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Cigar Thoughts, Game 16: Seahawks get ugly, gritty win over Cardinals- as if there was any other kind against those jabronies

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A game-winning drive lifted the Seattle Seahawks to a tight win over the Arizona Cardinals with no time left, pushing their record to 10-6 and locking them into the 5th seed in the NFC.

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks
Ballgame.
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

I am starting a petition to never play the Arizona Cardinals again. It probably won’t work though, which means we’re stuck having to live through two more of these every season for the foreseeable future. Caramba.

Arizona got the ball to begin the game and immediately tried to give it back. On the first play from scrimmage, rookie QB Josh Rosen dropped back and flung the ball over the middle, missing his receiver and putting it right on the hands of Bradley McDougald. Incredibly, McDougald dropped it- the first of a number of letdowns today. Then, after a 9 yard run from David Johnson, Shaquille Griffin and KJ Wright absolutely stoned DJ on 3rd & 1 to force a punt and give Seattle’s offense a chance to dictate terms.

Seahawks opening possession looked promising, and even included a first down run on 3rd & 7 from Ed Dickson because Week 17 in the NFL is nothing if not nonsensical. Sadly, Wilson would throw an interception on a shallow in-route to David Moore shortly thereafter, a rare turnover that Arizona would turn into 3 points a few minutes later.

The Seahawks would go three and out on their next drive, but the defense got a 4th down stop to retrieve possession with no further damage done. That’s when they finally started to get going. Wilson was patient in the pocket, alternating short, safe completions with big shots up top. And while the first two came up empty, the third was an absolute gimme. With Tyler Lockett lined up in the slot to the right, Wilson dropped back and was probably stunned to see his tiny dancer standing all by himself 15 yards downfield. Russ whipped the ball to him and Lockett sprinted unfettered into the endzone for the go-ahead TD.

I imagine covering Tyler Lockett is like taking a toddler to the supermarket. You’ll be okay 90% of the time, but the other 10% is spent scrambling wildly and once in a while, he just turns down an aisle and disappears. By the time your panic-filled dash is over, you find him gleefully prancing in the toy section.

That TD was the 197th of Wilson’s incredible career, and passed Dave Kreig for the all-time Seahawks record. More on the transformative impact of Wilson later on.

On Arizona’s next drive, Jacob Martin beat his man off the edge and clubbed the ball out of Josh Rosen’s hand for the strip-sack. It was recovered by Frank Clark, and that set the stage for two slick receptions by Doug Baldwin that led to a 7-yard TD plunge from Chris Carson. Just like that, it was 14-3 Seahawks and things seemed to finally settle down for the heavy home favorites.

Seattle would force another punt, but a 3rd down sack was followed by a blocked punt, which was followed directly by a fantastic one-handed touchdown by Larry Fitzgerald. If this is his last game, it was a fitting effort from one of the 5 best receivers to ever play the game. The TD made it 14-10 and we were all back to sweating out a game that Seattle should be coasting through.

That was followed by another three and out after another 3rd down sack by the Cardinals. That brought Michael Dickson out for another punt, but he out-kicked his coverage and Pharaoh Cooper returned it all the way down to Seattle’s 20. That would lead to a field goal, thanks to a great tackle for a loss by Wright and a sack by Clark. That gave Seattle the ball back with a little under 2:00 to go in the half and you’ll NEVER guess how their next possession went. Oh, you did guess it. It was the 4th(!) 3rd down sack Seattle allowed in the first half and it was that inability to protect Russ that castrated the Seahawks O all day long. Fortunately, Rosen would misplay the end of the half, succumbing to a Jarran Reed sack that he absolutely could not take. It took a chance to kick a go-ahead field goal away from the visitors and sent the teams to the break with Seattle clinging to a 1-point lead.

The second half began exactly how the first one ended. Seattle went three and out on their first two drives, taking a 3rd down sack for the 5th time on their second one. That came after two shocking drops from Baldwin, reinforcing my long-held belief that the Cardinals carry with them a potion that turns all football to pure shit.

The Cardinals would also punt on their first two drives, but the second of which pinned Seattle at their own 2. On the next play, Carson had to spin out of a safety to get back to the line of scrimmage. Then he pounded it up the middle for 3 yards and a little breathing room. Facing another 3rd & long, Russ took a shotgun snap against just a three-man rush. Not that it mattered, cuz the pressure collapsed on him after an extended stay in the pocket, except this time the Cards knocked the ball loose and Patrick Peterson scooped it up for the score. It would have been the 6th 3rd down sack of the game, but it was miraculously waived off due to defensive holding. On the next play, Seattle finally broke through.

Wilson took the snap and backpedalled like he was going to pass. At the top of his drop back, however, he turned and handed it to Carson, who exploded up the middle and through the secondary. He sprinted down the field for his longest run of the season, hand-fighting tacklers until he was finally dragged down 63 yards later. It was the same play that Adrian Peterson built his career on in Minnesota and I would love to see more of it from Sattle’s offense moving forward.

That set up a short pass to Nick Vannett and, after a Mike Davis drop, Wilson went right back to him on a handoff. That particular play looked pretty mundane, with no holes open on the line and a cornerback crashing in from the edge. But Davis planted one powerful foot in the turf and teleported back to the outside, leaving the corner’s groin lying helpless in the middle of the field. From there, it was just a matter of outrunning the safety to the pylon, which he did, and the Seahawks pushed their lead out to 8.

Their defense would hold up yet again, forcing another punt and giving Seattle the ball back with a chance to create some breathing room. Instead of doing that, though, Vannett dropped an easy first down on 3rd & 5 then the Cardinals blocked their second punt, recovering this one in the endzone to make it 21-19. Then David Johnson took the two-point attempt and launched himself towards the goal line where he was met by Delano Hill. Hill dropped him at the threshold, but the call on the field said Johnson broke the plane. Replays looked dubious, but there wasn’t enough to overturn the call and just like that, this game was tied.

Another worthless Seahawks possession forced another punt, but their defense would answer the call once more. One 3rd & 7, the Seahawks gambled with a safety blitz, sending Delano Hill on a kamikaze mission between the center and the guard. No one would pick him up, and Rosen sensed his impending doom. In doing so, he shuffled left, not knowing that Frank Clark had obliterated the poor sap assigned to block him. The two met at their target and crushed Arizona’s rookie QB, popping the ball straight up in the air and into a giant wriggling mass of manhood. At the bottom of the scrum was Quinton Jefferson, who fought for the ball and set up a Sebastian Janikowski field goal after another 3rd down sack.

You gotta hand it to the Cardinals. They had a lot of opportunities to wilt and simply take their #1 overall pick. Instead, Rosen led them right back down the field, with the drive sputtering out at Seattle’s 37 after a tough drop at the 10 by one of his no-name receivers. That’s when Zane Gonzalez (yes, that guy), came out and banged home a monstrous 55-yard field goal to tie the game with 1:49 left.

Everything up until this moment had simply been table setting, and now it was time for the best 4th quarter QB in the NFL to eat. The final drive started with a 4-yard run by Davis, followed by a 5-yard catch from the same. Then, on 3rd & 1, Davis charged ahead for 4 more. That put Seattle at the 38, and it was Russ’ time to shine.

Faking a handoff, Wilson rolled to his right like we’ve seen so many times. There can’t be many sights more daunting to fans of opposing teams than watching Wilson move his eyes downfield while running into open space, and this was one of those times that justified the fear. Wilson cocked his arm and fired without missing a step, his perfect throw hitting a wide open Lockett in stride down the right sideline for 37 huge yards, and setting Seattle up in field goal range at AZ’s 25. Two runs for Carson gained 13 more yards, and a Wilson kneel sent Janikowski out to beat the Cards with a last-second field goal for the second time this year. The snap was high, but handled dexterously by Dickson. Janikowski planted one sweaty, beefy leg and swung his other sweaty, beefy leg through the ball. His kick split the uprights and gave Seattle their first home win over the Cardinals in fuckin’ forever it seems like.

SMOKE RINGS

~In the 35 years before Russell Wilson, the Seahawks had 15 winning seasons. In 7 years with Russ, they have 7. In the 35 years before Russell Wilson, the Seahawks had 4 10+ win seasons. In 7 years with Russ, they have 6.

Wilson wasn’t spectacular today, but he was also besieged on every other drop back, getting sacked or narrowly avoiding them all day. His final line (12-21, 152 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) isn’t overly impressive, but it was pretty darn good considering the constant pressure and 3 drops from a receiving corps that had the lowest drop rate in the NFL. Still, when he needed to make the one big play, he did, and that was enough to secure the victory.

~The running game was excellent again, as Carson and Davis pummeled the Cardinals defense to the tune of 166 yards on 26 carries. Carson handled the bulk, turning his 19 totes into 122 yards and a score while Davis translated 7 into 44 and a TD of his own. Rashaad Penny got worked back into the mix after a few games out, but was only able to get 6 yards on his 4 carries.

Seattle’s three-faced rushing attack led the NFL in ground yards this season, and the final breakdown looks like this:

Carson: 247 rushes for 1,151 yards (4.7)
Davis: 112 for 514 (4.6)
Penny: 85 for 419 (4.9)

Pretty damn good.

~Tyler Lockett just finished the most efficient season in WR history. He was only targeted twice in this one, but those two targets turned into a 29-yard TD catch and the 37-yard back-breaker with a minute left. Russell Wilson finishes with a “perfect” 158.3 rating when throwing to Lockett this season. 57 for 70, 965 yards, 10 TDs, 0 INTs, and more DPI yards than any receiver in the league. We may never something like see that again.

~KJ Wright balled out today, and he looks to be back to full speed right when the team needs him the most. He had a couple of huge tackles for loss, and two 3rd down stuffs. His 7 tackles were a huge lift to the team, and trailed only Bobby Wagner on the day.

~Bobby Wagner. Man. 12 more tackles today, including 3 implausible takedowns in open field when 9 out of 10 defenders would miss. He didn’t miss a single tackle all season. 138 for 138, against all manner of NFL studs. Think about that for a second.

~Frank Clark got two more sacks today, giving him 14 on the season. If Pete Carroll is right, and he’s really not going anywhere, then we’re looking at an absolute franchise fixture.

~Jarran Reed also had two sacks, pushing him to a stunning 10.5 on the year. He has been worth every bit of his draft slot and I really hope he’s around as long as Frank is.

The Seattle Seahawks are back in the playoffs, and they’ll travel to Dallas for a rematch with the Cowboys. Both teams have won 6 of their last 7 games, and are rounding into full health for a playoff run. It should be a hell of a game and, while anything can happen in a one-and-done situation, the list of teams I’d bet on against Seattle has gotten mighty small and they don’t include Dallas. Granted, Seattle will have to play a lot better than they did today, but I’m choosing to believe that this game was more of a one-off situation than a harbinger of future performance.

In the Pete Carroll era, the Seahawks have reached the second round of the playoffs or further in 6 of 8 seasons. I’m putting all my chips in on that becoming 7 of 9. Onward, upward— let’s go win this damn thing.

Jacson on Twitter | Cigar Thoughts Hub | Cigar Thoughts Facebook

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The 2018 season of Cigar Thoughts is proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners.

I wrote this article in the Chamber at 9900 cigar lounge in PDX, which was just killer. Had a few different things, but my favs were the 1922 Le Bijou from My Father and some Old World 12-Year from Whistle Pig.