MMQB: Cardinals 34, Seahawks 21

Seattle won the big, emotional sendoff against the Jets last week. Perhaps because it was an away game, or maybe because this week's game felt like an exhibition showdown, but I don't think the full emotional impact of Holmgren's last game will hit Seattle fans for several months. Goodbye, Mike.

Arizona Cardinals 34, Seattle Seahawks 21
U of Pheonix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
December 28th, 2008

Play of the Game: With 1:17 remaining in the first half, QB Seneca Wallace faces an unblocked defender headed straight for him. This was a common occurrence for Wallace, but instead of scrambling away form the defender, Wallace instead launches a high arcing pass that is perfectly placed for Deion Branch in the endzone. Did it change the outcome of the game? Not really. But, it feels good to end this "Play of the Game" for this season with a positive, and it was really an amazing throw.

Handouts to the Standouts: RB TJ Duckett won't look great in the stat sheet for either this game or this season, but he's been exactly what Seattle has needed and has done a great job converting on short-yardage plays… WR Deion Branch caught six passes for 90 yards and two scores, including the 30 yard beauty mentioned above… DE Darryl Tapp made a great play early in the game, forcing a fumble that led to a Seahawks touchdown…

Things that made me go "Blech!": The offensive line played like you'd expect a five backups with almost no experience to play… TE John Carlson ended the season on a sour note, 2 catches and causing an interception… CB Marcus Trufant was abused by Cardinals pro-bowler Larry Fitzgerald, to the tune of 5 catches for 130 yards… Seattle struggled mightily pressuring the quarterback, again… Seattle was both unable to run and unable to stop the run, always a bad thing...

Referee Report Card: Seattle was heavily penalized, but I can't blame that on the refs, as Seattle looked to deserve the penalties that were called. Overall, it seemed like a solid game by the referees, though I felt the Cardinals got away with movement at the line more than once. B+.

Offense: Seneca Wallace didn't get a mention in the "Handouts to the Standouts" section of this article, but it is worth noting that his game was not as bad as the statistics showed. Any QB with less mobility would've been hard-pressed to equal Seneca's production, especially since the interior offensive line regularly allowed defenders a free pass into the backfield. There were some plays where Wallace received plenty of protection, but also quite a few that would've been sacks with a more traditional quarterback. It was not Wallace's best game, but it was a solid performance, given the circumstances, and these past four games showcase what Wallace is capable of doing as a quarterback.

I must say, I'm a little amazed to hear people talking about C Steve Vallos as their preferred choice to be the 2009 starter at center. Chris Spencer is, at best, mediocre. And, due to his constant injury problems, it is unlikely Spencer will start 16 games in 2009, so Vallos may get to start anyways. But, when Spencer is on the field, he is much better than Vallos and it isn't even close. I followed Vallos closely in this game, and I'm not sure what he brings to the table. He isn't very reliable in pass protection, generates little push against the run, and while he's working with two backups at guard, blitzes inside have been hugely successful so his line calls are either not very good or not helping. He does do a good job getting to the 2nd level, but that's the only area where I see Vallos even perform adequately. Vallos may be a great guy and a hard worker, but he simply doesn't look like an NFL starting center right now, and there are very few positives that even suggest he'll be one next year.

Defense: Apparently, I spoke too soon. CB Marcus Trufant was having an excellent finish to an up-and-down season, including shutting down Larry Fitzgerald the ½ of a game Trufant played the first time Seattle faced the Cardinals, but in a rematch effort he was soundly thrashed by Fitzgerald. It wasn't that Trufant was leaving Fitzgerald open, in fact Trufant didn't let Fitzgerald get truly open even once. The problem is that Trufant's lack of ball skills were exposed against a receiver who doesn't need to be open to burn a defense. I know that Marshall is completely inflexible in adjusting for a player's strengths and weaknesses, but with (hopefully) a new defensive approach in 2009 it might be a good idea to lend safety help next time Seattle plays Arizona, because Trufant's style of play is utterly ineffective against Fitzgerald.

As terrible as Trufant's performance against Fitzgerald was (and it was ugly), more of a concern for the future of this team is the interior defense. The past 3-4 games, the interior line has struggled holding up at the point of attack, and this game was no different, with Arizona running for almost six yards a carry. What was a strength halfway through the season really turned into a weakness for Seattle, and I can't escape the feeling that it is because the defensive line has been worn down. Red Bryant was supposed to ease the load on the line and provide a tough, run-stopping presence, but due to injuries he was not available. While the defensive tackle position looked like a strength at one point, it might be wise for Ruskell to invest in another quality big player to give the rotation depth and keep the starters fresh late in the season.

Special Teams: Unfortunately, this was not the best performance by the special teams unit. Olindo Mare uncharacteristically missed a relative chipshot, though he has still had an excellent year. The coverage unit negated a good kick by being called offsides in the second half, and the blocking units were sub-par. On the positive side, both Jon Ryan and Josh Wilson had great games to close out seasons where both exceeded expectations.

Conclusion: It is going to be weird sitting out a postseason, but then it didn't feel right to have given up all hope by week 12 either. It's been a rough road for the Seahawks this season, but there is still the hope that next year the team can contend for the NFC West. This team right now is not all that good, but with most of a full draft (thanks, Keary Colbert) and some room in free agency, a strong off-season could restore Seattle to the top of the division. Me, personally? I only wish that we could've done it for Holmgren's final year, as no coach has brought as much to the Seahawks as Holmgren. As maddening as his third-down draws were, I know I am not alone when I say: Thank you, Mike Holmgren.

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