MMQB: Seahawks 21, Cardinals 10

After a 21-10 Seahawks victory that wasn't as close as the score indicated, it is clear that Seattle is still the best team in the NFC West, even with an offense that has yet to fire on all cylinders.

The Arizona Cardinals, riding a wave of hype after their 27-21 win over the San Francisco 49ers, came into Seattle with high expectations, calling their game with the Seattle Seahawks a measuring stick. The measurements are back, and after a 21-10 Seahawks victory that wasn't as close as the score indicated, it is clear that Seattle is still the best team in the NFC West, even with an offense that has yet to fire on all cylinders.

Seattle Seahawks 21, Arizona Cardinals 10
September 17th, 2006
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington

Play of the Game: SS Michael Boulware's interception on the last play of the first quarter. Arizona TE Adam Bergen ran a simple seam route and looked like six easy points when Arizona Quarterback Kurt Warner released the ball, but Boulware sprinted right in front of Bergen and made a textbook interception. This set the overall tone for the Seattle defense, who got their hands on several Kurt Warner passes over the course of the game.

Bringing their "A" Game: LB Lofa Tatutpu, for 12 tackles and leading a stellar defensive effort… LB LeRoy Hill, for 8 tackles (all solo) a sack, and several hurries… LB Julian Peterson, for six tackles, a sack, and showing off some freakish athleticism… The entire secondary, for holding "the best receiver group in the NFL" to one touchdown reception, and making several plays on the ball… DE Grant Wistrom, for a sack and a forced fumble… DE Darryl Tapp, for his first career sack - welcome to the NFL, Mr. Tapp… Darrell Jackson, five receptions, 127 yards, and a touchdown - he's back from the knee injury all right…

Ugly sights: WR Bryant Johnson, the fastest Cardinal wideout, being covered by Kelly Herndon , the slowest Seahawk cornerback, and FS Ken Hamlin as Johnson streaked up the field for a forty-yard touchdown reception… Interior blocking that allowed Arizona DT Darnell Dockett to accumulate 12 tackles and a sack… Another blocked field goal attempt, Seattle's third of the year… Disappointing game for Seattle receiver Nate Burleson, one reception for seven yards and two drops.

Referee Report Card: With 11:07 remaining in the first quarter, Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander broke free near the goal line, getting brought down from behind on an obvious horse-collar tackle, which wasn't called. With 9:06 left in the second quarter, Hamlin makes a leaping interception, only to have it called back on a questionable pass interference penalty. With 3:52 remaining in the third quarter, another uncalled horse-collar tackle on Alexander took place, this one stopping what might have been a long Alexander run. The officials missed a couple big plays, but unfortunately this is pretty much standard NFL officiating. C-

Offense: Seattle quickly restored faith in the offense's ability to move the ball, showing the same balanced offense that dominated opponents last year. QB Matt Hasslebeck hooked up with wide receivers Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram for receptions of 35 yards and 22 yards, respectively. Shaun Alexander ran four times for 28 yards before punching it in from the two yard line to give Seattle an early 7-0 lead.

The next drive was a fireworks show, courtesy of Hasslebeck and Jackson. Jackson caught a key 17-yard reception on third-and-twelve before catching a forty-nine yard touchdown pass. Finding himself facing one-on-one coverage against Arizona SS Adrian Wilson, Jackson ran a great route (which caused Wilson to bite outside when Jackson faked towards the sideline) to find himself wide open down the middle of the field, where he caught a perfectly thrown pass and stretched into the end zone for a Seahawks touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

After a three-and-out, Seattle looked ready to make the score 17-0, advancing from their own 38 to the Arizona 11, largely on the ground, before the offense stalled and Josh Brown was brought in to attempt a 30 yard field goal. In what is beginning to appear like a disturbing trend, Brown missed another field goal, through no fault of his own, when place holder Ryan Plackemeier couldn't hold onto the snap and laid the ball down horizontally.

It's unclear if the offense jumped into cruise control or simply ran out of gas, but until the very end of the third quarter the offense couldn't get any kind of a drive moving. QB Matt Hasslebeck, who somehow managed to complete 25-of-30 for 210 yards against Detroit (while watching his offensive line fall apart around him), threw two boneheaded interceptions, neither of them thrown under particularly heavy pressure. One was simply a poor read by Hasslebeck, who pumped right and then threw left to TE Itula Mili without noticing Arizona LB Gerald Hayes standing in front of Mili. The second interception was a great read and poor execution. By now, everyone with a casual interest in the Seattle passing attack has realized Hasslebeck's deep passes hang. Arizona SS Adrian Wilson learned this as well when a hanging bomb to Darrell Jackson fell right into Wilson's outstretched hands for Hasslebeck's second interception of the game.

After Arizona kicker Neil Rackers has the audacity to complete a 43-yard field goal attempt to put Arizona on the board (14-3), the Seattle offense kicked it into high gear for their third and final touchdown drive. Several nice runs by Alexander (and a thirteen-yard run by FB Mack Strong) combined with some accurate short passes brought Seattle to the Arizona three before Strong powered his way into the end zone. Of interest is Alexander's jubilance at seeing Strong vulture a possible Alexander touchdown - so much for Alexander being selfish.

Defense: Well, it took seven-and-a-half quarters, but the defense finally yielded a touchdown. But that is the only black mark (and it's a minor one) on what was overall an outstanding game for every member of the defense. FS Ken Hamlin, DE Grant Wistrom, LB LeRoy Hill, LB Julian Peterson, and DE Darryl Tapp all sacked Arizona QB Kurt Warner. Warner was also hit at least ten times and often had to move out of the pocket (where he is nowhere near the passer he is inside the pocket) to escape pressure.

On the ground, Arizona's running game met a fate similar to that of Detroit's. Arizona RB Edgerrin James, an integral piece of Indianapolis' powerful offense, was held to just 64 yards rushing on 18 attempts (3.6), with only 14 yards on eight carries in the first half. In fact, James did more damage as a receiver, catching seven passes for 33 yards, which is an indication of how well Seattle played the run. All three Seahawk linebackers brought their "A" game today,

Of great importance for Seattle's defense is the play of the questionable secondary. Today, every member of the secondary brought their "A" game. Hamlin wracked up 8 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble (and could've had an interception were it not for a questionable pass-interference call). Boulware did have an interception, and almost had another one when he jumped a route perfectly, but Arizona TE Adam Bergen knocked it out of Boulware's grasp. Marcus Trufant was matched up against Pro-Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and held Fitzgerald to four receptions for 52 yards. CB Kelly Herndon matched his great performance in Detroit was another stellar performance, lining up against Arizona WR Anquan Boldin most of the game and holding him to six receptions for 62 yards. More impressive was his ability to consistently tackle Boldin, who is one of the hardest receivers in the league to tackle.

One concern is the defense's vulnerability to the inside seam route. Three times it was run against Seattle, with three very different results, but all three looked like solid routes. The first time TE Adam Bergen was wide open, and only a great play by Michael Boulware prevented a touchdown. The second time Larry Fitzgerald blew right past two Seahawk defenders and only an under thrown pass (due to excellent pressure by Hill) prevented points. And the last time Arizona WR Bryant Johnson blew right past double coverage and connected with Warner for a forty yard touchdown reception. Arizona was able to find a chink in the defense's armor and managed to exploit it a little, but a lack of execution stopped them from really exploiting it. The New York Giants, with their vertical passing game and athletic receivers, are much more likely to succeed if the Seahawks defense doesn't protect that space.

Seahawks President Tim Ruskell struck gold with his first two draft choices in the 2006 NFL Draft, as CB Kelly Jennings and DE Darryl Tapp both had great games. Jennings, a first round pick from Miami, managed to get his hand inside on a pass attempt to Fitzgerald and tipped it to Seahawks FS Ken Hamlin, who almost brought it in for an interception. Tapp, a second round pick from Virginia Tech, showed his promise when he beat Arizona LT LJ Shelton off the snap and sacked Warner for a seven yard loss.

Special Teams: The same problems that haunted the unit last year - penalties - continued this year when a forced fumble by D.D. Lewis (recovered by Jennings) was called back due to an offsides call on Tapp. Punter Ryan Plackemeier followed a fantastic performance against Detroit with a stinker against Arizona, blowing a hold on Josh Brown's missed field goal attempt and booting a punt all of fourteen yards. In his defense, the fourteen yard shank occurred after he was hit on an early punt, and he looked like he might have been injured.

Summary: The offense improved, the defense stayed amazing, and the special teams unit continues to work at getting ST coordinator Bob Casullo fired with costly mistakes. Most amazing is the ability of every fan to feel like the team could have performed better, after an eleven point victory. The offense has yet to look consistent, but it'd be wise to remember the Atlanta Falcons game last year when the Seahawks scored 21 points and looked inconsistent - offenses tend to take longer than defenses to find their rhythm.

 

Kyle Rota is better-known as "Rotak" on our message boards. You can e-mail him here.


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