MMQB: Cardinals 27, Seahawks 3

With their 27-3 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks drop to 2-4 on the season, and 1-2 within the NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals 27, Seattle Seahawks 3
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Qwest Field
Seattle, WA

Play of the Day: Cardinals rookie cornerback Greg Toler's recovery of a pooch kick by Neil Rackers in the 1st quarter was a sign that the Cardinals coaching staff had done their homework and that their players had come to play on a day, while the Seahawks did not.

Handouts to the Standouts

Punter Jon Ryan had a busy day, punting 8 times for a gross average of 45 yards, making two special teams tackles, and completing a 42-yard pass to John Carlson on what was by far the Seahawks' longest offensive play of the day.

Defensive end Patrick Kerney had a pair of sacks and a forced fumble before re-injuring his groin and leaving the game early in the second half.

Things That Made Me Go "Blech!"

The game.

Offense

Whatever the game plan was, when it was 14-0 and nearly the 2nd quarter before the offense touched the ball for the first time, much of it had to be discarded. The results of an on-the-fly adjustment was a unit that never appeared in sync, scoring just 3 points on 128 total yards, 7 first downs, and failed to convert once on third down.

Matt Hasselbeck struggled to find time to make throws, and on the rare occasion that he did have time, no one was open. Hasselbeck finished 10-for-29 for 112 yards with an interception, was sacked five times and severely harassed on countless other attempts. His 32.5 passer rating was a career-low.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh led the Seahawks with 4 receptions, but for just 34 yards. Carlson had a team-high 55 yards, with most coming on the fake punt. Nate Burleson was largely absent from the first offensive play until midway through the fourth quarter, catching two passes for 40 yards. Deion Branch had nearly as many balls thrown his way (7) as he had yards (9). Both of his receptions came on screens, which the Cardinals had pretty much snuffed out.

As much as Hasselbeck and the passing game struggled, Seattle's running game was arguably worse.

No Seahawks' running back had a run longer than 5 yards, and none finished the day with more than 5 yards on his total. Julius Jones was the team's "rushing leader", gaining 5 yards on 5 carries. Edgerrin James (3 carries, 3 yards), and Justin Forsett (3 yards, 4 yards) were equally ineffective.

As mentioned, the Seahawks falling behind 14-0 obviously had an affect on the play-calling, but this needs to be said: Greg Knapp appeared determined today to prove that 14-point deficit with 30 minutes to play against a 32nd-ranked pass defense was insurmountable.

Knapp called back-to-back running plays to begin the 2nd half, which resulted in losses totaling four yards. Even down 17-0 early in the second quarter, and facing a 3rd-and-5 from their own 38-yard line, Knapp sent out Tiger personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends, 2 receivers) and called for a deep ball to rookie Deon Butler, which not surprisingly, fell incomplete. If it works, great, but that's a low-percentage play that failed miserably, as have most of the low percentage plays Knapp has called. An end-around to a one-legged wide receiver would've at least given the Seahawks defense more of a breather.

Defense

It would be easy to point to the injuries to Kerney and Lofa Tatupu today as the main reasons why the Cardinals were able to rack up 27 points, 344 yards of total offense, and hold the ball for just under 43 minutes. However, that excuse (and that's exactly what it is) is getting old, especially when David Hawthorne has played very well in place of Lofa Tatupu--who was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle--and Lawrence Jackson and Darryl Tapp have been the ‘Hawks two most consistent defensive ends this season.

The truth is Seattle got zero push up the middle from Brandon Mebane and Colin Cole and appeared determined to pressure Kurt Warner from the edge, which if you don't get home, spells disaster. Warner is a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback who with the absence of pressure, like two other Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks Seattle lost two this season, was able pick the Seahawks' defense apart.

Pro Bowl Quarterbacks vs. Seahawks Defense in 2009

QB

Com.

Att

%

Yds

TD

INT

Rating

Sacks

J. Cutler

21

27

77.8%

247

3

1

126.4

2

P. Manning

31

41

75.6%

353

2

1

107.1

0

K. Warner

32

42

76.2%

276

2

1

100.8

2

Total

84

110

76.4%

876

7

3

108.7

4

Seahawks cornerbacks Kelly Jennings, Josh Wilson, and Ken Lucas were often in position to make plays, and safeties Deon Grant and Jordan Babineaux delivered some punishing blows, but the Cardinals receivers are so good, and so physical, that the defensive backs had little chance of separating them from the ball.

What was particularly frustrating from a personnel perspective—and something I thought this team was past once Gus Bradley replaced John Marshall as the defensive coordinator—was allowing the Cardinals to remove an impact defender simply by putting in a player with a jersey number in the 80s.

Last season, Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley completely took Leroy Hill—who even Seattle's Pro Bowl linebackers said was that unit's best player—out of the game by putting Jerheme Urban into it. Today, the Cardinals did the same exact thing to Aaron Curry. Urban came into the game, Seattle countered by removing Curry, sliding Jordan Babineaux to a dime corner position and putting Lawyer Milloy, fork-in-back and all, in at safety.

I know that Mora and Bradley want to devise personnel packages for certain individuals—including Milloy--but you couldn't tell me that the 2008 Seahawks were better off with Kevin Hobbs on the field instead of Leroy Hill, and you can't tell me that they're better off with the ghost of Lawyer Milloy on the field instead of Curry.

If there was a positive on defense, it was that they did an outstanding job against the Cardinals' running game in the second half, holding them to -1 yards on 14 carries, thanks primarily to the play of Curry, Hawthorne, Cole, Herring, and Jackson.

Special Teams

As Brian Billick noted during the television broadcast, that pooch kick by Neil Rackers implied that the Cardinals' coaching staff saw something about Seattle's kick return unit on film that told them a kick like that would work. Instincts should have told John Owens to fair catch that ball, and not let it hit the turf, but like his teammates, he looked unprepared for the moment.

While Ryan was a busy guy on Sunday, his net average took a severe hit as the Seahawks' punt coverage unit did a terrible job, allowing Steve Breaston to 64 yards on punt returns, including a 36-yard return that Ryan had to keep from being returned for a touchdown.

Olindo Mare, who might be the only player Mora couldn't possibly throw under the bus today, was 1-for-1 on field goals, put both of his kickoffs to the end zone, one for a touchdown, one returned for 17 yards.

Forsett returned 4 punts for 28 yards, but muffed one punt and was fortunate that it rolled out of bounds. Forsett, Ben Obomanu, and Josh Wilson handled kick return duties to pedestrian results.

Summary

"You are what your record says you are" – Bill Parcells

And for the 2009 Seattle Seahawks, a 2-4 record is appropriate for a wildly inconsistent football team, capable of shutting down and blowing out an opponent for a full 60 minutes one week, and then looking utterly lost the following week. As dominant as the Seahawks have been against the likes of St. Louis (0-6) and Jacksonville (3-3), there is no reason for anyone to believe that these Seahawks can beat, or even compete with, quality opponent, regardless of venue.

Seattle has the bye this week (which, if a few guys get healthy and the 12th Man shows up, they'll have a chance of beating), which was supposed to be the team's panacea, as it meant the returns of Leroy Hill, Marcus Trufant, Sean Locklear, Rob Sims, and Walter Jones.

Unless Seattle discovers a running game, or shows that it can play defense away from Qwest Field against a team not mired in the cellar, getting those players back likely doesn't matter. At two games under .500, and with the season slipping away from them, if not already lost, the Seahawks are arguably in a worse position than they were two weeks ago. They are now firmly in third place in the NFC West, the same finish they had in 2008, 2 ½ games behind the idle San Francisco 49ers. Only now, they've lost their Pro Bowl middle linebacker for the season and are coming off a humiliating loss at home to a divisional opponent.

The next time the Seahawks play, the calendar will have turned over to November, where a road-heavy schedule greets them for the 10-game sprint towards the season's finish line. Seattle will somehow need to string together three-to-four wins, something they haven't done in two years, to have any chance at the post-season.


In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog. You can follow Brian on Twitter, and if you'd like to e-mail him, you may do so by clicking here.

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