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This Week In Defense: Cardinals at Seahawks Week 12

A healthy Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner helped make up for the loss of a non-healthy Brandon Mebane.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Narrative Of The Game:

The Seahawks have struggled this year and with so many key injuries and hot starts in the NFC, it was only a matter of time. The must-win games, back against the wall, win or your mountain to the playoffs becomes about hoping other teams lose. It was clear the fans felt this. The game was louder than it has been and the team just seemed locked in just as much against this NFC West opponent. Add in the loss last year and both the fans and team were not going to take this Drew Stanton version of the Cardinals lightly.

So lets go to the tape as I explain just how on-the-nose the defense was in this game.

[1st Quarter 14:54 1st and 10 Run left by Andre Ellington for -3 yards tackled by Kevin Williams]

With the loss of Brandon Mebane someone is going to have to step up and this early play was a nice get off by Williams. I'm not the biggest fan of his run defense but here it's all about his disengage and finish. The Cardinals line isn't a grinding line though so they kind of try and screen defenders more often than not.

Mechanically, the double goes for Michael Bennett on the edge but Williams wins against the center who can't get a good angle with the quickly vacated space of the guard/tackle combo block. The fullback runs to block in the hole and never sees Williams and Kevin just eats Ellington like a steak. Nom Nom Nom.

[1st Quarter 2:51 1st and 10 Pass to Ellington for 2 yards tackled by Kam Chancellor.]

Pretty Chancellor-esque play by, well, a healthier Kam Chancellor. It's been weeks and weeks since we've seen this man. Seattle actually schemed this play though. Let me explain.

Knowing that Ellington is a big weapon they often made sure that they had someone glued to him or zeroed in, even in zone looks. Kam has this the whole way and rallies, but as often happens, good ol' #38 gives the defender flat feet as he stops to cut. Howver, Kam's Wingspan helps him here, where most defenders would have to get started with some momentum. Chancellor just reaches out and ends the typical big play before it can happen.

This play is then followed up by a great open field tackle by Richard Sherman.

[2nd Qaurter 12:20 1st and 10 Pass Intercepted by Byron Maxwell]

Usually, I'm pretty good nailing down who the QB is trying to throw to but here there's a cluster of red and blue jerseys and Stanton is totally locked to his left. Ellington runs a smash route but Bruce Irvin has him covered all the way. If Stanton is going there he's either blind or dumb.

Maxwell always makes the spectacularly aware picks. Always knows when the ball is in the air for pass break ups. He's not gonna jump many concepts but he will get you if you come his way late or if you lock onto his area. This is all about his recognition and patience for the ball to come out.

[2nd Quarter 9:19 3rd and 10 Drew Stanton sacked by Cliff Avril loss of 7 yards]

Bennett and Avril team up on 3rd-and-long here. Poor Bobby Massie has no shot. He expects some kind of stunt so initially he stays in as Bennett is over him and Avril is outside. He does not want to widen to swing Avril here because if he does he opens the door for Bennett to attack the gap. It's a unique rush position because of the options in provides in attacking the edge or gap. Massie essentially has to watch two guys.

Bennett's dive inside holds Massie just enough for Avril to get around him untouched. To be fair though, Cliff was abusing this guy in straight-up rush looks regardless of scheme. I counted eight times where Avril went untouched in the game.

[2nd Quarter 3:50 2nd and 5 Run by Ellington for 2 yards tackled by Bobby Wagner.]

Any way you slice it this team has missed the athleticism and speed of Wagner. As much as Brock Coyle and KJ Wright are good, Wagner is just that much better at the middle linebacker spot. The team just doesn't have another super strong explosive player on defense. Wagner is the total package.

On this play:

Seattle is going to bring a blitz with KJ Wright. In response the Cardinals are going to try and run a dive play right at it. Bobby is back deeper than the marker and so attacking his gap makes sense. However, Bobby's instant recognition and attack ensures that he can stop #38 before he gets started. I just like the added effort of the dive here over the center who sprawled out on the field attempting a block. Bobby "Supermans" over that and despite having no base with his feet off the ground, still manages to wrap up and finish.

[3rd Quarter 2nd and 7 Zone read run by Drew Stanton -4 yards tackle made by Bruce Irvin]

Trying to catch the defense naping on basic awareness on this play. Bruce Arians hunts for a big play here or there and hopes that can set a tone for a drive. Without a quality thrower though he has to find it someplace else and why not see if Stanton can run, because holy crap he cannot pass well.

Bruce Irvin has settled in to being sort of a swiss army knife. He isn't a true leo or a linebacker but he takes on each role with this new polish that is making him a real joy to watch on Sundays. Here it's all about fundamental football as he spots the ball in Stanton's grasp and holds the edge. A lot of guys get really excited on the edge and this is how broken tackles happen. Instead he squares closes and wraps all in smooth fashion and Arians has to look for another way to squeeze water from a stone.

[3rd Quarter 7:21 3rd and 2 Pass to Ellington for 1 yard tackled by Earl Thomas]

Earl makes one or two of these plays a week but none have been more clutch than this one. It's a simple quick toss to Ellington the whole way. (BTW if it seems like I'm mentioning him a lot it's because he's invoved in all these key plays) Earl explodes once the ball comes out and it becomes an impossible race for the Cardinals offensive engine to do anything with it.

This is one of those plays that a veteran QB maybe freezes ET for just a moment to let his guy make the sticks. Instead, Stanton gets it out immediately and gives Earl the green light for "Missile Mode."

Overview Of The Game

The Cardinals offense looks bad without Carson Palmer and that's strange to say when Seattle notched 4 INTs in a loss at home last year. However when you watch the game back it's woeful how inaccurate this kid is. Up until the week before the Lions game, Stanton was a whopping 48% passer this year. Arizona drives their offense on the Ellington bus but Seattle knew this going in and had good schemes that consistently accounted for him. They didn't stop him entirely but he is a great player.

It was football basics and having Wagner back gave the defense a bit of a punch that it's been missing for most of this year. It was nice to see he wasn't mentally hung up about it either. He went out and put on a Wagner clinic.

Game Ball

The DTs up front from Tony McDaniel to Kevin Williams to Jordan Hill all played huge roles in stopping the run and actually collapsed the pocket 4-5 times in this game. The "after Mebane" season is off to a 1-1 start but this was a really nice victory for a group that's been inconsistent most of the year outside of Mebane. More please!

Needs Work

Could always use more pass rush, but other than that not much bad can be said about this game.