the first time of the day that Seattle's defense allowed more than two first downs on the drive. On 3rd and Goal inside the 10, Jaron Brown dropped a pass in the end zone that hit him square in the hands, forcing the Cardinals to settle for a field goal. The Seahawks brought the blitz, but Stanton was able to get the pass away. Brown simply dropped it. (Disclaimer: It took me a few minutes of research to find out which Brown dropped it. Twitter was just as confused.)
i'll be honest, i don't think anyone knows which Brown dropped that ball. We may never know.— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) November 23, 2014
The Seahawks also struggled capitalizing with good field position. 19 of Seattle's 23 first half plays were run in Arizona territory, yet had no touchdowns to show for it. Luckily, the Seahawks defense was looking like it was 2013 all over again, holding the Cardinals to just 117 yards in the first half, with 74 of those yards coming on the final drive of the half. Due to Seattle's continued struggles to finish drives, a missed field goal and a dropped touchdown kept the Seahawks in the lead at the half.
Seahawks were 0-3 in the red zone, 1-6 on third downs and Wilson was sacked 5 times in the first half. But they lead 9-3.— Terry Blount (@TerryBlountESPN) November 23, 2014
Half Stats: Seahawks are +1 in the turnover battle. #AZvsSEA pic.twitter.com/tgH6MvrBOG— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) November 23, 2014
Seattle would go 3-and-out to open the half as Alex Okafor came in off the edge for his sixth sack of the season, and the sixth sack of the day for the Cardinals. Wilson never even had a chance to look downfield before he was forced out of the pocket.
The Seahawks came up with a much needed spark of momentum as DeSean Shead blew through the protection on 4th down to block Arizona's punt, allowing the Seahawks to start on the Arizona 24. Cooper Helfet delivered the hit of the year, body slamming Rob Housler to the ground, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
The drive would go nowhere however, bringing on the field goal unit yet again. A false start on third down would create a 3rd and 13 for the Seahawks. Russell Wilson went with the conservative pass, hitting Tony Moeaki for a gain of five yards. Seattle starts with terrific field position and ends with a field goal. Same story, different drive. However, there was a silver lining if you had Steven Hauschka on your fantasy team as he came on to hit his fourth field goal of the day.
Hauschka fantasy owners rejoice #Seahawks— Jessamyn McIntyre (@JessamynESPN) November 23, 2014
Here's what Hauschka's fantasy numbers looked like in ESPN leagues at this point in the game.
Seattle's defense came up with a huge stop on 3rd and 2 as Earl Thomas came in to shut down a short passing play to Andre Ellington, forcing the Cardinals to punt it away, trailing by two possessions once again. On the play, I discovered that the New York Times has a "4th Down Bot," which analyzes 4th down decisions in the NFL. Seriously. It's a football nerd's dream.
Arizona punted on a 4th and 1 at their 29. I would have gone for it: http://t.co/w9fMmnb3Nd— NYT 4th Down Bot (@NYT4thDownBot) November 23, 2014
On Seattle's next drive, Russell Wilson avoided being sacked again by Alex Okafor to hit Marshawn Lynch downfield for a gain of 23 yards to move the ball into Arizona territory once again. Wilson would then use his legs to break free for 15 yards, finding an open gap and buying some extra space and time with a nice little pump fake move. After a false start backed the Seahawks up five yards, Russell Wilson hit Cooper Helfet who took off downfield and dove into the end zone for the 20-yard touchdown catch-and-run to give the Seahawks a 19-3 lead.
Seattle's defense would catch another lucky break as a 23-yard pass to Jaron Brown was wiped out by a holding call against Rob Housler. First he gets body slammed by Cooper, then he costs Arizona a huge pass play. The dude just couldn't catch a break. The Cardinals would end up punting it away three plays later.
The Seahawks tried to bust out the ol' flea flicker, but despite getting open, Kevin Norwood wasn't able to haul in Wilson's bomb. I'm so sad when the flea flicker doesn't work. It's hands down my favorite trick play in football, just because you rarely see it anymore.
Norwood elevated for that but Patrick Peterson did a great job of knocking the ball out. Perfect play by Peterson— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) November 23, 2014
The Cardinals would continue to struggle on their next drive as Bruce Irvin was able to deliver a big hit on Drew Stanton just as he got a pass off that fell incomplete, forcing the Cardinals to punt it away, trailing by 16 with just over seven minutes to play. Stanton would be slow to get up and would be need to be attended to on the sideline.
The Seahawks were able to ice the game with an 11-play, 64-yard drive that killed the final 6:53 of the game clock to officially snap Arizona's six-game winning streak.
It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win, no matter how you get it. There are no style points awarded in this league. It's not the first time the Hawks have won ugly this year, and it probably won't be the last. The Seahawks are right back at it on Thursday with a Turkey Day showdown against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium.