Seattle's 1st quarter offense wasn’t that bad. Stalled drives but there were open opportunities Seattle failed to capitalize on. Doug Baldwin's drag route was open all the way, Wilson delayed a little too long and the timing was off. He made the toe-touch catch but then it squirted out when he hit the ground.
Arizona mixed in a healthy dose of splitting their tackles wide, leaving large A gap holes, 1st half. Also would line up a nose and then twist wide to B gap. Seattle went with outside zone a lot and didn’t cut back into those holes save for one attempt (got blown up by Unger’s inability to reach a B-Gap Calais Campbell (a tall order, AKA a schematic shortcoming)).
Might it have been a trap by Arizona? Daring Seattle to cut back inside? Karlos Dansby faked A-gap blitzing on three occasions. I think they were trying to get Seattle to dedicate an extra man there, unnecessarily, and Seattle didn’t bite. Arizona didn’t overload A-gaps, as they would a non-divisional opponent. One delayed Darryl Washington blitz sack came late in the game, long after they abandoned this wide tackle split alignment.
It was a pretty smart approach by Arizona. Wilson primarily escapes with rollouts or leaking out through traffic at 10 & 2, not much straight up the gut. For whatever reason Seattle didn’t challenge their absence of manpower through the A gaps on the ground, 1st half. This enabled near-constant Single High cover and wide box stacking, to forsake the short middle in run & pass. It was effective, even if Seattle’s lack of execution was the story of the 1st half.
So many tiny execution problems for Wilson, Lynch, receivers. Mostly the receivers. Not great passes & catches, not great cutbacks & ZBS decisions, punished with unusual severity by a great defense. Seattle shot itself in the foot with skill player execution. Yes, individual blocking responsibilities were frequently blown up by a dominating Cardinal, most frequently Campbell, but only a couple times did that directly factor in defeating a play or drive. This wouldn’t be the story in the 2nd half.
Red zone chances to end the half: Lynch zigged when he should have zagged, would have had a TD. Cardinals defeat two remaining chances with stellar execution. Lovely goal line play design though: MRob motions to H-Back alignment strong side in a jumbo alignment, then cuts in across the pocket & up into the end zone. MRob tripped by Frostee Rucker sitting on the ground and the pass flies past his head before he can get his hands up. It’s the little things.
2nd half: Arizona uses three tight tackles, stand-up ends when outside zone was suspected. With the ILB, it made for two backside defenders, and Okung could only cut one. Arizona adjusted their run defense substantially. Seattle didn’t, except that Lynch tried to make use of the A-gap cutbacks more, and they suddenly weren’t available at all. Perhaps Arizona anticipated Seattle’s adjustment, even coaxed it, and preemptively defeated it. I don’t know if coaches deserve that much credit, or if it’s just circumstance, but that’s what happened. Both halves they defeated the run, but in different ways.
Receivers were open. No scheming necessary, first 40 minutes. Arizona allowed many throws to be had out there, with the constant single-high. Tight windows, a couple defended, but mostly Seattle had a worse day than normal with the low-percentage one-on-one deep throws. Smart game plan by Arizona and they have the players to execute, but they won because Seattle didn’t execute.
Despite some pressure & the lack of run game yardage, I don’t think Seattle’s offensive line played that poorly. Unger lacked power and Carpenter lacked execution, and that’s about it. Bowie & the tackles played fine, mostly, although they rarely dominated anyone. Campbell in particular dominated a number of snaps, across the line, but while Arizona held steady and clearly won at the line, until late in the game their front’s winning individual line matchups didn’t factor much in the game.
But their LBs were another story. They played great. Not standout play-making, but great decision-making, play-reading, run & pass defense positioning, the whole #!. They made more impact in the 2nd half. Carpenter couldn’t peel off and hook veteran Dansby, who executed like a veteran by sidestepping the peeling-guard-hooking territory at the handoff, quickly, then halting so as to still be in position to contain Lynch. Two peeled off guards took on Washington, then, instead of both ILBs. Defeated play.
Arizona stalled Seattle’s drives more, late 2nd half. Campbell beat Carpenter for a sack. Perfect man cover across the board, no one open. Later, two coverage sacks in a row; no one open. What happened to the open receivers? Answer: 5DBs:3receivers. 6DBs:4receivers. Arizona figured the run game was defeated & dedicated more to the passing game. Well-called game by the Cardinals, tactically. Seattle actually didn’t give up on the run game, stuck with it, but individual execution hampered. A stretch that had no business being so stretched out was well defeated by Patrick Peterson.
Yet sticking to the run led to Seattle’s only TD. Even though it still didn’t succeed on the ground. After shutting down the run, Arizona dedicated more defenders to the pass and shutting down the pass. Seattle still ran a few times in the 4th quarter. All of a sudden we see more zone coverage than Arizona ran all game. Trying to keep the lids on both pots, I suppose. Basic combo routes led to the big gains on the TD drive (Seattle was pretty lucky with that weird fumble forward from Tate to Kearse; maybe couldn’t have scored without it) including Miller’s TD.
The story: 1st half: Seattle didn’t execute enough to capitalize. 2nd half: Arizona beat & defeated Seattle, individually & collectively. Ultimately, the loss is on a host of little things. A ton of oh-so-close incompletions. A couple of those poor timing by Wilson. Mostly just unfortunate luck & execution on difficult and low-percentage throws. A few defeated blocks blowing up a run, stalling a drive. A worthy opponent. A great defense takes away many of your options & opportunities. Not because they scheme it that way, but intrinsically. The importance of execution is heightened. A close game heightens the impact of every officiating call, accurate or not. A close game also heightens the impact of coaching decisions. Maybe adjustments would have made a difference. Arizona didn’t give Seattle reason to adjust, since Seattle was primarily defeating Seattle early.
But Arizona sure defeated them late. Yet that was when Seattle finally executed well enough to score a TD. Probably my favorite individual execution & play of the game was Maxwell’s double-pass break up attempt on the Floyd TD. Oh-so-close-but-no-cigar. Seattle’s defense was also great but perhaps benefitted from too much luck with the interceptions. Luck ran out.
I contend it’s visually apparent that the bounce that Dansby caught to seal the game is not anatomically or physically possible to have been produced off of a forearm. Them’s the breaks; failure to execute put Seattle in position for such a ruling to decide the game. A host of little things matter much more in a close game versus a worthy opponent. After writing this, I checked out Carroll’s comments reflecting on the game, and I think they mesh very well with what I saw.
This game doesn’t hold much forbearance on the Rams matchup. The Rams pose problems, but independently of Arizona. Even if the Rams capture the right game plan recipe, they have to take away options & opportunities and Seattle has to fail to execute for the same result.