I don’t know what it is about having the Arizona Cardinals come to Seattle but the Seahawks appear to be completely incapable of beating them on their home field. It doesn’t seem to matter how good or bad either team is, the Cards have made the Clink their home for the better part of a decade now and I honestly don’t know what to say about it.
Despite Arizona losing 6 of their last 7 and Seattle holding the #1 seed in the NFC, even with Pete Carroll’s incredible ability to get his guys to treat every week like a championship, this felt bad from the jump. Especially with the regular season matchup of the decade on deck next week. Furthermore, the Seahawks were missing four of their most important players in Duane Brown, Shaquill Griffin, Quandre Diggs, and Jadeveon Clowney (not to mention a hobbled Bobby Wagner). All of that added up to a much more dangerous proposition than you’d expect from a 4-win team visiting an 11-win one.
Now the game started out great for the ‘Hawks, with Arizona going three-and-out on their opening drive and Seattle answering with one of their best drives all year. The Seahawks used creative play-calling on that first possession, combining aggressive runs by Chris Carson with motion and moving pockets to make things easier on Russ. With Arizona using their top two CBs to shadow DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the Seahawks turned to David Moore and Malik Turner, using the former on a clean jet sweep for for 19 and the latter on a slip route for 23. That play put the Seahawks on the doorstep and, after the requisite early timeout burn from Pete, Wilson flipped it out to forgotten man Nick Bellore for the game’s first score.
The Cardinals weren’t gonna let them get away with it that easily, though, and they answered quickly on the next drive. With the second play of their second possession, Kyler Murray tossed a pitch to speedster Kenyan Drake. With a whole bunch of newbies on defense, Seattle’s entire team over-pursued and Drake effortlessly cut up the field and sprinted untouched for an 80-yard TD. It’s like the Seahawks defense didn’t know he was allowed to change direction, cuz they all flew by him like cops chasing the Blues Brothers.
Seattle came right back out and proceeded to move the ball down the field with a 20-yard pass to Chris Carson, a nice run from CJ Prosise(!), and an 11-yarder to Jacob Hollister. It was enough to make you believe that we were going to see the good version of the Seahawks offense on a day fraught with potential disaster. Eventually facing a 3rd & 1 from Arizona’s 34, Seattle opted for a quick pass to Hollister that fell incomplete. No worries, this is prime A1 real estate for going for it on 4th. Even the the NFL’s most conservative coach goes for it here. Right? Haha. You idiots. You absolute morons.
Instead of letting his MVP-caliber QB and offense that hasn’t been stopped all day stay on the field, he elected for a 52-yard FG attempt. But (big surprise) the team was so ill-prepared for the possibility of 4th & short that they took a delay of game on the field goal and had to punt. Michael Dickson bailed them out as much as possible by expertly pinning the kick at Arizona’s 1, but it was still a lack of coaching awareness at best and complete cowardice at worst.
The Cardinals were able to get a couple of first downs for breathing room before punting it back, mitigating the job Dickson did but it still kept the hosts in good position. Unfortunately, Seattle would go three-and-out and punt it right back; then the Cardinals did the same. Then the ‘Hawks did tit again. Then, you’ll never guess what happened next. Seriously, I’ll give you 10 tries. Oh, you got it right on the first guess. Three-and-out from Arizona, three-and-out from Seattle. All flow from the game gone completely. In fact, after netting 125 yards on their first two drives, the Seahawks went for -20 other next four. Yikes.
While all of that was happening, both Carson (hip) and Prosise (arm) left with injuries, leaving rookie afterthought Travis Homes as the only healthy tailback on the roster. The Cardinals would break the trance of offensive ineptitude on their next drive, with Kyler Murray showing what makes him so special. On one play, he masterfully avoiding a sack and scrambled for 10 yards. On the next, he caught a throwback pass and ran for 17. Two snaps later, he whirled around and began running towards the line of scrimmage, eluding pressure and forcing defenders to commit to his run. As soon as he got there, he coyly flipped the ball over the top of KJ Wright to Larry Fitzgerald, who leveraged the confusion into a 21-yard touchdown. 14-7.
On the next drive, Seattle again went three-and-out (yep, 5th straight drive) after a short pass to Hollister was initially ruled enough for a first down before being correctly overturned. After another booming Dickson punt, the Cardinals picked right up where they left off, snagging a couple of first downs. Eventually, they found themselves facing 4th & 2 on Seattle’s 47. That’s when Murray dropped back and whipped it to Pharaoh Cooper for 14 yards. Going for it on 4th & short in your opponent’s territory. Huh.
They’d eventually work it all the way down to Seattle’s 10 before Murray fired a 3rd down out route to Fitzgerald. On the play, Fitz expertly spun around to make what appeared to be a diving catch for his second TD of the game. It was an incredible effort from one of the best to ever do it but the call got overturned when replay appeared to show that the ball hit the turf without complete control. The reversal surprised me but I’ll happily take the 4-point swing. Arizona’s resultant field goal made it 17-7 before the half.
The third quarter started with a great run for 17 yards by Homer and was followed up with a pretty play-action comeback to DK Metcalf. Sadly, Metcalf dropped the sliding catch and Wilson’s next attempt was batted down. On 3rd & 10, Wilson hit a dime to Moore for the first down but the ball was pried free and the Cardinals pounced on it for the game’s first turnover. Ridiculous.
Arizona would turn that into a field goal to make it 20-7, putting additional pressure on a Seahawks offense that looked wholly incapable of handling it. The only thing giving the Seahawks any hope at all was the fact that on Murray’s last scramble, he twinged a hamstring and was kept out for the rest of the game. Another Seahawks punt put backup Brett Hundley in to go three-and-out as well, kicking it back to Seattle who did the same thing they’ve done all day— punted it right back.
On this drive, the Cardinals actually moved the ball into field goal range to bring out Zane Gonzalez who was riding a 20-straight-FG heater. On this attempt, however, Rasheem Green hit his man with a video-game swim move and knifed through the line. He swatted the kick right back into Gonzalez’ face, off of which it bounced towards the left sideline. From there, it was scooped up by Marquise Blair who zinged down the field before being dragged down at Arizona’s 16.
So, with the first big momentum-swinging play in over two hours, you go for the kill, right? Get your team and fans back into this. Nope. Not even close. A handoff for a loss of 3 was followed by a short dump off then another run for a loss of 3. Just purely castrated play-calling. Jason Myers came out and banged home the field goal but it still felt like a huge loss. 20-10.
The Cardinals would pick up a first down on their next drive but a huge completion to Christian Kirk was correctly overturned and Bradley McDougald expertly broke up a 3rd down pass to force another punt. Officially in crunch time, the Seahawks came out with a quick-hitter to Tyler Lockett for 12 yards, a gain exacerbated by a 15-yard late-hit call. Three plays later, Wilson was hitting Hollister up the seam for 16 yards on 3rd & 10. Wilson then spent the next three plays completely under siege and fired three panicky incompletions, forcing Jason Myers to attempt a 51-yard FG. Fortunately he made it, which brought the game back within 7 and gave Seattle a twinkling of hope.
It would be the last good thing. Hundley then led a painfully slow 9-play, 78-yard TD drive on the next possession, with Kenyan Drake capping it off from 5 yards out. It would include a 12-yard pass to Fitzgerald on 3rd & 8, a missed tackle on 3rd & 3, and an escaped sack that turned into a 20-yard run. 27-13.
The last Seahawks drive would go a grand total of 10 yards, as a Wilson scramble followed by a completion to Hollister became an 18-yard loss on a blindside strip sack on the following play. 2nd & 28 became 3rd & 22 after a dump off to Homer. From there, Wilson would take two last-gasp heaves to Lockett, both of which were batted away. The Cardinals salted it away with three straight runs, including a 3rd & 5 where Kenyan Drake pushed through like 11 arm tackles to clinch it. The ensuing kneel-downs were the euthanasia that the Seahawks so desperately sought, and they were carried to the morgue with a pathetic home loss.
~Russell Wilson started out 5 for 6 for 75 yards then went 1-5 for 1 yard the rest of the half, while taking 4 sacks for -21 yards. The second half wasn’t much better, as he completed just 10 of 20 passes for 93 yards. He had the deck stacked against him with injuries, no doubt, but he looked panicky after the abominable way the second drive ended. He was the favorite to win the MVP after Week 10 but since then, he has been an above-average QB and nothing more. Make no mistake, I am absolutely thrilled to have Russell Wilson on this team and there aren’t many quarterbacks I’d put on his level, but he has not been what this team needs him to be for the last month and a half. Jittery, out of flow, hesitant to run... all bad things for a QB that thrives in rhythm and on the move. It will take a massive reversal for next week to be anything other than a complete disaster on offense. That said, I feel like it’ll happen cuz that’s sorta how he rolls, but this is two really bad games in three weeks for Russ.
~Add Chris Carson and CJ Prosise to the list of the dead. Carson appears to have fractured his hip and Prosise broke his arm. I don’t know if this is just random bad injury luck or if Pete Carroll forgot to paint the VMAC’s doorframe with lamb’s blood but it sounds like it’ll be Travis Homer and some schmuck they sign off waivers from here on out. Homer, for his part, did what he could in a bad situation. He rushed 5 times for 16 yards (including, curiously, a 17-yarder) and caught 6 nowhere passes for 26 more.
The silver lining, if Carroll is aware enough to realize it, is that this puts the rest of the season in Russell Wilson’s hands. Don’t fuck around establishing identity or delivering body blows or any of the other 1960s crap— live and die with your all-world QB. Run enough to keep the other team honest or whatever but here’s hoping that whatever the outcome of this season is, it’s what Wilson accomplishes.
~The Seahawks wide receivers were so bad today I don’t even know what to tell you. Tyler Lockett was targeted 8 times and delivered 1 catch for 12 yards. A couple of those were tipped and a couple more were less-than-perfect throws but I only saw him get open twice: the catch he did have and the one he dropped on the very next play. That’s 4 duds in the last 5 games for Lockett and while three of those can be blamed on illness / injury, this one falls pretty squarely on him. He drew Arizona’s second-best cover guy all game and couldn’t get loose. Like, ever.
DK Metcalf was completely eliminated. Like he wasn’t even there. On one hand, it’s cool that he’s already scary enough to draw the Patrick Peterson shadow but on the other, he didn’t force a single uncomfortable moment for the defense. He was targeted once and he dropped it. I’m not writing him off or anything, and I still think there’s no ceiling on his future, but today was stark reminder of just how good you have to be to beat the NFL’s best defenders. And he wasn’t even close— Patrick Peterson shoved the youngster right back in the womb.
Jacob Hollister had 5 catches for 64 yards which is a nice outing and the best output the Seahawks had to offer but with nothing from the wideouts and against what’s been far and away the worst defense against TEs in the NFL, it’s still a bit disappointing.
~O-line stunk so bad they burned God’s nostrils. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been barely passable all year but without Duane Brown they were absolutely atrocious. Wilson took 5 sacks, avoided another half-dozen, and spent half the game on his back. When the Cardinals weren’t getting tackles for loss, they were batting down passes at the line and corralling ball-carriers close to the line of scrimmage. Jamarco Jones stood no chance against Chandler Jones which, obviously.
I really like Jamarco and he was phenomenal as a fill-in against the Rams earlier this year, but that was at right guard which is worlds different than protecting the blindside edge on the left side. Mike Iupati has been bad this year and was bad again today. Joey Hunt tries really hard but is physically inferior to literally everyone he’s called upon to block. DJ Fluker remains good when moving forward but suspect when pass blocking. Germain Ifedi is... / checks notes... still Germain Ifedi.
Now, they had a few stretches of decent play but Wilson played the last 85% of the game with PTSD and bailed on a number of plays where the blocking was actually pretty good. The Seahawks ran the ball 7 times for 45 yards on their first two drives then got just 46 on their last 13 carries. If Brown is out for a while, and it sounds like he will be, this team goes from over-achieving contenders to a pure lottery ticket.
~The defense was fine for most of the game but with no help from their offense, there was almost no margin for error. Still, allowing multiple successful drives to Brett Hundley, with whose limitations they were well aware, is a pretty uncomfortable indictment. Obviously missing Clowney, Diggs, and Kendricks makes this a much worse unit but you’d like to think they could’ve played better than they did today.
For what it’s worth, I thought Bobby Wagner played really well despite his injury and his 13 tackles will keep him 2nd in the NFL for the season. He remains a remarkable example of efficiency at a level so high that we have honestly spent a lot of this season wondering if he’s still go it. We are so dumb. Bobby rules.
Thirteen tackles for KJ Wright as well, as he did his best to fly around the field in absence of a lot of talent. That said, he was the biggest culprit on Drake’s long TD, missing the RB wildly at the point of attack. Overall I thought it was a good game for him but with so much else to overcome, it wasn’t nearly enough.
Very little pass rush for the month’th straight game. I just don’t know what to say. Yeah, Clowney being out hurts but good golly, is there no one else who can beat a block on this team?
~At least Michael Dickson was good today. After a shaky first half of the season, he’s gotten back to being the field-flipping force we fell in love with last year. His overall numbers (both gross and net) are a few yards worse than last year but he’s been great at pinning teams deep and that was on display again today, in addition to a 63-yard bomb that didn’t bounce.
~There are 4 or 5 games every year that really highlight the deficiencies in Pete Carroll’s in-game coaching. He is so so so good at the hardest part of being an NFL coach, which is creating a successful culture in a locker room of young, rich alpha males with very little job security. His ability to create a pervasively successful mindset that has transcended massive roster turnover is the most impressive bit of coaching in Seattle sports history. That Seattle has won 9+ games for 8 straight years is, I believe, mostly a result of the on-field talent that he and John Schneider have accumulated but he’s managed to focus it and that kind of sustained success doesn’t happen without a #good coach.
That said, he seems completely overwhelmed during games these days. His decisions (timeouts, challenges, 4th downs, late-game coverages, etc) are not only baffling, they seem completely reactive. There doesn’t appear to be any cohesive in-game philosophy and his inexplicable trend towards conservatism is as stunning as it is maddening. It wasn’t long ago that Pete was one of the most forward-thinking, aggressive, bet-on-my-guys coaches in the entire league and he has regressed to a point of timidity that is alarming. Even Russell Wilson, who is as used to Pete’s white-flag decisions on 4th downs as anyone, said after the game that he was sure they’d go for it on 4th & 1 from the opponent’s 34. I mean, why wouldn’t you? That teams continue to go for, and convert, 4ths & short against Seattle only serves to highlight the damage done by Carroll’s reticence to attack.
The rub is that, again, they’re winning 10+ games a year. I know for a fact that thousands of you are reading this and saying “how can you criticize a coach that has been this successful?” And I get it. Double-digit wins every year is fucking awesome and the easy route for me is to just shut up and say “hey, we’re winning more than we’re losing so why criticize?” But I do think it’s a little lazy to attribute that entirely to a coach, especially when his in-game decision-making objectively lowers the team’s odds of winning. Furthermore, it would be dishonest of me to do that because we’ve seen what Super Bowl caliber coaching looks like and it absolutely does not look like the puckered-sphincter, hormonal decision-making that we’ve seen the last three years.
I think Carroll will be around for as long as he wants and believe it or not, I’m actually okay with that. Because, no matter how mystifying Pete’s coaching has become, the next Seahawks head coach will almost certainly be worse and that only compounds my frustrations with him.
~Nice to see Jason Myers make all his kicks today.
Look, 11-4 is an objectively great record. Unfortunately, the 2019 NFC is loaded with 10+ win teams so for this to be anything more than a fun exceeding of preseason expectations, the Seahawks are gonna have to get their shit together. For a team that has long prided itself on not getting blown out, they’ve now been blown out by two non-playoff teams in three weeks and clung to a narrow victory against a terrible one in between.
There is no way to polish today’s performance and the execution combined with the morose injury situation makes it tough to see a bright path through the playoffs. What’s crazy is that a win next week changes everything. Unfortunately, with this loss, even that win wouldn’t assure a first round bye, so it may end up being a three-game gauntlet to the Super Bowl even if they do pull off the victory against the Niners.
This next week will tell us a lot about this team moving forward. History suggests that the Seahawks will bounce back after this but today was an absolute toilet-clogger. I really, really hope this squad pulls it together in spite of their adversity (the ability to do so being a major feather in Carroll’s cap) but it will take a big reversal in performance from today’s.
You don’t accidentally go 11-4. Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner are healthy and that’s enough to give Seattle a chance against anyone. Now that it’s all out on the page, I’m choosing to flush this game and assume that they’ll put it behind them. Onward, upward.
I went back to the Forbidden series from Arturo Fuente today, combining it with the Elijah Craig 12-year. It was the best part of the day. I forgot how much I love the Craig 12 and I think I’ll make sure it becomes a staple on my shelf.
Once again, I am STOKED about our cigar partnership this year. One of our readers has the plug on some insane stogies has offered them to Cigar Thoughts readers for 20% off. These are high-end sticks, and among the most enjoyable I’ve ever smoked. To get the hookup, just email SeattleCigarConcierge@gmail.com. They are carrying over 70 cigar brands with many rare releases, including Davidoff, OpusX, and Padron. You can also hit him up on Twitter: @SeattleCigars