Setting the Stage:
Cards scored two quick 1st quarter touchdowns, and then let the defense take over - holding Detroit to two first half field goals, no touchdowns and zero second-half points, winning their ninth of ten games 14 - 6. Seattle lost to KC 24 - 20 to fall 3 games behind the Cardinals.
Opponents' Last Game:
It was an uncharacteristic performance by the usually physical Seahawks who lost a tight one 24 - 20 to Kansas City. The Chiefs prevented Seattle from converting three fourth downs in the fourth quarter. Jamal Charles racked up 159 rushing yards and two TD's. Seattle's final shot at winning went for naught when - on 4th & 18 at their twenty-yard line with 1:13 left - Wilson's pass fell incomplete. You could call this contest: "The Game of the Long Drives", with KC engineering two drives of 15 and 12 plays (and 9:01 and 7:21 worth of clock) and Seattle mounting three drives of 16, 13 and 11 plays (and 9:00, 6:30 and 6:30 off the clock).
Seattle received. Richardson fumbled the KO but Seattle recovered on the Seahawk 25. Chiefs went 3 & out. Ryan's punt was downed at the KC 14. After an initial aborted snap (recovered by KC) they reeled off 15 plays (using up 9:01) capped by one-yard TD around right end by Charles. Chiefs 7 - Seahawks 0.
Richardson returned the KO to the Seattle 10. Seattle responded with a 16-play (9:00) drive of their own - which extended into the next quarter. First 8 plays were running plays. Lions 10 - Dolphs 0.
First Quarter Score: Chiefs 7 - Seahawks 0.
On the fourth play of the quarter, a sack of Wilson was nullified by an illegal hands penalty. Longest play of the TD drive was a 24-yard pass from Wilson to Kearse. Final play was a 7-yard TD pass (short-middlle) from Wilson to Baldwin. Chiefs 7 - Seattle 7.
TB on the KO. KC reeled off four consecutive chunk-plays: 23-yards on a pass to Kelce, 28-yards on a run up the middle by Charles, 13-yards on a pass to A. Sherman and a 16-yard touchdown run off left guard by Charles. Chiefs 14 - Seahawks 7.
Baldwin returned the KO to the Seahawk 19-yard line and Wilson. engineered another long (13 play - 6:30) drive which reached the KC 12-yard line before it fizzled and forced the Seahawks to settle for a 24-yard Hauschka field goal. Chiefs 14 - Seahawks 10.
1:39 left. KC returned the kickoff to their own 36, but lost the ball on a fumble on the fourth play of the series. Seattle took over at the KC 47 with 0:54 left to play. Two scrambles (for +12 and +14) by Wilson and a 12-yard completion to Baldwin helped set up a 27-yard Hauschka FG on the last play of the half to narrow the KC lead to one-point.
First Half Score: Chiefs 14 - Seahawks 13.
KC received and returned the KO to their own 28. They then reeled off 12 plays (using up 7:21) capped by a 23-yard Santos FG to widen the KC lead to four points. It was all about Alex Smith pecking Seattle to death - Longest play of the drive being a 10-yard completion to D Thomas. KC 17 - Seattle 13.
KO was returned by Baldwin to his own 19. After converting a 3rd & 5, Seattle (with Wilson limited to one-yard on a scramble and minus-2 yards being sacked) was forced to punt four plays later. A roughness penalty (& ejection of) Lockette was challenged but upheld although a Seattle challenge of the length of Thomas' runback was upheld,spotting the ball at the KC 44 (instead of the Seattle 25).
KC ball at their own 44. Charles fumbled on the very next play. Maxwell recovered. Seattle ball at the KC 44. It was Lynch up the gut for +5, a completion to L Wilson for +27, Lynch up the middle again for +7, another dose of Lynch up the gut for +3 and a one-yard TD pass to Moeaki. Seahawks now had the lead. Seattle 20 - Chiefs 17.
KC returned the KO to their own 29 and ran off one play before the third quarter ended.
Third Quarter Score: Seattle 20 - Chiefs 17.
KC ball - 2nd & 9 at their own 30. A 47-yard run up the middle by Charles and two flags (for illegal hands and roughness) set up a 4-yard TD run by Davis. KC ahead for good. Chiefs 24 - Seahawks 20.
KO was returned by Baldwin to the Seattle 23. They mounted an 11-play (6:30) drive which ended in failure at the Kansas City 2-yard line on an incomplete pass from Wilson to Baldwin on fourth & 2.
7:08 left. Two false starts out of a "run" formation set up a 3 & out. Punt was returned to the KC 45 with 6:15 left. A delay of game flag on Wilson and the reversal nullifying a 1st down ruling on an 8-yard completion to Kearse made it 4th & 1 at the KC 36. A run up the middle by Lynch was stuffed for no gain.
KC ball at their own 36 with 3:31 left. Seattle forced them into a three & out, but used up all three of their time outs in doing so. Colquitt's 51-yard punt was batted out of the end zone and downed at the Seattle 4.
Seattle ball at their own 4 with 2:47 left to play. They managed to move to their own 28, but a sack of Wilson for minus-8 yards pushed them back to their 20, where on 4th & 18, Wilson's pass for Helfet was incomplete. Chiefs took over at the Seattle 20 with 1:13 to go, and Smith took a couple of knees to end it.
Final Score KansasCity 24 - Seattle 20
It was "The Game of the Long Drives: KC with drives of 15 and 12 plays (which used up 9:01 and 7:21 respectively) and Seattle with three drives of 16, 13 and 11 plays (and 9:00, 6:30 and 6:30 respectively). Most telling stat was Seattle's going 0 for 3 on 4th down conversions (all in the final quarter). Most misleading stat was Seattle's huge edge in time of possession. Although both teams ran the ball effectively, KC limited Wilson to 108 net passing yards (& sacked him twice) while limiting the Seahawks to zero sacks of Alex Smith.
Wilson completed 20 of 32 passes for 178 yards, 2 TD's and no interceptions.
Baldwin and Kearse were the leading receivers with 6 and 5 catches respectively. Richardson was next with 3. Moeaki (1 catch) was credited with a TD.
Lynch racked up 124 yards on 24 carries. Wilson carried 8 times for 71 yards.
KC Turnover Ratio was +2 (both fumbles recovered by Hill and Maxwell)..
Seattle didn't get to Alex Smith. KC sacked Wilson twice.
Thomas led Seattle defenders with 11 tackles, followed by Chancellor (6) , Sherman (4) and Smith (4).
Seattle gained 204 net rushing yards (while giving up190 to KC).
Seahawks gave up 168 net passing yards (while gaining 108).
Seattle was penalized 8 times for 50 yards. (KC was penalized 3 times for a whopping 6 yards).
Seattle "owned" Time of Possession 35:57 to 24:03.
What the Season Stats Do (or Don't) Tell Us
(Note - Published team statistics may not reflect a team's most recent game or even two).
The Seahawks match up with their opponents fairly evenly in first downs, 3rd down conversions and 4th down conversions.
But they picked up nearly twice as many rushing first downs as did their opponents (& about 20% fewer 1st downs through the air).
They run slightly more offensive plays (626 to 597).
They've piled up 1,742 rushing yards to their opponents 908.
They average 5.5 yards per rushing carry (while giving up 3.6 ypc)
They've gained 2,036 yards through the air (vs. 2,238 by their competitors).
They've sacked opposing QB's 13 times (Their passer has beem sacked 20 times).
They've made 19 of 21 FG attempts (vs. 15 for 17 by opposing kickers).
Seahawks have scored 14 rushing touchdowns vs. their opponents' 7.
Their defense has scored 2 TD's. (Opposing defenses have scored once).
Seahawks own a 31:12 to 29:22 time of possession edge over their opponents.
Seattle has a +5 turnover ratio.
Wilson has completed 182 of 291 (62.5%) of his throws for 2,019 yards. He's thrown for 13 TD's and has been picked off just 5 times and sacked 20 times. He's also Seattle's second most prolific rusher (behind Lynch) gaining 571 yards on 74 carries (7.7 yards per carry).
Lynch is their leading rusher with 813 yards on 177 carries. He's also 3rd in catches out of the backfield with 24 (3 for TD's).
With Harvin gone, the Seahawks are a bit thin in the receiving dept. Baldwin leads all Seattle receivers with 40 catches for 485 yards and 3 TD's. Kearse is the #2 dude, but only has 25 catchesfor 361 yards (14.4 ypc).
Hauschka has made 19 of 21 FG attempts (4 of 6 between the 40 and 50).
Ryan's total yardage matches that of opposing punters, and his directional punting averages are close to his competition as well.
With Harvin moving on, Richardson becomes the new kick returner, and has averaged a healthy 27.0 (ypr compared to 21.1 by opposing kickoff returners.
Opposing punt returners are averaging 14.2 ypr. Walters (8.0) is averaging slightly half of that.
Of Seattle's 13 sacks, Bennett leads with 4.0 sacks followed by Irvin with 3.0 and Avril with 2.0 (Wagner, Mebane and K Williams each have one. One remaining sack is unaccounted for - probably a team deal).
Seattle only has one more interception than its opponents, but are averaging a whopping 33.5 ypr compared to 9.4 for their opponents. Six different defensive players are credited with one pick apiece.
Seattle keeps a FB and 4 pretty good but not great TE's. (Allen isn't listed on the depth chart but does show up on the Seattle roster). Their base offense figures to line up: One RB, One TE, 2 WR's and either a 2nd TE, 3rd WR or FB. On defense, their depth chart has them lining up in a 4 -3 "left-right" (rather than"strong-weak").
WR1..89 Baldwin.........83 Lockette...10 Richardson
LT 76 Okung.......... 78 A Bailey.....70 McDonald
LG 77 Carpenter
C 60 Unger............65 Lewis
RG 64 Sweezy
RT 68 Britt...............79 Gilliam
TE.....82 L Wilson........84 Helfet........88 Moaki............87 R Allen
WR2 15 Kearse...........81 Norwood..19 Walters
QB....03 R Wilson.......07 T Jackson
RB 24 Lynch............22 Turbin........33 Michael
DE 95 Kelly...........96 K,Martin
NT 92 D. Williams 66 Ta'amu
DT 98 Rucker 72 Stinson
SLB 57 Okafor........53 Keiser
ILB 50 Foote..........54 Demens
ILB 51 Minter..........97 Alexander 56 Carson
WLB 94 Acho...........59 Benard
LCB 21 Peterson.....28 Bethel
RCB 31 Cromartie....25 Powers
SS 22 Jefferson.....36 Bucannon
FS 32 Mathieu.......26 R. Johnson
Matchup: Seattle Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Seattle profiles more as a run-first offense led by a mobile QB, Russell Wilson, (who is more like a "second" RB who can throw than he is a pure pocket passer). Wilson is an ever-present threat to break outside contain and either convert a 2nd or 3rd & long or throw on the run to hit an open receiver on a busted play. The one thing that leaps out at you is his lightning-quickness. Blink an eye and he'll burn you. Fortunately for Seahawk opponents, Wilson lacks a dominant reveiver (like Megatron or Marshall) to throw to. While Baldwin and Kearse are dependible go-to guys who may be Pro Bowl caliber #2 receivers, Seattle lacks a genuine home run threat (especially now that Percy Harvin is outathere). Seattle's lacks a premier TE and their #3 pass catcher actually is a RB (Marshawn Lynch)
Seattle's offensive line has been shredded by injury - Carpenter has been out but should return, but center Max Unger will be out indefinitely. This may be the main reason why Pete Carroll has opted to run the ball a lot more than usual - that plus the running talent of Marshawn Lynch.
Last week, the Cardinal defense all but stifled a very good Detroit passing attack, with a rotational "back 8" consisting of corners Peterson and Cromartie, safeties, Rashad Johnson and Bucannon (also used in a LB role) and backups (Powers, Bethel, Matthieu and Jefferson) spotted as needed, They were able to turn Megatron and Golden Tate into mere mortals. The Cardinal secondary was aided by the emergence of a legitimate pass rush led by OLB Alex Okafor (who had 2 sacks). The best way you might describe the Seattle offense is "patient" - last week they had three drives of 11 plays (and 6:30) or more. It will be up to the Cardinal defense to throw a monkey-wrench into any Seattle effort to mount long drives and control time of possession.
Key Matchups: Wilson vs. "Spy" (possibly Okafor, Bucannon or Matthieu - Bowes will probably mix it up). Our two corners vs. Baldwin and Kearse. Bucannon or Jefferson vs. Lynch. And it will be up to our other guys to watch out for a Seattle "unknown" (like Lockette or Moake).
Matchup: Seattle Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Enter "The Beast." Marshawn Lynch was took a pounding (calfs and ribs) a week ago, yet still wound up rushing for 124 yards. Cardinal tacklers will have to protect their gaps and need to square-up, wrap-up and lock-up their tackles (last week they bounced off too many ball carriers way too often). A year ago in Seattle, the Cardinals showed they knew how to defend vs. Lynch and the Seattle running attack. This season, we've remained pretty consistent at stopping the run. Hopefully we'll repeat the effort, but can expect Carroll to look for ways to find new ways to attack us. Nevertheless, look for Arians and Bowles to, once again, emphasize taking away the run in order to make Wilson prove he can beat us with the pass.
Key Matchups: Lynch vs. Cardinal Front 3 plus the combination of Foote, Minter and/or Bucannon or Jefferson.
WR1 11 Fitzgerald....19 Ginn...............13 John Brown
LT 68 Veldheer......79 Sowell
LG 62 Larsen..., ....61 Cooper
C 63 Sendlein......62 Larsen
RG 74 Fanaika.......78 Watford
RT 70 Massie........79 Sowell
TE 87 Niklas..........85 Fells
WR2 15 M. Floyd.....13 Jaron Brown
QB 05 Stanton......06 Thomas...........xx Lindley
RB 38 Ellington.....(30 Taylor).............39 Hughes....xx Grice
TE 89 Carlson.......84 Housler
LDE.....72 Bennett........95 Dobbs
LDT......99 McDaniel.....94 K Williams
RDT......97 J Hill
RDE.....56 Avril.............93 Schofield
LOLB...51 Irvin.............57 M Morgan
MLB.....54 Wagner.......52 Coyle
ROLB...50 KJ Wright....53 M Smith.........58 Pierre-Louise
LCB.....25 R Sherman...28 Burley............20 Lane
RCB.....41 Maxwell.......27 Simon
SS........31 Chancellor...23 Jer Johnson
FS........29 Thomas.......35 Shead............26 Terrell
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Seattle Pass Defense
Drew Stanton started in place of the injured Carson Palmer last week and "made it look easy", leading his team to quick TD's on his first two possessions. However, his luck ran out the third time he had the ball. Stanton threw an interception (and then another one right before halftime) and seemed to lose a bit of confidence and zip for the remainder of the game (becoming more of a game manager than a lights-out QB in the second half) as the Cardinal defense hung on to preserve a 14 - 6 win. Drew has proved he can light things up when he wants to. Now he has to prove that he can shake off the occasional miscue and still "bring it." He has the weapons in Fitzgerald, Floyd and the Browns along with Ellington and various backups as-needed. He just has to learn how to remain resilient and aggressive on a consistent basis and not get antsy or "down" when everything doesn't go right.
Seattle's defense has been banged up and seems to be less loaded with big names than in the past, but there's still Sherman, Chancellor and Thomas on the back 4 along with Bennett, Irvin and Avril applying pass rush pressure. Chancellor returns after missing two games and it looks like Wagner will be back as well. Fitzgerald is said to be likely to play Sunday despite suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain in the Detroit game. He's played hurt in the past and made a key 4th quarter catch last Sunday after the injury, but I just want the Cardinals and Fitz "to be smart" about it. (Although we haven't locked up a playoff spot yet, Fitz figures to be more valuable healthy in the playoffs than playing injured right now).
Look for Stanton to "keep doing what he's doing" - locating and hitting the open man, picking his spots and not trying to force the ball. No doubt, the Seahawk defenders will now have a couple more games' worth of footage on Stanton to uncover weak spots, so. it will be important for him to keep his fundamentals sound and not give the Seahawk players any openings to cash in on. It's also important - with only Lindley and L Thomas behind him - that Drew remain healthy and upright...and not do anything "stupid."
Key Matchup: To avoid mismatches (i.e. Sherman can only cover one Cardinal receiver at a time) we might see a lot of physical play by Seattle out of a zone in order to intimidate Fitz, Floyd &/or either Brown. Velhdeer and Larsen vs. Avril and Irvin. Massie vs. Bennett
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Seattle Run Defense
Cards got nowhere vs. Detroit a week ago. Seahawks run-defenders are still smarting over being blacktopped by Charles & Co. in the KC game. Seattle will be out to prove that those 190 ground yards they surrendered were just a fluke. While the Cardinals would like to prove they can run better, Coach Arians is more about dialing up whichever play figures to be most likely to work at the time - and to let the chips fall.
That said, look for Arians to run the ball often enough to set up play action and "scare" Seattle pass rushers enough to keep them from teeing off on Stanton. With Ellington banged up and Seattle possibly vulnerable to runs up the middle, I wouldn't mind seeing a little more of Hughes or Stepfan Taylor running it up the gut - Hughes looked like a rambunctious water-buffalo last Sunday on that one long run after he caught that screen. If we all agree that this Sunday's contest figures to be physical, this might be the right time to get physical right back in the run game.
Key Matchup: Cardinal OL vs. McDaniel, K Williams,Hill, Wagner, Chancellor and Sherman
P/H 09 Ryan
K 04 Hauschka
LS 49 Gresham
KR 10 Richardson
PR 19 Walters....89 Baldwin
K 07 Catanzaro
P 02 Butler
H 02 Butler
LS 82 Leach
KR 19 Ginn 12 John Brown
PR 19 Ginn 21 Peterson 12 John Brown
Matchup: Lion Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Hauschka and Catanzaro are both solid in the kicking game. Neither Butler or Ryan seem to be outpunting each other statistically. Richardson is making Seattle fans forget about Harvin, but in terms of big play explosiveness from return, coverage and Punt/FG defense teams, I'd give the edge to Arizona.
Key matchups: Ginn, Bethel and Campbell vs. Richardson and other Seattle special teamers.
Pete Carroll has earned his spurs as, perhaps, the NFL's first "New Age" head football coach. The experiment seemed to work pretty well last year when it took Seattle to a Super Bowl championship. But that was then, and this is now. Since then , Seattle has lost several key players thru injury and attrition and appears to be lacking enough quality talent throughout their 53-man roster. But some of the injured players are returning as of late, and, while they're three games behind the Cardinals for first place in the NFC West, look for Carroll to meet the challenge and be right in the thick of things before the regular season ends.
Coach Arians continues to be on a roll. His 9 & 1 Cardinals keep overcoming bad karma from the injury (& suspension) gods and yet they still figure out new ways to win. (Last week it was to score early and then let the defense shut down Megatron & Co.). Go figure. Under Arians, the Cards - like the Energizer Bunny - keeps on ticking without missing a beat. We have a pretty tough 6 games to finish out, though - Two games with Seattle, one each with KC, StL, SF and Atlanta. BA has got the Cardinals believing in focusing on the "next game", then the next game etc. and it's been working. However, the closer we get to the brass ring, the tougher it will be to keep our eye on the immediate job at hand... but that's what it will take.
This will be a divisional matchup between two very good physical teams. Seahawks are last year's Super Bowl champion. Cards went 10 & 6 a year ago and wound up with nothing. We're not in the prediction business, but have to view this game as a "pick 'em." Two elite teams going at it - that's what pro football is all about. Go git 'em!