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Seahawks 22, Cardinals 16 Quick Thoughts: Jimmy Graham is an elite touchdown maker and Doug Baldwin is simply elite

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

On a short week and on the road against a divisional opponent, the Seattle Seahawks survived a grueling contest to win 22-16. Jimmy Graham’s continued red zone excellence and Drew Stanton’s inability to move the Arizona Cardinals’ offense ended up being the difference, as Seattle never looked to be in real danger of losing on Thursday night.

It wasn’t pretty and certainly wasn’t clean, but to go on the road on four days rest, lose nine players to injury at one point or another throughout the game (10 if you include Russell Wilson’s one play absence), and come away with a win is an incredible testament to the team. Luckily for the Seahawks, they’ll now have 11 days before their next game, a Monday Night Football matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.

Jimmy Graham, touchdown maker

It took almost two-and-a-half seasons, but Seattle finally figured out how to use Jimmy Graham in the red zone, and it’s paying off. Graham now has six touchdowns in his last five games and looks like the All-NFL mismatch he was with the New Orleans Saints. Through 10 weeks, Graham leads the NFL in red zone targets, catches, touchdowns and raves.

Despite Graham’s recent success in the end zone, Thursday’s game saw an interesting wrinkle added to his targets. Too often this season, he hasn’t had a chance on passes thrown his way in the end zone. Wilson’s either pushed them too deep, or they’ve had a miscommunication. Against the Cardinals, twice they connected on a shallow jump ball. Throwing it shallow gives Graham a chance to get his body turned around and use his size to box out the defender, and putting him in a position to do so will see him win his route far more often than not. Like Rob Gronkowski, even if the entire defense knows it’s coming - unless they bracket him - there is nothing they’ll be able to do about it.

Bobby Wagner’s continued dominance

After playing what was maybe his best game of the season in last week’s loss, Bobby Wagner somehow found a way to take another step up, playing another lights out game for the Seahawks. In the last four games, he’s accumulated 20 run stops and missed zero tackles, all while being the first defender to the ball on nearly every play. He repeatedly flew into the backfield on Thursday, either slowing down or stopping Adrian Peterson in his tracks. With Earl Thomas missing the last two games through injury, Wagner has taken over as Seattle’s most important defender and is making a legitimate run at Defensive Player of the Year.

Kam Chancellor’s bounce back game

All season long, Kam Chancellor has been dominant defending the run, but last week at home to Washington he was victimized in coverage against Vernon Davis time and time again. It showed the limitations of his play at this stage in his career, and it was fair to be concerned. During Thursday’s victory over Arizona, he responded by showing how dominant he can still be.

All in all, Chancellor forced a fumble on the Cardinals’ first play from scrimmage, stopped Peterson in his tracks for a safety, broke up a would-be touchdown in the end zone, and totaled 10 tackles. There’s a real possibility, despite his punishing style of play, his career could extend three-to-five seasons longer with a full time move to a linebacker/hybrid role.

Dion Jordan’s welcome debut

Heading into and then throughout Thursday’s game against Arizona, I went through three phases of thought regarding Dion Jordan:

Tuesday night: Getting another body on the defensive line, especially with Marcus Smith out, will be great, no matter how much he ends up contributing. Great timing to get Jordan healthy.

Thursday night, Jordan’s first snaps: Wow! He looks nothing like the tweener he was in Miami with the Dolphins. He has some real bulk to his upper body, definitely has the body type to hold up inside and outside now.

Thursday night, end of game: He hasn’t played a game in over 1000 days and that’s how good he looked!?

Jordan was pressed into action after Frank Clark, Sheldon Richardson and Jarran Reed were all lost to injury, and he responded incredibly well. He ended up playing 32 snaps, registering two hurries, two quarterback hits and a grown ass man sack, where he got underneath the Cardinals’ left tackle and pushed him right back into Stanton’s lap. The Seahawks’ defensive line needs contributors more than ever, and Jordan looks like he will be a great rotational piece moving forward.

Doug Baldwin, forever underrated

On a week-in, week-out basis, how many wide receivers in the NFL can you count on more than Doug Baldwin? In terms of reliability, it might be: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and Baldwin. He might even be higher on that list, but won’t get mentioned in the same breath as those receivers.

A criminally underrated aspect of his game is his ability to highpoint the football. It showed up in a huge spot again on Thursday night, as Wilson pirouetted and bought time only to throw up a (measured) prayer to Baldwin and he responded by reaching up as high as the heavens, coming down with the football and racing down the sideline to set up Graham’s second touchdown. It’s a pass that would’ve sailed out of bounds if it was thrown to 95-percent of the wide receivers in the league. The way he’s able to catch the ball at full extension is incredible, but it has become simply routine for Baldwin.

Richard Sherman deserves an immense amount of credit

Richard Sherman’s season ended on Thursday night in Arizona, when he ruptured his Achilles making a routine tackle. The injury ends what was a great bounce back year for Sherman.

It’s no secret 2016 was a trying year for Sherman, both on the field and off the field. To top it all off, he was the subject of trade rumors all offseason. But since he reported to camp in July, he’s been nothing short of a terrific professional, and teammate. Even after his injury on Thursday night, he remained on the sideline rallying teammates and being a positive force. In the days to come, there will be stories about how Seattle is going to handle the injury and what it means for the secondary moving forward. But I still feel sick about the injury, and I would be remiss if I didn’t give Sherman the credit he deserves for 2017.

Odds and Ends:

  • Thomas Rawls had a carry for 23 yards against the Cardinals, then nine more for four yards. He looked explosive and physical, but Arizona’s defenders were disengaging by the time he reached the line of scrimmage on most runs. You can’t run the football if you can’t hold blocks up front, but the Seahawks will be damned if they don’t do it anyway. Rawls deserves credit for a solid game in pass protection, twice going across the formation to pick up a blitzing Tyrann Mathieu.
  • The NFL wants to preach about player safety and then force players to play on Thursday nights. It’s insane. Against the Cardinals, Seattle had 10 players injured and Arizona’s coach Bruce Arians said after the game they’ll likely be placing three players on injured reserve. The league can continue pushing a phony narrative all they want, but actions speak louder than words.
  • The Seahawks really struggled to get to the quarterback against the Cardinals, but defensive coordinator Kris Richard never looked like making an adjustment. It’s fair to be trepidatious about blitzing with Thomas out injured, but in-game adjustments have been an issue for Richard since he took over and it stood out against Arizona.

Lost in the drama of Thursday night, the win puts Seattle level on wins with the NFC West-leading L.A. Rams, with the Rams still to play on Sunday. The hobbled Seahawks will now head into their miniature bye week with a focus on getting healthy before returning to action on Monday night.