Seahawks/Cardinals News & Notes

The Seahawks and Cardinals, set to face off this Sunday, are both coming off close wins over surprising teams. We take a look ahead to Seattle's next contest by looking back at both games, and seeing how both teams match up.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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The Seahawks acquired wide receiver Deion Branch from New England for a 2007 first-round draft choice because they preferred a known commodity to a future risk. They have a two-week roster exemption to ease Branch into the fold, but the 27-year-old receiver will contribute this season.

"I always will be big on draft picks, but this is a known commodity," team president Tim Ruskell said. "The first round can be a crapshoot from top to bottom." Branch caught eight passes for 153 yards in his final game with New England, a 27-13 loss to Denver in the AFC playoffs. He leaves the Patriots with 213 catches for 2,744 yards and 14 touchdowns.

"I think he's tremendous," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "I think he's a fine football player, and a quality young man, and you can't have too many of those guys. He's a proven commodity. He's been part of the Super Bowl experience. It's all good for us."

The Seahawks and Branch have reached agreement on a long-term contract. Branch joins a receiving corps already featuring Darrell Jackson, Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram and D.J. Hackett. "We have good receivers on the football team right now in my opinion, but this certainly gives us a lot of flexibility to use different packages, more wide receivers in certain packages and things like that," Holmgren said. "We just found out about this not long ago, so we're going to put the coaches to work on it and see how we can best use all the players we have."

The Seahawks haven't ruled out playing Branch against the Cardinals in Week 2. The team would have to release another player to make room or Branch on the roster.

"He can play at any time, but you get two weeks to figure that out," Ruskell said. "If he's ready to go Sunday, then we have to make that decision quicker, but we at least have that amount of time."

NOTES, QUOTES

--WR Darrell Jackson made a statement with his clutch run-after-the-catch to set up the winning field goal in Detroit. He's all the way back from offseason knee surgery and ready to carry a full load. Jackson played all but a few snaps of the season-opening victory. His late reception featured a cutback across the field, the type of play coaches hate -- unless they work. "It was just all reaction, making plays, and for my benefit it turned out for the best," Jackson said. "It felt good, being back and part of the action and being back making a play to get a good outcome," he said.

--Seattle lacked its usual intensity in the opener, something that must change for the team to repeat its success from 2005. The Seahawks were back at Ford Field, site of Super Bowl XL, but their offense had more trouble with the Lions than with the Steelers. "Same stadium and half the electricity, and I thought we just were sort of the same way," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "Same team, same people, but we didn't have that same sense of urgency or intensity. Not that we didn't try - we did -- but we just never really found that rhythm. ...

"But we'll get it. I think we all know, for whatever reason, our offense has not started off at its top level. But we pick it up. Hopefully that's the same this year."

--LT Walter Jones is expected to start this week after suffering an ankle injury in the opener. Jones was able to return to the game.

--WR Deion Branch could play in Week 2 if he assimilates into the offense quickly. The team acquired Branch from the Patriots on Monday. Seattle received a two-week roster exemption from the league, but Branch could play before the exemption expires.

--WR Darrell Jackson appears fully recovered from offseason knee surgery. He played the whole game Sunday and felt no ill effects Monday, a good sign for a receiving corps that has grown to include Deion Branch.

--LB Leroy Hill could return this week after sitting out the opener with a stinger. Seattle missed his sure tackling against Detroit.

--QB Matt Hasselbeck needs better protection than Seattle gave him in the opener. Coach Mike Holmgren drove that point home to the team Monday. Look for the Seahawks to tighten up some of the leaks that Detroit exposed at Ford Field. It's the team's top priority this week.

--LG Floyd Womack struggled against Lions DT Shaun Rogers, but the Seahawks are expected to stick with Womack as the starter. Womack was making his second regular-season start since 2004.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. LIONS

PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus --
The pass protection was terrible as Seattle allowed five sacks without scoring a touchdown. QB Matt Hasselbeck weathered the storm quite well, completing 25 of 30 passes for 210 yards. But most of his passes were of the bailout variety, including six passes to FB Mack Strong.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- RB Shaun Alexander averaged only 2.7 yards per carry as Lions DT Shaun Rogers had his way with the Seahawks' interior offensive line. Seattle did manage rushes of 14 and 17 yards on the winning drive, a credit to the team's ability to function with its back against a wall. But the consistency wasn't there and Seattle was too often baited into ineffective run checks.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The pass rush wasn't as good as it should have been given that Detroit was missing two starters up front. Still, the Lions had trouble completing passes downfield and they never came close to finding the end zone. CB Marcus Trufant made aggressive plays on the ball when Lions QB Jon Kitna challenged him.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Seattle missed more tackles in this game than in its final few games last season. LB Leroy Hill was missed. His replacement, D.D. Lewis, is a good player, but Lewis appeared rusty in this game. He missed a handful of tackles, as did FS Ken Hamlin, who went for a few big hits instead of wrapping up. But the bottom line was that the Lions did not manage a run longer than nine yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The return game was vastly improved with WR Willie Ponder on kickoffs and CB Jimmy Williams on punts. P Ryan Plackemeier was also sensational with a 42.6-yard net average on a day when field position was important. Seattle suffered two costly breakdowns in its field-goal protection scheme, however, and the result was a pair of blocks.

COACHING: C -- The Seahawks were at a disadvantage because they didn't have regular-season video showing how the Lions' new staff would use its personnel. The Lions exploited this advantage. Seattle's pass-protection schemes must improve, and they probably will now that the Seahawks aren't entering a game cold against a new staff.


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ARIZONA CARDINALS
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The Cardinals won their opener, 34-27, over the 49ers but you couldn't tell from coach Dennis Green's mood these days. He's unhappy with the way his club played last Sunday, and he knows it needs to play much better if it has a chance to win Sunday in Seattle.

He was particularly unhappy with his defense, which he felt was too passive. The 49ers gained 393 yards in total offense, and quarterback Alex Smith was sacked just once. "I didn't think we did a very good job as far as attacking them at all," Green said of his defense. "I thought we stood around and we played catch. And that's not very good because they were moving full speed and we were waiting. That's why they made big plays on trick plays. You can always make big plays on trick plays if you don't penetrate the line of scrimmage."

Several Cardinals defenders pointed out that San Francisco had to resort to trick plays to have success offensively, as if that made the yards and points worth less. And the 49ers didn't use that many trick plays. They hurt the Cardinals with screen passes and runs by back Frank Gore.

Offensively, the Cardinals appeared improved over last year. The passing attack looked sharp, and while the run game looking improved, it's still lacking. Kurt Warner was sharp, throwing for 301 yards and three touchdowns and completed 23 of 37 and had three passes dropped. He looked like the Kurt Warner who won two MVP awards while in St. Louis.

This offense, with receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, and running back Edgerrin James, reminds him of his old Rams' teams.

"When you get playmakers in this offense, you can do some great things," Warner said. "We definitely have that. You add a guy (James) in the backfield that gives you the threat of the run and the guy who can make a couple of guys miss ... it's given me a very similar feel to (St. Louis)."

NOTES, QUOTES

--RB Edgerrin James was disappointed he gained only 73 yards last Sunday in his Cardinals debut. "When you don't get 100, for me, it's not that good of a day," James said. James did make some nice gains out of runs that weren't blocked that well. "He helped us more than we helped him," coach Dennis Green said.

--CB David Macklin, who had a light grip on a starting job for much of the preseason, apparently has lost it. He was replaced by Eric Green after missing a tackle and dropping an interception on the first possession. "I'm not going to be very patient," Green said. "I'm just not going to be."

--DT Darnell Dockett doesn't regret his late hit on QB Alex Smith, even though it drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Dockett dove at Smith's legs, and could be fined for the play.
"I don't think it was a dumb mistake," Dockett said. "I was running and I'll do the same thing next week against Hasselbeck (St. Louis quarterback Matt Hasselbeck).

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. 49ERS


PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Kurt Warner passed for 301 yards and three touchdowns, all to different receivers. Warner made grow throws despite having defenders in his face all day. The Cardinals passed for a lot of yards last year, but this time they got some points out of it.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Cardinals didn't have great numbers but they were able to grind out a long drive in the fourth quarter, running just enough to keep the 49ers honest. The offensive line has to perform better, however. Right tackle continues to be a problem.

PASSING DEFENSE: C -- The Cardinals kept Alex Smith in the pocket but they didn't sack him. The secondary had some coverage breakdowns, mostly because some players seemed to lose focus. And there was poor tackling on tight end Vernon Davis' 31-yard touchdown catch and run.

RUSH DEFENSE: C --
49ers running back Frank Gore gashed the Cardinals early. The Cardinals over-ran some plays and displayed poor tackling technique on others. Defensive tackles Darnell Dockett and Kendrick Clancy didn't make many plays.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Much more was expected of this unit. They gave up a 60-yard punt return that led to a field goal, and there were far too many penalties. Kicker Neil Rackers is still automatic, however.


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