To hear some fans and pundits tell it, the Seahawks were a team on the brink of crisis after last week’s unexpected loss. Mistakes galore led to a heartbreaking home defeat against an inferior opponent and justlikethat the Seahawks had gone from streaking Super Bowl contender to error-prone team on the decline. But sometimes it’s good to step back and judge a team not on how they look compared to perfection but where they stand in the harsh landscape of the real life NFL. It’s easy to forget how hard wins are to come by, especially on the road, and how long we’ve spent cheering for inconsistent sources of them.
Coming off that brutal loss, missing their extraterrestrial free safety, and traveling on a short week, all this team did is thump their way to their sixth win in nine games. It came at a deep cost, however, with Richard Sherman suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon rupture, Duane Brown leaving early with an undisclosed leg injury, and Kam Chancellor being mysteriously carted off the field after the game. Not all that glitters is gold.
So how exactly did they get that W? Not easily, that’s for damn sure.
With their customary northwest courtesy, the Seahawks politely offered the Cardinals their weekly opening-possession-three-and-out as a “thanks for having us” gift. The Cardinals, clothed in their own traditional meekness, quickly returned the favor when Adrian Peterson fumbled on their first offensive play. That turnover was created by the cyclone Kam Chancellor, when he whirled into AP and ripped the football away from him. Sheldon Richardson, who was also in on the tackle, pounced on the ball for the game’s only turnover. Not to be out-considerationed, the Seahawks promptly punted it back to the Cardinals who, in turn, punted it back. This pathetic exchange of deference might have continued in perpetuity had Russell Wilson not stepped in and put an end to it.
On Seattle’s third drive, Russ took control. He attempted five passes on that possession, completing every single one of them for 44 yards, including a jump-ball TD to Jimmy Graham. Seattle worked the ball down to the 13 yard line with a combination of simple handoffs to Thomas Rawls and quick completions from Wilson. From there, it was six yards over the middle to Graham followed by a three-step lob to Graham at the goal line where he big-brothered the Cardinal defender for the score. It was the endzone play we wish they’d run every time they get close: find Jimmy Graham and throw it 12 feet in the air in his general direction. Zero risk, all reward.
The Cardinals, to their credit, answered right back. They did so by repeatedly calling the Seahawks penalty play. Seattle committed four fouls on that drive, three of which resulted in first downs, two of which came on third down, and one of which that was outright bullshit*. The fourth penalty put them deep in Seattle territory and set up a short dump off to Jermaine Gresham for Arizona’s first score.
*I’m talkin’ ‘bout that play where Sheldon Richardson schooled the poor sucker trying to block him and then the jamoke shoved Sheldon in the back so he fell into Drew Stanton’s knees.
The ‘Hawks offense couldn’t muster their own answer and ended up punting it back to the Cards. That’s when their punt returner went rogue and caught the Jon Ryan kick at his own 2 yard line. He managed to scoot forward for a few yards but a penalty on Arizona put the ball on their own 1. On the very next play, Richardson collapsed the Cardinals’ left guard and opened a portal into every ball-carrier’s personal hell. Chancellor shot through the gap and cut through Peterson in his own endzone like an angel of death. The soul-less husk that used to be AP crumpled to the ground as Kam stood over him, inhaling Peterson’s life force while the refs awarded Seattle two points.
Not much else would happen for a while besides a billion more penalties against the Seahawks and two field goals from the kicker y’all spent all week wanting to cut. The Cardinals, who managed all of 90 total yards in the first half, somehow flagged their way to a field goal in the third quarter, cutting Seattle’s lead to 15-10. To that point, the score was as uncomfortable as the game itself. Injuries abounded and, with players on both teams dropping like pubescent testicles, and penalties on every other snap, this was hardly the NFL showcase it should otherwise have been.
The third quarter was a wreck, with Sherman blowing out his Achilles, multiple Cardinals leaving due to their own injuries, and two abscesses where each team’s offense should’ve been. We won’t speak of it again.
The good news is that 4th Quarter Russell Wilson showed up once more. Far and away the game’s best player in the final 15 minutes this year, Wilson broke the drudgery with a highlight so bizarre, so incredible, it could only come from him. On 3rd & a prayer, Wilson rolled left only to be confronted by two Cardinals defenders way behind the line of scrimmage. Wilson, as calmly as if he were going out to fetch the mail, backpedaled then sprinted forward, looking for all the world like he was trying to salvage a few yards before the punt. Doggedly, the would-be attackers pursued, unaware they were being set up like henchman attacking James Bond.
Without warning, Wilson’s forward sprint morphed into a retreating pirouette. He feinted to his right, spun left, caught a glimpse of Doug Baldwin, faked a throw to get the defenders airborne, spun back to his right and off his back foot, launched a rocket towards the sideline. Baldwin, who had stayed in to block, released to the boundary, somehow anticipating the feverishly jazzy whims of his riffing QB.
With the ball looking to the rest of the world like an unnecessarily dramatic throwaway, Baldwin leaped into the air, grew to 6’7”, and speared the ball above an incredulous Cardinals cornerback. Baldwin hit the turf running while the defender tumbled ass over teakettle, and Doug didn’t stop until he was pushed out of bounds 54 yards later at the Arizona 2. The play was vintage Wilson, a combination of movements that toed the line between brilliance and madness, and left ham-faced Bruce Arians throwing his clipboard like a giant bloated toddler. I’ve watched that play four times now and it still doesn’t quite make sense. There are glitches in the matrix, and I promise you Russell Wilson has something to do with them.
On the very next play, Russ again dropped back and fired a quick strike towards Graham. Like Gulliver waking up on Lilliput, Graham casually cast aside the feeble encumbrances of the hapless fool trying to guard him and caught his second touchdown pass of the game. That score made it 22-10 and pushed Seattle’s win probability north of 95%, where it would remain (despite a late AZ TD) until the game mercifully ended.
-Kudos to the Seahawks for creating an entire uniform out of the color on the inside of your eyelids after staring directly into a lightbulb.
-Russell Wilson was under siege all evening long. He was sacked five times and harassed countless others. The consistent variety of pressure he faced would have crushed most quarterbacks and there were multiple times where I actually feared for his safety. All Wilson did was complete 68% of his 32 passes for 238 yards, 2 TDs, no turnovers, and a passer rating of 111.2. It’s unlikely he wins the MVP this season but I’d take his value to this team over any other player’s to theirs.
-Jimmy Graham the caterpillar has become Jimmy Graham the butterfly. He led the team with 9 targets, 6 catches, and both TDs. For all the shit that dude has taken since he was traded here, despite having to learn an entirely new role in an entirely different offense, and despite suffering one of the most gruesome leg injuries you can get- Graham has re-emerged as the NFL’s #1 red zone threat. Don’t believe me? Check this: Jimmy currently ranks first in the NFL in red zone catches, red zone targets, and is second in red zone touchdowns*. He now has 6 teeders in his last 5 games and I don’t care how cynical you are, that’s a monstrous contribution to a team that struggles inside their opponents’ 20.
*His 5 RZ TDs trail Zach Ertz’ 6 only because one of Jimmy’s was from 21 yards out.
-Doug Baldwin just keeps killing it. 5 catches for 95 yards tonight, which puts him on pace for 96 receptions and 1,125 yards on the year. What’s crazy is that he doesn’t do it through superior human genetics. Rather, he finds every other sneaky way to beat you. He can kill you at the line of scrimmage, wrestle a contested ball out of your grasp, and outfox you near the sideline. That said, perhaps his most impressive skill is his ability to anticipate where Russ is going on Seattle’s myriad of broken plays.
The 54-yarder he had tonight was downright sublime, leaving everyone from the announcers to the Seahawks-dominant crowd incredulous. Russ and Doug would probably never be friends in real life yet they somehow share this freaky telepathic connection on the field. Look, I ain’t gotta understand it to appreciate it.
-The running game was non-atrocious but honestly, it doesn’t matter. This is Wilson’s team and at this point I think the only reason Darrell Bevell calls run plays anymore is to keep from having another inspirational book assigned to him by Pete Carroll. The Seahawks ran it 23 times for 75 yards. It doesn’t matter who or how.
-The Seattle D was great, again. On NBC before the game, Darren Sharper told Adrian Peterson he wasn’t gonna be able to run against this defense. Peterson’s response? I know. Can’t blame him; in his last three games against Seattle, he had carried it 52 times for just 114 yards with no TDs and a lost fumble. Today was even worse, with 21 carries resulting in a pitiful 29 yards, another lost fumble, and a safety.
-Sheldon Richardson was a monster today. He helped force / recover the Peterson fumble, opened up the lane for Kam on the safety, netted a tackle for loss, and intermittently played Spy, in case you were still thinking he’s overpaid.
-With Earl Thomas out again, Kam Chancellor was crazy good in this one. He may or may not have lost a step over the last couple years but I still haven’t seen a player hit that hard while changing direction since Ray Lewis. The amount of force that Kam generates at awkward angles defies what I understand about physics and biology. Don’t matter who it is, Kam hits them and they immediately stop like their cord got yanked out of the wall.
He must’ve had four or five uniquely devastating hits sprinkled throughout his 10 tackles (9 solo) and when he wasn’t smothering the ballcarrier he was either crushing a would-be blocker or breaking up a pass. It sounds like his injury was a stinger, which could either be a relative non-issue (like Bobby Wagner’s) or a possible career-ender (like Cliff Avril’s). Here’s to it being the former.
-I’m still sick thinking about Richard Sherman.
-Shaquill Griffin continues to get worked out every game. I swear the boy gets targeted 12 times a week and often it’s when the opposing team switches their best receiver away from Sherman. Sure he’s been burned a few times but the dude is literally learning the NFL game in the hottest cauldron the league has to offer. He gave up a few receptions today, and was bailed out by a Stanton overthrow, but he was was all over 80% of the passes thrown his way and I’ll take that from a veteran CB, much a less a rookie the coaches say can be as good as anyone they’ve ever had. The kid has played four seasons worth of football and it’s only halfway through his first year.
-Dion Jordan got a sack in his first game in 26 years and it was impressive as shit. With him and Dwight Freeney rotating in on passing downs, opposing QBs have a fresh new hell to face any time they take a shotgun snap.
-After committing 16 penalties last week, and entering this game on three days’ rest (and on pace for the second most penalties in league history), there was potential for more sloppiness tonight. And, uh, they delivered. 5 flags for 46 yards in first quarter, 8 in the first half, and 12 overall. Four consecutive games with double-digit penalties now and despite the horeshittery of some of the calls (Sheldon’s roughing penalty, Justin Coleman’s phantom hands-to-the-face, etc), the Seahawks still play messy football. Their talent covers for most of it, but it’s unlikely they’ll string together a bunch of playoff victories if they’re spotting the other team 100 yards and 5 first downs every game.
-Blair Walsh made every single kick!
This was an enormous win for the Seahawks, despite the roster carnage. The victoryy reaffirmed my long-held notion that you and I are more negatively affected by Seahawks losses than the Seahawks are. As Freeney said earlier this week, sometimes wins cover up issues that would normally be examined tougher and losses can bring your shortcomings into sharper focus. Luke Willson joked about how the team was terrible now because they had lost by three points. Wilson and Carroll seemed positively unaffected from Tuesday on. They approached this game like any other and the outcome was the same as 70% of their other contests in the last half-dozen seasons.
Look, the Seahawks are 6-3 and if you can sit here and tell me that before the season you’d be upset with that record at this point you’re either lying or unreasonable. Was this a perfect game? Far from it. But do you have to be perfect to win an NFL game? Absolutely never. What matters is wins, however you get them, and Seattle finds themselves on pace for 10+ for the 6th straight year.
This team is different from the one that made consecutive Super Bowl runs a few years ago, but I’m not convinced they’re worse. The injuries were devastating but the rest of the guys get 11 days to rest before taking on the Falcons a week from Monday. In the meantime, resist the urge to go picking nits for at least one day and enjoy the W. Onward, upward, RIP Richard Sherman.
Been on an Alec Bradley kick for a while now, and tonight I went with their Lineage stick. I paired it with two tumblers full of the Bruichladdich 15 and man, I could just drink that for the rest of my life. I swear.