For the last few seasons, there’s been no place I hate watching the Seahawks play more than Arizona. It’s where that horrendous 6-6 tie, took place, where Avril, Kam, and Sherman effectively ended their Seahawks careers, and of course where the Play That Shall Not Be Named happened. It hasn’t mattered how good the Seattle is, or how bad the Cardinals are either, it seems every game down there turns into a three-hour exercise in drudgery. So I hope I can be forgiven for coming into this one, a surface-level blowout in the making, with my anus puckered.
As most of you know, I railed against Seattle’s inept early offense last week and the overly conservative playcalling that I firmly believe led to it, so I was curious to see if they’d buck that most frustrating of trends. The final score was much closer than the game was, and I worried that it might convince the coaching staff to stay the course.
That reveal would have to wait, however, as the new-look Cardinals received the opening kick and embarked on a long 11-play, 49-yard journey. Their frenetic offensive pace showcased a series of spread runs and short passes that moved the sticks a few times before fizzling out when Shaquill Griffin made a terrific breakup on a 3rd down pass at Seattle’s 20 yard line. That brought out the until-now-perfect Zane Gonzalez who casually pushed his 43-yard attempt wide to the right. It was an innocuous moment, but I can’t help but wonder how the rest of the game might’ve gotten if that drive didn’t end with such a deflating result for the home team.
So, now we’d see if the Seahawks would begin with their usual body-blows mentality or if they’d be willing to try something new out of the gate. Y’all’re obviously aware of what I was pulling for and, wouldn’t you know it, Brian Schottenheimer delivered. Instead of the plodding, unimaginative runs we’re used to seeing in the game’s first few drives, the ‘Hawks came out with a series of zippy throws to Tyler Lockett and Will Dissly to move the sticks and get the defense on their heels.
With the D backpedaling, they began handing it to Chris Carson, who ran like his job was on the line today. He powered through a series of tackles on three runs and before you could blink, the Seahawks were in scoring range. Smelling blood, Russell Wilson took back-to-back end zone shots looking for resident übermensch DK Metcalf but barely missed on both and Seattle would settle for a short field goal attempt of their own. Jason Myers trotted out and knocked the kick through the uprights for a 3-0 lead and that’s as close as the Cardinals would ever be again.
On the very next drive, whatever optimism for a bounce-back drive Arizona had was immediately snuffed out. After a short completion to David Johnson, a Kyler Murray screen pass was sniffed out and intercepted by J
acob Martin Barkevious Mingo Seattle’s 2020 3rd round pick Jadaveon Clowney who returned it for the game’s first TD. It was a remarkable display of instinct and athleticism as Clowney, recognizing the play early in its development, disengaged his hands from his blocker, tipped the throw, and snagged it with one hand before turning upfield and sprinting down the sideline to glory. Just like that, the Seahawks were up two scores and taking a team photo in the Cardinals end zone.
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Arizona, who has been very good at stringing chunk plays together but poor at finishing drives this season, put another nice possession together right away. After a few first downs and a heavy dose of Johnson, the drive inevitably broke down in Seattle territory. Gonzalez came back out and this time banged the kick home to make it 10-3.
At this point, we were knuckles deep into the second quarter and Seattle had had just one offensive possession. Their next one was sublime. Whether inspired by the relative success of their first drive, or simply committed to a new philosophy (fingers crossed!), the ‘Hawks came out with the same pass-to-run approach that moved the ball so well on their previous possession. After Carson got knocked for a loss on 1st down, check out this sequence:
~Swing pass to Carson for 7
~Wilson over the middle to Jaron Brown for 32
~Deep cross to Lockett for 28
~Incompletion to David Moore
~Dart down the left seam to Dissly for the TD
The drive saw nearly everything that makes Wilson so good, from pocket poise to decision-making to maneuverability. His miss to Moore was unquestionably a poor pass, but his shots to Lockett and Dissly were incredible- Lockett’s especially. On the deep cross, Wilson arced a pass, somehow, an inch over the outstretched arms of the underneath defender and snugly into Lockett’s minuscule bosom just beneath the defender over the top. It’s the type of throw that doesn’t make sense when you think about the actual physics of it, but it’s like the 1,400th time we’ve seen it from Russ so we almost take it for granted. His pass to Dissly was less spectacular but every bit as precise- a weekly reminder of just how good we have it at QB.
The result of the drive made it 17-3 and after a a stop, a punt, and another stop, they moved it right the fuck back down the field for another short field goal before the half. That pushed the score to 20-3 and, for all intents and purposes, it put this game out of reach.
The second half was largely devoid of drama, save an awesome moment when Larry Fitzgerald surpassed Tony Gonzalez for 2nd all time in receptions with a jaw-dropping 1,326. Only a matter of time before Dissly passes him but I hope he enjoys the achievement in the meantime. The last two quarters lacked suspense mostly because Seattle wasn’t going to cough up a three-score lead to a team like Arizona but also because Seattle reverted, for the entire third quarter and a good chunk of the fourth, to a run-heavy offense with designs on draining the clock instead of extending the lead.
Honestly, it wasn’t gonna matter how they went about it because their lead was safe either way, so if #poundingtherock satiates Pete Carroll, then so be it. Refusing to tack onto the lead did give Murray, who is going to be really fun once he’s good, a chance to cut the lead to 20-10 on a sexy little scrambling touchdown. The play was set up a by a series of dubious penalties committed by Seattle and, for a moment, hope flickered inside the Cardinals’ tiny red breasts.
Fortunately, Seattle was able to recollect themselves for one more possession, using 8 passes, 7 runs and over 8 minutes to drive a knife through the hearts of their desert hosts. One of the most satisfying possessions of the season was punctuated by one of its most satisfying TDs. Facing 2nd & goal on AZ’s 9, Carson headed to the sideline to change his tires after an afternoon of grinding the Cards’ defense to dust. That meant CJ Prosise(!) lined up next to Wilson in the backfield and, on the next play, took a handoff around the right end. A healthy Prosise(!) moves with the effortlessness of a river and, as he turned the corner, he calmly weaved his way between beleaguered defenders into the mouth of the end zone. For a player whose tantalizing promise has been overshadowed by a litany of injuries, it was awesome to see him deliver the fatal blow and be celebrated by his teammates.
~After what the coaches admitted was one of their worst games last week, the play-calling today was superb. Quick-hitting passes, play-action, and in-rhythm QB-play set up openings in the run game instead of the stubborn run-to-pass mentality that’s been hamstringing this team. You really wanna wear a defense down? Don’t give them a bunch of easy stops- hit ‘em with a bunch of fast releases and play-action to gas their DL and take advantage of a per-play average that far outpaces the run game.
Seattle only had 4 offensive drives in the first half, but maximized them by leaning on their all-world quarterback to the tune of 16 passes for 133 yards. That set up their most effective run game of the year, as 11 handoffs translated to 53 yards. All told, they put 13 points up on those drives and, combined with Clowney’s pick-six, put a stranglehold on the Cardinals that they never escaped from. Turns out you can win a game in the first and second quarters. Go figure.
In the second half, Seattle’s execution languished, as they began to commit penalties and allow sacks- trademark weaknesses they had avoided in the first half. The play-calling in the second half was dead even: 16 runs and 16 passes and frankly I love it. A consistent theme among the league’s best teams over the last few years is a pass-centric script in the first half to establish a lead and an even distribution in the second half to protect it. Seattle’s been approaching it the other way for a long time so it was dope to watch them follow that blueprint today. Hope they keep it up, but a solid performance from Schottenheimer and Co. this afternoon.
~Russell Wilson was a fireworks show last week, a development necessitated by a desperate game flow, but his stats were much more tempered in this one. As much as I love watching Wilson go super-saiyan, it’s not what was needed from him against such an inferior opponent. That said, he was still extremely efficient, completing 22 of 28 passes (78.6%) for 240 yards (8.6 Y/A) with a TD and no turnovers (again). It’s not a game we’ll talk about when Russ enters the Hall of Fame but it was more than enough to win. Another great game from the best to ever do it in this city.
~Chris Carson ran like there was a million dollars hidden inside the sternums of every guy that tried to tackle him. With questions about his future role swirling due to a wild streak of fumbles, he carried the rock with the conviction John Wick. His 22 carries totaled 104 yards and added 4 catches for 41 more. He had his lone TD called back on a hold but he left his cleat marks all over the Cardinals today.
~Will Dissly is playing out of his freaking mind this season. hell, he was doing it last year too before his injury, but the way he’s producing so soon after his recovery is remarkable. Only Jimmy Graham has put together a run this productive as a Seattle tight end and Dissly is just getting started. In addition to catching Wilson’s only touchdown, Dissly led the team in catches (7), targets (8), and yards (57). I didn’t see it coming but the dude’s hands are so supple, his body positioning so mastered, and his route running so crisp that he’s scoring like an elite TE. If what we’re seeing is real and sustainable, the ceiling for this offense has been raised significantly.
~Tyler Lockett was much quieter in this one than he was vs Pittsburgh and New Orleans but he was responsible for 3 first downs and drew the lion’s share of the defense’s attention. That allowed things to open up for Dissly and, out of nowhere, Jaron Brown (3 catches on 3 targets for 50 yards).
DK Metcalf is gonna be a monster in this league but right now his efficiency is rather ghastly. If you just look at his stat sheet, you see an uninspiring 10 catches on 23 targets which is an objectively poor ratio, and especially so compared to the elite conversion rate we’ve gotten used to from Lockett. But hidden among the reeds are that the majority of Metcalf’s targets are, by design, low-conversion. Offsetting that is his otherworldly 22.7 yards per catch; what they sacrifice in completion percentage, they’re getting back in yards per attempt, and Metcalf’s (9.9) has been nothing short of elite. Still, he has a ways to go on those contested jump balls, not to mention sharpening up his other routes, but when he does, there is absolutely no limit on his future production. Just 1 catch for 6 yards on 4 chances today. he’ll continue to be boom or bust until he can bevel some of his rougher edges. Also, welcome back Luke Willson!
~Seattle’s defense was outstanding today. Jadaveon Clowney turned in Seattle’s defensive play of the year and continues to create loads of consternation for opposing QBs. Rasheem Green got another sack, Ziggy Ansah got his first as a Seahawk, and Michael Kendricks exploited a weakness in the system to garner two of his own.
The real pressure of an offense like Arizona’s fell on Bobby Wagner. With so much spacing and misdirection, the onus was on Seattle’s All Pro linebacker to diagnose and treat every intended incision. He was, of course, more than up to the task. He registered a team-leading 11 tackles while orchestrating his surrounding defenders in a symphonic defensive performance.
Shaquill Griffin is good again. I was never totally convinced that he wasn’t, but last year he really struggled with finding the ball and that overshadowed what was, I think, pretty good coverage. This year, he’s been much better and that was on display against Kliff Kingsbury’s spread O. I thought today would actually be his biggest test of the year to date and I think he handled admirably. The rest of the secondary was good too, with Tedric Thompson turning in what was probably the best game of his career. All told, the Cardinals were held to just 5.7 yards per pass.
~Nice to be reminded that Jason Myers is on the team. Also nice to not have had to watch any high-leverage field goals yet this year. Oh- one more thing: is Michael Dickson still good? I think he is but he’s looked pretty average this year, hasn’t he? His average is around 45 yards per punt this season vs closer to 47 last year but it just hasn’t passed the sniff test. Hope we see more of the monstrous hang times, goofy spins, and coffin corners moving forward.
The Seahawks are 3-1 and that kicks ass. This was a game they were supposed to win but they went out on won it. And they did it without bringing unnecessary stress to the situation. They were aggressive, assertive, and measured. Most of all, they were disciplined. Execution like that will beat a lot of teams better than the Cardinals today, so it was great to see them avoid playing down to their opponent.
At 3-1, they find themselves tied with the Rams for first place in the division* and you’ll never guess who they play on Thursday. I hate short weeks, but Seattle didn’t seem to suffer any undue fatigue or injuries today and they will be at home, so I’m feeling pretty dang great about their chances. I’ll see y’all in a few days so until then- onward, upward, and go ‘Hawks.
*I refuse to recognize the 49ers until him far more certain they aren’t frauds
Today’s smoke is the delightful, and rare, Le 05 3oth Anniversary from Avo Uvezian. It is bold without being a jerk, strong enough to pair with a peaty scotch and smooth enough to burn without burning, ya know? I tried to do it justice by accompanying it with the Lagavullin 16 and let’s just say I don’t regret doing so.
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