Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast surprised the Seahawks on Sunday with a conservative game plan.
The Seahawks were accustomed to seeing intricate defensive schemes from Pendergast, who loves to blitz in creative ways. It hasn't worked well against the Seahawks. Running back Shaun Alexander has been able to make big plays against the blitz, and the receivers, such as Darrell Jackson, also have had big days.
On Sunday, the Cardinals didn't blitz much. They stayed in their base and nickel defenses, hoping to limit Alexander. It worked. Alexander gained only 76 yards, and while Matt Hasselbeck threw for three scores, the Cardinals also forced three turnovers.
It was a remarkable performance by a defense that has struggled in recent weeks. End Bertrand Berry is out for the year with a torn triceps, and nose tackle Kendrick Clancy missed his second consecutive game with an ankle injury.
End Chike Okeafor has taken up some of the slack for Berry's absence. He has 3.5 sacks in the past two games, including one last Sunday late in the game against left tackle Walter Jones.
The defense should be bolstered this week by Clancy's anticipated return. He's the team's best run defender, and he'll be needed against Denver.
--RB Edgerrin James has gained 115 yards on 26 carries for two consecutive weeks. They are his first 100-yard games of the season.
"We finally found something and stuck with it," James said. "It was just a matter of being patient, for (the team) to realize what I've come here for, what I've been doing for so many years. And we've finally gotten to that point."
--DE Chike Okeafor beat Seattle LT Walter Jones, considered one of the best linemen in the game, for a sack that helped seal the victory. Okeafor played for the Seahawks before signing with the Cardinals.
When asked if he got fired up to play his old team, he replied, "Do I get fired up for a football game? I get fired up for a sandlot football game in my back yard. I don't play it for money. I don't play it for fame. I play it because it's fun. Once it stops being fun, then you stop going to recess."
--QB Matt Leinart has considerable leeway in calling audibles and adjusting plays. On the Seattle 5-yard line, the Cardinals had a run called, but Leinart noticed WR Larry Fitzgerald in single coverage. So he threw a fade pass that resulted in a touchdown.
"It's still new to me," Leinart said. "I'm learning every week, I think."
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--S Hanik Milligan, an All-Pro special teams player for San Diego last year, made several nice plays for the Cardinals on Sunday. Milligan had three tackles and downed a punt inside the 5.
--QB Matt Leinart has completed more than 60 percent of his passes in four consecutive games.
--C Nick Leckey has played well since moving into the starting lineup at midseason. He's helped solidify the interior of the line and is an upgrade over Alex Stepanovich.
--NT Kendrick Clancy, who has missed the past two games with a sprained ankle, is expected to play Sunday against Denver.
--RB Edgerrin James has gained more than 100 yards in consecutive games. He's the first Cardinals back to accomplish that since Marcel Shipp did it in 2003.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. SEAHAWKS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Matt Leinart completed more than 60 percent of his passes for the fourth consecutive game and wasn't sacked. He has been sacked just four times in the past five games.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Cardinals rushed for over 100 yards for the second week in a row, and RB Edgerrin James gained 115 yards.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Cardinals put decent pressure on Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck, but they also gave up three touchdown passes and were beaten deep too often.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Arizona limited RB Shaun Alexander to 76 yards in its best performance of the year.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Troy Walters' 37-yard punt return was the longest of the year, but the kickoff coverage was lacking. Neil Rackers made a critical field goal.
COACHING: A -- Both coordinators had solid game plans, and coach Dennis Green made good decisions at the end of the game. This team is playing hard and is actually getting better.
Grading the Game: Seahawks @ Cardinals