Ahhhh. Go ahead... take another deep breath. Hold. And release.
That’s how it’s supposed to feel. Not to say that this game was devoid of adversity or anxiety but compared to most Seahawks games, this was a sunny stroll through a flowery meadow. The day started with the announcement that CenturyLink stadium was renamed to Lumen Field, and while I’m not crazy about the moniker, if that means we start being called the Illumenati then I suppose I can get on board. They debuted the name against the also 6-3 Cardinals, which seemed like a setup for disaster but all the Seahawks did was get ahead early and hold that lead for the entirety of the game.
Seattle got the ball to start, and immediately unleashed a beautiful drive full of motion, play-action, and moving pockets. For all the consternation surrounding the run-pass split recently, my bigger concern was the lack of creativity in the pass game. Last week was a three-hour stagnation without any real dynamic, and that shoehorned Russell Wilson into forced throws and first-read commitments. On this drive, however, they actually made it to the second page of the playbook and it paid off in a big way.
It started inauspiciously, with Wilson taking a sack on the game’s first play, but he took over from there. He hit Greg Olsen for 10 on the next play, then converted the 3rd down with a dump-off to Carlos Hyde for 9. After two Hyde runs netted 7 yards, Wilson whipped it out to Tyler Lockett for 4 more and a first down. Then it was Bo Scarborough for 5, Lockett for 10, and a couple snaps later, a Wilson scramble for 9. After Hyde was pushed out of bounds on a 3-yard carry, Wilson took a shotgun snap and whirled around like a goof while Cardinals defenders played slip n’ slide around him. Emerging from the silliness, Wilson looked downfield and lobbed a ball into the back right corner of the endzone where my sweet baby boy DK Metcalf was waiting. 7-0 and they never looked back.
Again, not to say it never got close, but it’s remarkable that Seattle literally never trailed against a team that’s been playing as well as Arizona has. Anyone who has even heard of the term “Seahawks” knows how bad their defense has been this year, but they came into this one having only allowed six points over their last seven drives, and they kept that swagger going in this one. They forced consecutive three-and-outs to start the game, allowing a grand total of 2 yards in the process. They did it by creating pressure with four down lineman and (what’s this?) covering the receivers really well. Imagine!
The Seahawks offense settled on their next two drives as well, and we were pretty deep into the second quarter before another drive from either team ended with something other than a punt. Granted, the Seahawks were robbed of a great scoring opportunity when a beautiful 43-yard bomb to Metcalf was called back on a bogus holding call against a pancaked Damien Lewis. If there was a penalty for getting absolutely trucked, then a flag would’ve been warranted, but there was definitely not a hold. Alas.
After that, it got fun again. Well, maybe not fun but exciting! The Cardinals’ prolific offense wasn’t going to be held down forever, and they finally broke through on their third possession with an 8-play, 50-yard scoring drive highlighted by an insane backpedalling throw from MVP front-runner Kyler Murray. On that play, Bobby Wagner came on a blitz and shoved the blocker back into Murray. Unphased, Kyler flung the ball through contact, over a trailing Jordyn Brooks and under a charging Quandre Diggs— perfectly into the hands of Maxx Williams. The play covered 25 yards and set the table for a 2-yard Kenyan Drake TD ruled as such after replay overruled the original call of a fumble.
Seattle punched right back, however, going 75 yards on 10 plays, with Wilson going 4-5 for 42 yards on the drive. There weren’t any amazing plays on this particular possession, but they had a couple of long runs (Scarborough for 12, Hyde for 17), and it set up a pretty 11-yard lob to Lockett in the endzone for the go-ahead score. Jason Myers missed the extra point, but I’m not one to wag my head at a 13-7 lead.
Arizona would punt on their next opportunity, giving Seattle a chance to extend the lead with three minutes left in the half. It looked like they’d have a good chance too, when Wilson hit David Moore on a wide open screen on 3rd & 3 but for some reason Moore decided to careen wildly out of bounds a yard shy of the sticks instead of just, you know, getting a first down. Given how this season has gone, it seemed to foretell a Cardinals score before halftime but KJ Wright blew up a Murray keeper on 3rd & 1, giving Seattle another chance with just over a minute left.
The Seahawks would capitalize on the extra opportunity, but not the way we all wanted. They got all the way down to the Arizona 7 when a deep bomb from Wilson towards Metcalf elicited a pass interference call against Patrick Peterson with 11 seconds left. On the next play, Wilson stood strong in the pocket and zipped a 98-mph fastball to the back of the endzone, perfectly timing Metcalf’s crossing route. Inexplicably, DK tried to catch it with his chin instead of his strong, supple hands— with all the success you might expect from such an attempt. The ball clattered to the turf and Seattle would settle for a field goal. Still, 16-7 at the break, and it meant the Seahawks defense had only allowed 13 points over their last 60 minutes of play. Progress!
The first drive of the second half was a sinking ship for the Cardinals but the Seahawks kept throwing them life rafts. First there was a defenseless-receiver hit against Quandry Diggs on a 3rd down pass way behind DeAndre Hopkins then Bobby Wagner horse-collared Chase Edmonds to wipe out an 8-yard loss. You give up a net 38 yards in drive-sustaining penalties to any NFL offense, and you’re likely going to pay for it— especially against one as explosive as Arizona. And sure enough, the Cards capitalized. The possession ended with a short TD pass to Dan Arnold, bringing the score to 16-14 and injecting the unease we’ve grown so accustomed to. The Seahawks really can’t help themselves.
The thing about the Seahawks, for all of the frustrating stuff they do, is that more often than not they answer a score with a score. It’s a highly underrated feature of their identity and one that pays dividends almost every week. Their next chance would prove no exception, as they calmly went 72 yards on 8 plays to extend their lead. The highlight of the drive was a sexy comeback route to Metcalf that saw DK sell a double-move up the field so hard that Peterson stumbled backwards. As DK came back to the ball, he deftly snagged it with two hands along the sideline then feinted inside as a recovering Peterson flew past him. Metcalf then turned up field and made two more guys miss before the entire Cardinals roster jumped on his back to finally stop him.
He should have had a bunch more on the very next play but he took his eyes off the ball on a slant route that had big play written all over it, dropping the pass and momentarily halting the momentum. No matter, a series of short-to-medium gains later, Seattle was on the doorstep. After Hyde charged through the line and barreled his way to the 2 behind a wipeout Metcalf block, the Seahawks shrewdly went no huddle, keeping the Cardinals from subbing in their goal line package. That made it all too easy for Hyde to finish what he started, plunging in to make it 23-14. Hell of an answer.
Now, every Seahawks game features a 15-play, 90-yard touchdown drive by their opponent and today was no exception. This particular occasion saw a whole lot of DeAndre Hopkins and Chase Edmonds, with the former snagging three passes for 38 yards and the latter the beneficiary of an all-out goal line blitz that never got home. On that play, Murray avoided the first wave of defenders before spotting a wiiiiiide open Edmonds in the endzone. Kyler threw the ball like 70 yards in the air for some reason but he could have bounced it off Mars before any Seahawk was gonna get close to Edmonds. The running back easily snagged the lob to make it 23-21 and inject a fresh jolt of discomfort into the game.
This left 13 minutes in the game, and it was time to see if Seattle could respond again. They didn’t. The ‘Hawks were able to bleed four minutes off the clock before punting, but using up clock doesn’t really benefit you in that particular situation. What it did do, however, was provide an opportunity for the Seattle defense to shine, and it didn’t go unclaimed. On the first play of that possession, Murray was harassed into an intentional grounding penalty and on the next one, LJ Collier won the battle of disappointing Seahawks. Beating slovenly weirdo JR Sweezy to the inside on the following snap, Collier lead-footed his way towards Murray in the endzone. Sensing defeat, Sweezy reached out and dragged Collier to the ground, but had the misfortune of doing so in his own endzone. The flag flew, and the Seahawks were granted two points and the ball. 25-21.
Seattle received the free kick and DJ Reed ran it up to the 40. What followed was some of the most impactful 37 non-TD yards you could ask for. Somehow using 12 plays and nearly seven minutes of game clock, the Seahawks inched the ball up the field, finally settling for a 41-yard kick from Myers to make it 28-21 with just over two minutes left. There was one stomach-turning moment on that possession, however, when Hyde bobbled a pitch to the left and then pounced on it while the entire Arizona defense piled on top of him. AZ HC Kliff Kingsbury challenged the ruling of a Seattle recovery and even though replays definitely showed that Hyde regained possession, I was stressed the hell out the whole time. The benefit of the play is that it burned a Cardinals timeout but still, I could’ve done without the apprehension.
Okay now... Here. We. Go.
How many times have we found ourselves in this position? Clinging to a one-score lead as the opponent mounts a potentially game-tying/winning drive? Too many. Fuck. Just so many times. Got damn.
On the first play, Murray hit Larry Fitzgerald for 6 then wisely rushed to the line of scrimmage to sneak in one more play— an 11-yarder back to Fitzgerald— before the two-minute warning. After short-hopping Hopkins on the next play, Murray hit Fitzgerald again over the middle, this time for 11. Then it was a slick draw play to Edmonds for 11, pushing the ball to Seattle’s 27.
That’s when Seattle turned in one of their best defensive series of the season. On 1st down, a pass to Christian Kirk was batted away. On 2nd down, Murray went back to Fitzgerald on a seam route to the endzone, but Diggs leapt over the top to knock it down, nearly picking it off in the process. On 3rd down, Murray went for it all again, this time towards a briefly open Andy Isabella in the front right corner of the endzone. On this play, Isabella snuck behind Diggs in the zone and appeared ready to snag a huge game-turning catch; except Diggs showed remarkable recovery speed, reaching up to deflect the pass at the last second and forcing 4th down.
Now to this point, Seattle had been blitzing intermittently with no real success. I was begging them not to blitz on this play and, saints be praised, they didn’t. I mean they really didn’t. Instead, they chose to drop eight men into coverage, rushing just the remaining three. Turns out that was enough, as King Carlos Dunlap beat two blockers and swallowed Murray up in the backfield like a Sarlacc. The sack was Dunlap’s 3.5th in his three-game stint with Seattle, and it sealed the deal for the good guys. A couple kneel-downs later, the Seahawks were 7-3 and back in first place in the division.
~Russell Wilson is back, and has now won more games in his first 9 seasons (93) than any quarterback in NFL history. His box score lacked the type of raw volume we’ve become accustomed to this season but he was deadly efficient. He completed 23 of 28 passes despite three drops, good for 197 yards, 2 TDs and, most importantly, no turnovers. He also added 42 yards on the ground, all of which were well-timed scrambles courtesy of the type of pocket presence we’re used to from the greatest Seahawk of all time. He didn’t thrust himself back into the front of the MVP race tonight, but he was good enough to win. 2012 Russ.
~DK Metcalf had a weird night. he ran phenomenal routes all day but had a 43-yard catch wiped out on the BS Lewis hold and dropped two passes that would have been enormous (one TD and one on a slant that would’ve gotten at least 20 more). His final line was a very useful but unspectacular 3-46-1 but it could easily have been 6-116-2. Not worried about him one bit, and he did a phenomenal job separating against the same Patrick Peterson that shut him down just a month ago.
~Tyler Lockett was very useful again today, snagging all 9 of his targets for 67 yards and a score. Lockett never went deep tonight, but he used his exceptional wiggle to find space in the defense all game long and will no doubt tell his customers all about it on his paper route tomorrow morning.
~The run game! !!! After the 1-3 stretch Seattle has endured, the clamoring for a return to a run-first offense had grown pretty loud. And while it wasn’t run-heavy per se, the Seahawks were extremely effective on the ground. Not counting the kneels, they ran the ball 29 times for 168 yards, notching an impressive eight carries of 10+ yards in the process. Y’all know how much I love turning Wilson loose but there’s no doubt he (and any other QB) benefits from an effective rushing attack.
~Carlos Hyde led the way with 79 yards and a teeder on 14 carries, and recent re-acquisition Bo Scarborough added 31 on 6 before succumbing to the most painful splits you’ll ever see. Hope he’s alright— fun player. DeeJay Dallas only touched the ball 3 times but he translated those opportunities into 32 meaningful yards. The best part of all of it was the timing. Instead of stubbornly running the ball into heavy sets, they audibled to a bunch of slam plays against the Cardinals blitzes; just a beautiful example of counter-punching. Hell of a job by a makeshift offensive line today, too.
~The defense was (gasp!) very good today. Sure, they gave up three touchdowns, but they also held Arizona scoreless on their other six drives, adding a safety for good measure. I’d love to see them force a turnover once in a while but considering that they’ve only allowed 27 points over the last six quarters, I’d say we’re seeing some welcome progress. Collectively they were very good tonight, covering well, generating consistent pressure without sending the house, and completely stuffing the league’s best run game (18 carries for just 57 yards from an offense that came in averaging 172). But there were a number of standout individual performances, too.
~Bobby Wagner was back on his bullshit, roping 9 tackles and generally being in the middle of everything all night long. DJ Reed, who has been a revelation since defecting from the 49ers, led the team with 11 takedowns and provided a big boost in the return game. KJ Wright added six tackles, including the monumental one-on-one wrap-up on Kyler Murray on that pivotal 3rd & 1 at the end of the first half. Jordyn Brooks’ impact was much bigger than the box score showed, as he expertly shadowed Murray throughout the game, holding the league’s most dynamic player this season to arguably his worst performance of the year. Sky’s the limit for that kid.
~In coverage, Seattle was mostly excellent. They’re never going to completely erase a passing game as saucy as Arizona’s but what they did tonight was very muted compared to what the Cardinals are used to pulling off. One of my biggest oversights this season has been not giving Tre Flowers his ups. I guess it’s because it’s hard to praise a cornerback on a secondary that is setting records for leniency but he’s been the Seahawks’ best cover guy all year. He drew arguably the toughest assignment in the league tonight, holding the heroic DeAndre Hopkins to just 5 catches and 51 scoreless yards on 8 targets. I’ll take it.
~Quandre Diggs, my god. He hit the fuck out of the Cardinals tonight, and while the one shot on Hopkins was costly, he also vaporized Arnold on a seam route and broke up two goal line passes with the game on the line. Three pass breakups from the high-flying safety, and he set a big time tone in doing so.
~Pass rush! They had one! How huge has Carlos Dunlap been? In just three weeks as a Seahawk, he already has more sacks than Jadaveon Clowney had all last year. If / when these Seahawks reach the promised land, we may very well look back at his acquisition as the fulcrum upon which this season tilted. LJ Collier snagged a sack as well and forced the enormous safety, and Jarran Reed added two tackles for loss and a batted down pass. Just a complete effort from the defense for the first time all year.
~Play-calling was exquisite today. Lots of movement, bunches, screens, and a handful of big shots. They ran pre-snap motion, used play-action, and gave Wilson the autonomy necessary to make adjustments at the line. Most importantly, they never put their offense in a position to force anything and when you have a QB this good, that’s all you need to do. Great effort from the skybox today.
~Penalties nearly killed Seattle tonight. They’ve been exceptionally disciplined this year compared to seasons past but they had some huge ones today. The holding penalty on the big DK catch, the defenseless hit by Diggs, the horse-collar on Bobby Wagner erasing an 8-yard loss. It didn't cost them the game, fortunately, but man did they make it tight.
~Special teams was dope as hell tonight. Kickoff coverage was exquisite, the return game was effective, and Jason Myers just continues to make every damn field goal he attempts (extra points notwithstanding). I guess just tell him they’re worth three points also?
Look, the Seattle Seahawks are 7-3 and, as of this writing, sit alone atop the league’s toughest division. It’s been rough five-game stretch but we always knew it would be, and they now enter a four-game stint against teams with a combined record of 8-28. There is a very good chance they face the final two games of their schedule at 11-3 and it’s hard to imagine a team this good being any worse than 10-4. Are they flawed? Absolutely. But demanding a flawless team is an exercise in madness and I highly recommend not letting yourself sink into that pessimistic quicksand.
The fortunes of this team are squarely back in their own hands now and the highly competitive NFC is wide open for the taking. Like I’ve said so often this year, if you offered me this record at this point of the season, I would have taken it— no questions asked. There are weaknesses to this roster, but they are outweighed by their strengths, and I’m bullish as hell on their prospects this season. They now get a lovely 11-day rest until next Monday night; a gilded opportunity to rest, recover, and come back strong for the home stretch. Onward, upward, go motherfucking ‘Hawks.
Unwrapped a surprisingly sweet and deeply satisfying La Gloria Cubana Serie R Maduro and partnered it with some Straight Rye from Starlight Distillery. Tremendous combination for a tremendous game.
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