Y'all remember when the Seahawks traded Percy Harvin and the team was dead and the season was a lost cause or nah? Because the same team that was just gonna be another victim of the Super Bowl hangover has gone 8-1 over the last two months, outscoring their opponents 215-107, and positioning themselves for home field advantage in search of their second straight championship. Tonight's 35-6 blowout on the home turf of the team with the NFL's best record is Seattle's fifth straight victory, another city falling beneath the iron advance of the Mongol horde.
The win streak is not merely a product of circumstance; Seattle's last five opponents have had a combined at-kickoff record of 43-17 (.716 win percentage) yet have been outscored by the Seahawks by a staggering 114-33 count, an average score of 23-7 against some of the best teams the NFL has to offer. The last nine teams to play the Seahawks have had a combined at-kickoff record of 56-38 (.596), have all lost their next game, and have gone a combined 11-24 (.314) since. If you want to derail a promising season, schedule the Seahawks.
I used to live with a guy who owned 11 piranhas (pirhanii?) in one tank. We'd buy goldfish to feed them and I made a rule not to give those poor feeder fish names, as it eased the gruesome passing from fully conscious God-breathed lifeforms to piranha poop. Often the piranhas looked bored, satiated by easy prey. Other times they were a ferocious pack of remorseless killers, attacking sometimes out of hunger and sometimes out of pure predatory malice. Tonight, the football gods lowered Ryan Lindley, scared and squirming, into Seattle's piranha tank. They toyed with him for a while, taking bites out of his tails and fins, rendering him useless but lacking the courtesy of ending his torment. It took until the second half for the feeding frenzy to begin in earnest but when it did, everyone got their fill and there was naught left of Lindley and the Cardinals but a nameless memory and some aquatic feces.
The game started unassumingly enough, with Marshawn Lynch on the sidelines battling indigestion with handfuls of Skittles. No matter, as Robert Turbin and Christine Michael took the reigns to the tune of a combined 48 rushing yards on nine carries (5.3 YPC) in the first quarter alone. Combine that with Russell Wilson's 55-yard scamper and the Seahawks netted 103 rush yards in the first 15 minutes without Marshawn setting so much as a claw on the field.
It didn't amount to anything tangible, as the first period closed with the same score as the coin flip but a tone had been indelibly set. In all, the Seahawks would gobble up 267 rushing yards, dwarfing the Cardinals' 29 by a better than 9:1 ratio. It was as though the game was being played on a hill, with Arizona cruelly being forced to start every drive at the bottom while Seattle moved the ball with the ease of gravity. By the time the bloody dust settled, Seattle had out-gained their hapless hosts by a staggering 596-216 total. The Seahawks totaled 91% of the rushing yards, 64% of the passing yards, and 85% of the points despite pocketing 92% of the penalties and 95% of the penalty yards. They gained more yards from scrimmage than any Seahawks team in history, dating back to the age before ages when the football gods first saw fit to mold the franchise out of salmon and molten lava almost 40 years ago.
So how did a game featuring teams with a combined 21 wins end up so one-sided in favor of the visitors? In short, it's because the Seahawks are way better at football than the Cardinals. In long, well, that's why you read this article...
It all starts at the ball. The Seahawks' defensive line overwhelmed Arizona, treating them like practice squad players en route to four sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and holding the Cards to 3.4 yards per play (3.8 yards per pass, 1.9 yards per rush). Meanwhile, the patchwork offensive line, missing their two best members in Russell Okung and Max Unger, paved the way for nearly 600 yards at a mind-blowing 8.9 yards per snap clip. They blew Arizona off the ball with regularity on run plays and protected their QB as ferociously on pass plays as you protect your search history. The result was complete domination from Seattle's skill-position* players.
*Always a hilariously prejudicial term to me; as though playing the line doesn't require skill.
To wit; all four of the Seahawks ball carriers gained more yards than Arizona's leading rusher. At the rate of yards per carry (1.9) they managed tonight, the Cardinals would have to run the ball 140 times to equal the number of yards (267) the Seahawks gained on just 34 totes. Seattle averaged a full 10 yards per pass and 7.9 yards per run. They moved the ball like you do on Rookie Mode in Madden. It didn't matter who had the ball (hell, spatula-hands Luke Willson led the team with 139 yards from scrimmage), the Seahawks had their way with a defense that's been credited with keeping their team afloat in the midst of all the offensive injuries. Make no mistake, Arizona has a great defense, but the Seahawks are operating on a wavelength that's a full standard deviation above the Cardinals, despite their identical records.
I mentioned earlier that Lynch sat out the first quarter with a stomach bug. Either he did something to mildly irritate management/coaching or his ailment conveniently resolved itself at the exact moment the first period came to a close. Either way, he finished with 113 yards on 10 carries, including a 79-yarder that was a carbon copy of his BeastQuake run that legitimized the Pete Carroll era four years ago.
I used to work with "at risk" elementary school kids and one of my favorite things to do was to play one-on-eight football with them and I'd give $10 to any kid that could tackle me (I never let them tackle me*). I don't know much, but I imagine that stomping my way through a field of seven-year-olds is the closest I'll ever feel to being Marshawn Lynch. Despite being limited to ten rushes, Lynch mowed through defenders like Zach Efron running into a bachelorette party in Vegas.
*Except if they were having a particularly shitty day, in which case I'd let them and they'd float on the accomplishment for a week.
The Seahawks had no less than three 50+-yard plays in this one, with Willson carding an 80-yard TD, Lynch getting his 79er, and Wilson's 55-yard run. It was an impressive display of team-wide explosiveness but even if you removed all three of the Seahawks' best plays, they still out-gained the Cardinals by 162 yards. It was pure, unadulterated domination, the type of game the league has designed itself to avoid.
While 'Zona scraped together two field goals, Seattle scored five touchdowns, hitting paydirt from Willson (80 yards), Lynch (6 yards), Willson again (20 yards), Lynch again (79 yards), and Wilson (5 yards). Meanwhile, the Cardinals' longest play was 32 yards. Their longest rush went for six.
The blow-by-blow account in this game was as one-sided as a forest fire vs a napkin so I won't waste your time rehashing it. Instead, here are some things that stood out to me:
-Russell Wilson accounted for 427 yards from scrimmage (339 passing, 88 rushing) and three touchdowns. He did it against the 4th best defense by Football Outsiders' DVOA, on their home turf. I don't know how many times any QB has gone 300/80 in a single game (edit: three), but Wilson has done it twice in the last two months. 122.9 rating for Seattle's erstwhile leader.
-Bobby Wagner led the team in tackles for the everyth time again and hit Marion Grice so hard on a pass play that Grice drifted willingly towards the warm light at the end of the tunnel before Wagner grabbed his soul by the ankles and dragged him back into painful consciousness. It was the last time Grice would touch the football. After the game, Wagner was all cliches and dimples but you know he's got the female 12s squirming in their seats*.
*Bobby Wagner that dude where you don't even sweat it when your girl hooks up with him you're just like damn baby how was it don't spare them details.
-The OL was less offensive and more line-ful in this one than they were in the previous match in Seattle. Despite the aforementioned losses of Okung and Unger (like last time these teams met), Seattle only suffered one sack and Wilson had time to choose which of the Cardinals' vital organs to extract on each given play. In addition to some of the best pass pro we've seen all year, they knocked the Cards' vaunted front off the ball like they were wearing roller skates and the head-spinning rushing numbers reflect that. No way to feel but encouraged.
-Paul Richardson was targeted a career high seven times, turning those opportunities into five catches for 52 yards and a couple of third down conversions. The thought of Preach becoming a fully actualized NFL receiver has my jeans fitting a couple sizes tighter.
-Doug Baldwin was Wilson's preferred target tonight, as he should be, with 11 passes thrown his way. Those opportunities were converted into seven catches for 113 yards. He may be a pedestrian wide receiver, but even semi trucks have to give way to pedestrians in Washington. Say what you will about ADB but he'll turn you inside out at the drop of a hat. Don't believe me, ask future Hall-of-Famer Champ Bailey, whom Baldwin sent to the glue factory in last year's Super Bowl.
-The Seahawks defense is one week away from being the 4th in history (and first in 28 years) to lead the NFL in yards allowed and points allowed in consecutive seasons.
-Games like this throw Richard Sherman vs Patrick Peterson "debate" into a hilarious light. Sherman had another pick tonight, giving him 24 interceptions in 55 career starts despite being one of the least targeted starting cornerbacks in the NFL over that time period and has allowed, to my knowledge, a grand total of four career TDs. Peterson, meanwhile, has gallantly opposed the other teams' top receivers most of the season (a point of great pride) and has responded by getting skinned alive on numerous occasions. Sherman, in true form, humorously/truthfully addressed the top-CB discussion pre-game while Peterson was unavailable for comment, preoccupied as he was with holding Marshawn Lynch's dick*.
*Sorry Mom, I know you're reading this article and lack context for this comment but I'm gonna need you to trust me. I love you. Excited to see you for Christmas. Hope you got me that gift card I asked for.
Steven Hauschka turned in the worst game of his career, missing all three of his field goal attempts in a thinly-disguised attempt to drive down his open-market value and give the 'Hawks more financial room to sign Wilson, Wagner, et al. True team player. Love you, Hausch. Now never do that shit again.
-Seattle continued their new found dominance of the third-down game, going 5/12 (41.7%) to the Cardinals' 3/15 (20%). Lovely.
-The penalty disparity was egregious again. The Seahawks have been called for more fouls than anyone in the NFL while their opponents have been called for the fewest. I know the Seahawks commit a shit ton of penalties and most of them are legit calls, but there should never be a reality where, this late in the season, one team has been flagged more than any other while the teams they're playing have been flagged the least. The odds of that happening to the defending champs (1 in 1,089), in a vacuum, are too strong against that. It is the highest ratio against in 71 years. That really a coincidence? Look, call it homerism on my part if you must, but after another game with a ridiculous penalty disparity (11 fouls for 97 yards by Seattle, one for five yards by Arizona), one can't help but wonder. I don't know, maybe the Cardinals are the most disciplined team in history to lose by 29 on their home field. Now, that's not to say the Seahawks didn't have more than their share of the pre-snap penalties that have afflicted them all season, but 11 to one?
-Seahawks have now won 15 straight games in which they've led at halftime, longest active streak in the NFL. Best beat this team early.
We can have the conversation as to who is the best team in the NFL right now but any words beyond "Seattle Seahawks" are superfluous in that regard. the league's most talented roster is playing their best football and they're doing it at the ideal time. This is a team with their sites set on a finish line that is between four and five turns away. They don't misstep in anticipation of what's coming next, they treat every potential obstacle with their full attention, dissecting the opposition and then conquering them in no uncertain terms.
The road to home field advantage in the NFC is one win (barring a Cowboys win and a Packers-Lions tie) away, with only the mercurial Rams standing in their way. This is a team with Super Bowl aspirations, Super Bowl talent, and Super Bowl experience. It is a roster loaded with youngry players eager to leave their mark on the NFL landscape and have their sights set on fistfuls of rings. Lots can happen between now and February, but for the second straight year, the Seahawks have made a December trip to the site of the Super Bowl and castrated the home team to the tune of a 20+ point victory in the process.
This is a team that is strengthening their weaknesses while somehow strengthening their strengths. This is a team with the talent, mindset, and pedigree to repeat as Super Bowl champions. This is a team we are blessed to watch. Onward and upward.