Last MInute News, Rumors etc.:
Cards have earned a Bye and Seattle has clinched a playoff spot (albeit a later seed than expected). So the game doesn't count for much, right? Well, it would be nice to rest (& protect) the starters, but BA says he'll treat this contest no differently than Game #1. (It's still a division game against a tough rival and at our house - the players have voiced agreement). We don't yet know what Pete Carroll plans to do. Stay tuned.
Setting the Stage:
Cards beat a very good Packers team so convincingly that the writers and talking heads have all but anointed them Super Bowl champions. Meanwhile, a very banged up Seahawks team absorbed an unexpected loss to division rival St. Louis. While Seattle's performance this season may not live up to the standards set by recent Seahawk teams (they've had to cope with injuries and roster-defections), this is still a very talented and physically tough Seattle team seeking to turn their albeit later playoff seed into a stepping stone toward another Super Bowl. Their QB (Wilson) is dangerous as is his new-found battery-mate Badwin. We don't know whether they'll continue to rest Marshawn Lynch or turn him loose on the Cardinals. What's at stake for the Cardinals (depending on what Carolina does) is the opportunity to host every playoff game in Glendale.
Opponent's Last Game
Seattle lost to the Rams 23 - 17. The Rams opened up a 10 - 0 first quarter lead (16 - 3 at halftime) and hung on to preserve the W. It should be noted that Wilson threw the ball 41 times (they ran the ball only 22 times).
Rams received. TB on the KO. Rams picked up one first down before punting from their 36. Return (net penalty gave Seattle the ball at their own 11. Tough defense and another penalty pushed Seattle back to their own 8. Punt was returned by StL to midfield. Austin's 16-yard pickup on a short pass left moved StL to the Seattle 25 where Zuerlein kicked a 42-yarder. Rams 3 - Seahawks 0.
Lockett returned the KO to the Seattle 41. On the third play of the Seahawk possession, Tukuafu on a run up the middle fumbled. Ayers picked it up and scampered 45-yards for a StL touchdown. Rams 10 - Seahawks 0.
Lockett returned the KO to the Seattle 23. Wilson tried a lot of short stuff, but 8 plays later, the 'Hawks found themselves 4th & 1 at the Ram 43. Punt was downed at the Ram 5. An offsides flag helped move StL to their own 20 as the quarter ended.
First Quarter Score: Rams 10 - Seahawks 0.
Rams had trouble moving past their own 24. Punt (net StL roughness penalty) gave Seattle the ball in good field position at their own 46. Three plays later, Wilson's pass for LOckett was picked off by T Johnson. Rams got the ball back at their own 11. A roughness penalty on Seattle (Irvin) helped move the Rams out past their 40, but they were unable to move past their own 46. Punt was fair caught at the Seattle 19.
A 13-yard sack of Wilson contributed to a 3 & out. Seattle punted from their own 8. Punt was returned by Austin to the Seattle 28. On the first play from scrimmage, Keenan hit Britt (deep right) for a 28-yard TD (& a 16 point lead). Rams 16 - Seahawks 0.
TB on the KO. Seattle was being embarrassed and Carroll and Wilson responded with a 16-play (6:28) drive capped by a 35-yard FG. Rams 16 - Seahawks 3.
0:15 till halftime. Keenum took a knee after the KO.
First Half Score: Rams 16 - Seahawks 10
Lockett returned the KO to the Seattle 33 and embarked on another multi-play drive (this one using up 11 plays (& 6:37) Touchdown came by way of a 25-yard hookup between Wilson and Baldwin over the deep middle). We got a 6-point game. Rams 16 - Seahawks 10.
KO was returned to the Ram 18. StL used 11 plays (5:18) to move to their own 48 where they punted. Fair caught by Lockett at the Seattle 10. Seattle managed to reach their own 27 but had to punt on 4th & 4. Punt was fair caught by the Rams at their own 38. They reached the 43 in two plays to end the quarter.
Third Quarter Score: Rams 16 - Seahawks 10.
StL methodically finished off an 11 play (5:19) touchdown drive - mostly "all-Gurley" - capped by a 2-yard run up the middle by Gurley. Longest play on the drive iwas a 20-yard run by Gurley set up by a 10-yard run by Gurley on the previous play. . Drive included two fumbles - both recovered by StL.Rams 23 - Seahawks 10.
Plenty of time (10:34) left. Lockett returned the KO to the Seattle 23. They reached the Stl 34 in 9 pays but an aborted snap made it 4th & 17 at the Ram 49 and Ryan punted. Punt was downed at the Ram 6. StL remained bottled up and punted from their own 14. Punt was downed by Reynollds at midfield.
4:46 left. Seattle moved to the StL 28 where a holding penalty wiped out a 25-yard completion to Kearse. lTwo plays later, Wislon scrambled 21-yards over RT but fumbled. Recovered by StL (Ayers). Rams ball at their own 8 with 2:38 left to play. Three and Outsville. They punted from their 8. Seattle returned the punt to the StL 35. Five plays later - at the Ram 18 (with 0:27 left) Wilson hit Kearse for an 18-yard TD (Play challenged but upheld). Rams 23 - Seahawks 17
Onside recovered by StL with 0:17 left. One knee. Game over.
Final Score: Rams 23 - Seahawks 17
Seattle vs.Rams - Significant Game Stats
Wilson was 25 of 41 for 289 gross yards, 1 TD's and 1 interception.
Seattle ran the ball 16 (non Wilson) times. Jackson gained 11 yrds on 2 carries. Brown picked up 9 yards on 7 carries. Wilson scrambled for 39 yards on 6 carries.
Leading Seattle receivers were Baldwin (8 for 118 yards ). Jackson had 5 grabs for 43. Three other guys had 3 or more grabs for 33 - 43 yards.
Seattle Run/Pass Ratio was 22 run/41 pass.
Seahawks were minus-3 in takeaways,( 2 fumbles and one interceptions) vs. none given away by StL.
Seattle held Gurley to 85 yards on 19 carries.
Wagner led the Seahawks with 11 tackles followed byMcCfray (10). Wright had 6; Mebane 4.
Seattle's had no sacks. Wilson was sacked 4 times (3 times by Hayes). .
Punting yards (both punters averaged about 40.0.
Seattle was penalized 10 times for 83 yards. StL: 5 times for 60).
Seattle was 6 for 17 (35%) in 3rd down efficiency. StL was 5 for 12)
Time of Possession: Seattle: 32:06 / Rams: 27:54)
Seattle Cumulative Season Stats
(Note - May be a game or so "old")
First Downs: Seahawks 313- Opponents 257.
3rd Down Conversions: Seahawks 91 of 198 - Opponents 62 of 183
4th Down Conversions: Seahawks 7 of 8 - Opponents 1 of 6
Total Yards Offense: Seahawks 5,705- Opponents 4,438
Rushing Yards: Seahawks 2,124 (4.6 ypc )- Opponents 1,279 (3.7 ypc). Rawls was top ground gainer before being injured. Wilson 541 yards on 98 carries - 5.5 ypc) is next. Lynch (who has been sidelined of late) has gained 417 yards on 111 carries (3.8 ypc). They're using Fred Jackson and Michael now (neither has more than 26 carries. Both are averaging 3.8 ypc).
Rush/Pass Ratio: Seahawks 464/457
Passing - Seattle completed 311 of 457 passing attmepts for 3,836 yards (8.4 ypa) 31 TD's and 8 interceptions. Wilson was sacked 45 times (compared to 35 for their opponents).
Receiving - Baldwin leads the Hawks with 73 catches for 1,023 yards, (14.0 ypr average and 14 TD's) followed by Lockett (49 catches for 628 yards and a 12.8 ypr average). Despite being out for all this time, their TE Graham not surprisingly was third on the Seahawks with 48 catches (605 yards - 12.6 ypc). Kearse is right behind with 46 catches for 651 yards (14.2 ypr and 4 TD'S).
Turnover Ratio: +4
Tackles - Wagner leads Seattle with 112 followed by Wright (110), Chancellor ((74) and E Thomas (64) are next up.
Sacks - Seattle has allowed their QB to be sacked 45 times but have only. sacked opposing QB's 35 times. Bennett leads the team with 9.5 sacks followed by Avril (7.5) and Irvin (5.5).
Interceptions: Seattle has racked up 11 Interceptions (opponents have racked up 8). Thomas leads the team with 4. Chancellor and Sherman are right behind with 2 apiece.
Time of Possession: Seahawks 31:57 - Opponents 29:13
Field Goals: - Hauschka ihas only missed one of 27 attempts. (His one miss was between 40 - 49 yards).).
Punting: Ryan is averaging 45.7 gross yards. Of his 66 punts, 7 were touchbacks. 22 more were inside the 20.
Punt Returns: Seattle punt returners have returned 38 punts for 311 yards. (opponents have returned 28 for 388 yards).
Kick Returns: T Lockett is the main man - 33 returns for852 yards (25.8 ypr). Opponents have returned 41 kicks for 1,056 yards (25.7 ypr).
WR....89 Baldwin.......6 T Lockett
LT......76 Okung.........78 Bailey
LG.....68 Britt.............67 Sokoll
C...... 65 Lewis..........61 Jeanpierre
RG....64 Sweezy........63 Glowinski
TE.....82 L Wilson......84 Helfet...........86 Coffman
WR,,,15 Kearse........17 K Smith
QB....03 R Wilson.....07 T Jackson
RB....30 Brown.........22 F Jackson....24 Lynch
FB....46 Tukuafu..... .40 D Coleman
DE 93 Campbell..........90 Redding
NT 95 Gunter...............69 X Williams
DT 92 Rucker..............73 Mauro........72 Stinson
SLB 52 Woodley.......... 44 Golden
ILB 55 Weatherspoon.
ILB 51 Minter...............59 Fua
WLB 54 Freeney.............96 Martin.......56 Riddick........57 Okafor (inj)
LCB 21 Peterson
RCB 25 Powers.............28 Bethel...35 C Brooks
SS 36 Bucannon.........22 Jefferson
FS 32 Mathieu............26 R. Johnson.....
Matchup: Seattle Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Wilson can beat you with his arm or with his legs. His receivers are solid though not elite -Graham was their top pass catcher but is shelved for the season. Wilson has suffered from a weakness in pass protection (Seattle has given up 10 more sacks than they've sacked their opponents), but he can still beat you with his legs - with Rawls sidelined and Lynch banged up, you could make the case that he's Seattle's top ground gainer. (Note - his high sack total may be a result of his willingness to operate outside the pocket).
Seattle has three receivers who can hurt you (Baldwin, Lockett and Kearse). Fortunately Cards can counter this with Peterson, Bethel and Powers. Bethel has been a boom or bust factor (i.e. he'll make a few huge plays due to his athleticism and then turn around and let technique-issues bite him in the butt) Last week, Aaron Rodgers threw his way something like 11 times with the aforementioned mixed results. Hawks added a TE Coffman. He and Luke Wilson are pretty good run blockers and receivers.
We're not sure what happened to the maulers on Seattle's offensive line, but (if you believe PFF) with the exception of LT Russell Okung, Seattle is universally weak in all aspects of the game - from LG to RT.
PFF: Baldwin (90.6 overall) is rated an elite receiver. Lockett (80.2) isn't far behind and Kearse (71.0) not far behind that. all three are rated over 75.7 as run-blockers. Wilson and Coffman rate in the mid-seventies as receivers and low-sixties as run blockers. On the OL, Seattle is hurting on the interior, with Lewis Sweezy and Britt rated below 53 as pass blockers and only Lewis (65.1) higher than the mid fifties as run blockers. At tackle, Okung rates in the high seventies across te board. Gilliam and Bailey are rated in the thirties across the board!!!!
The quartet of Peterson (87.0), Bethel (75.2), Jefferson (71.3) and R Johnson (78.7) have been very good in pass coverage. Their effectiveness works in tandem with the Cardinal pass rush (i.e. good coverage allows pass rushers to reach the QB. A good pass rush forces the QB to hurry is throws into the secondary). As a LB, Bucannon has an 83.4 rating in coverage, but his inside backer mate Minter only rates 39.3. On the DL, Campbell rates 81.9 as a pass rusher. Gunter and Stinson are in the seventies with Redding not far behind. Off the edge, Golden and Freeney are rated in the mid-seventies (although, in terms of game-changing plays, we might rate Dwight a tad higher).
Until last Sunday (vs. the Pack) the Cardinals were not known for their pass rush; but they laid a 9-burger on Aaron Rodgers. They usually operate "by Committee" and can mount enough pressure to make opposing QB's get rid of the ball early, but Campbell is beginning to occupy two blockers and new addition Freeney is rounding into form.
Key Matchups: Freeney vs, Okung. Card DL (in rotation) vs. Seattle OL. Bucannon (as a spy) vs. Wilson. Swearinger vs. Graham. PP and Bethel vs. Baldwin and T Lockett. Powers vs. Kearse.
Matchup: Seattle Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Strength of the Seahawk offense had been its rushing atack, but its top two RB's (Lynch and Rawls) are banged up and either sidelined or out for the season. The lack of a thumping running attack has changed Seattle's offensive personality. The situation begs for the return of Lynch, but his status remains a bit iffy. Last week, Seahawk run/pass ratio iwas very lopsided in favor of the pass- which kind of tells you something.
Cards have been in the Top 5 in run defense for most of the season. In the past, they've proved they can handle Lynch when they commit to it. The danger is that lthey'll dial everything down a notch if they don't consider this game important enough. Do that and Seattle will blacktop you.
Key Matchups: Wilson vs. Bucannon. (Maybe) Lynch vs. Minter and Bucannon. Campbell vs. Okung. Defensive rotation (including Gunter, Rucker, Redding and Red Bryant vs. Seattle O-line.
WR1 11 Fitzgerald..13 Jar Brown......10 Golden
LT 68 Veldheer....79 Sowell
LG 76 Iupati.........62 Larsen
C 63 Sendlein....53 Shipley
RG 61 Cooper
RT 70 Massie.......78 Watford.........74 Humphreys
TE 85 Fells...........87 Niklas
WR2 15 M. Floyd.....12 John Brown...14 Nelson
QB 03 Palmer........05 Stanton.........09 Barkley
RB 38 Ellington.....27 C Johnson.....31 D Johnson.....30 Taylor,
TE 84 Gresham
LDE....72 Bennett......55 Clark................95 Dobbs
LDT.....77 Rubin.........99 Francis
RDT....92 Mebane......97 Hill
RDE...56 Avril............91 Marsh
OLB...51 Irvin.............57 Morgan
MLB...54 Wagner.......52 Coyle
OLB...50 Wright........58 Pierre-Louis.....47 Pinkins
LCB...25 Sherman.....28 Burley..............21 T Smith
RCB..35 Shead........ 20 Lane
SS ...31 Chancellor....33 McCray
FS....29 E Thomas....23 Terrell
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Seattle Pass Defense
Palmer is at the top of his game. Two reasons: (1) His blockers are giving him the time. (2) The running game now has to be respected.
That plus a full arsenal of weapons for Carson to play with: Cards are blessed with talent and depth at WR with Fitz, Floyd, John Brown, Jarod Brown and JJ Nelson. Jeremy Gresham is beginning to fit in at TE and Niklas caught two TD passes turning a Cardinal position weakness into a an emerging strength. And don't forget David Johnson or Andre Ellington coming out of the backfield
Strength of the Seattle team is its defense - especiallty on the edges, where Avril, Irvin, Wright and Bennett wreak havoc. The return of Chancellor to line up with Earl Thomas and Sherman should have returned the Seattle secondary to its past glory, but that hasn't totally happened (yet). Pass rush has not been a Seahawk strength through the first part of the season, but their edge rushers and safeties have the street-creds that make you think they can crank things up a notch when they need to ).
PFF: Rates all Sherman, Thomas and Chancellor in the low to medium 80's. Two Achilles Heels at corner or slot: Shead (42.9) and Lane (48.6). At least Shead is 73.8 vs. the run. As pass rushers, Wagner (84.0) is elite. Irvin (69.5) and Wright (75.6) aren't too shabby either.
For the Cards, Palmer (98.5 overall) is in a class by himself.Fitz, Floyd and John Brown all rate in the mid-eighties or higher. Fells is rated 78 as a pass catcher. Gresham is rated 79.8 as a run blocker. D Johnson rates 79.4 as a pass catcher.
Seahawks pride themselves on not getting beat deep (To paraphrase Pete Carroll: "No matter how hard you hit, whether you give up a lot of inside nickel or dime stuff or how well you cover or stop the run, if you give up long TD's, you're not a very good defense."). Everything keys off the ability of Thomas and Chancellor to keep everything in front of you. Sherman represents a third corner-stone in the Seattle back four, but (with Shead - who like Bethel - used to play safety) they may be a bit vulnerable depthwise trying to cover the trio or quartet of Cardinal wideouts.
Key Matchups: Veldheer, Iupati and D Johnson (in blitz pickup) vs;. Irvin, Avril, Bennett or Wright. Cardinal RB's or WR's wearing out Seahawk edge-guys with screens and quick throws to the perimeter.
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Seattle Run Defense
With Chris Johnson out till the Superbowl and Ellington's toe still on the mend, things had gotten a bit dicey for the Cards depthwise. But the emergence of rookie David Johnnson has turned what was an iffy offensive liability into an added strength. Seattle hasn't been as tough against the run this year as they have in the past. (3.8 ypc isn't shabby, but it's not as good as it's been in the past). The return of Chancellor at safety has made the Seahawks more physical and opportunistic.
PFF: On the DL, Bennett and Avril rate over 80 as run-defenders, Hill is close behind with 75.4. All three starting Seahawk backers rate over 75 vs. the run. Interior defenders like Mebane (54.7) and Rubin (47.1) haven't been all that stout vs. the run. At TE, Gresham (79.8) gets the job done as a run blocker. Fells (41.2) has a long way to go.
On the Card OL, as run blockers Iupati (94.5) is a beast. Veldheer (85.4) isn't too shabby. Massie (78.9) can run block. Sendlein (48.1) isn't as good a run blocker as Shipley (76.8). Larsen (49.6) isn't much better. But overall, Cardinal run blocking has been getting the job done. (Having David Johnson toting the ball hasn't hurt.
The addition of Iupati to pair up with Veldheer on the left side has turned a Cardinal weakness into a strength, enabling the Cards to control contests late in games. Shipley filled in admirably for Sendlein (shoulder), but Lyle is back. Larsen has moved over to RG in place of Cooper. Ron Wolfley feels that the improvement in the Cardinal running game over the second half of the season may have been due to the OL's beginning to gel as a unit.
Key Matchups: D Johnson and his blockers vs. Chancellor, E Thomas and Wagner - especially on the right flank. Veldheer and Iupati vs.Hill and Mebane. Look for Cards to possibly wear out Avril, Irvin and Wright by getting the ball to their RB's on the perimeter and working receivers into the action with bubble screens, flares etc.
P 09 Ryan
K 04 Hauschka
H 09 Ryan
LS 49 C Gresham
KR 16 T Lockett
PR 16 T Lockett
K 07 Catanzaro
P 02 Butler
H 02 Butler
LS 82 Leach
KR 31 D Johnson.....10 Golden
PR 21 Peterson........14 Nelson...........10 Golden
Matchup: Seattle Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
T Lockett is this years version of Sproles or Austin. Best strategy: kick it out of the end zone or punt it out of bounds. Cards haven't been all that explosive in the return game are using Peterson more and more. Maybe that will change now that JJ Nelson is close to healthy. Catanzaro has been pretty solid as a kicker, but hasn't proved he's 100% trustworthy on XP's. His counterpart (Hauschka) can win games with his foot. Ryan is a better punter than Butler.
Key matchups: Bethel vs. Lockett. Bethel and Campbell vs. Hauschka.
Pete Carroll and the Seattle staff continue to blaze trails in what might best be called a "New Age" coaching philosophy (i.e. less "tough love"., "Lombardi Football" etc. and more respect for the individual player along with a focus on individual-improvement over rarher than "grinding them down and building them back up"). Approach seemed to have proved quite successful, but the greater-than-normal hit on the roster may be too much for the new approach to endure.
AZ: Bruce Arians continues to assume the roll of "Daddy Bullfrog" and chief truth-teller. So far the team has bought-in (despite having to deal with the adversity of losing two winnable contests and, more recently, the loss of one of its best players and spiritual leader, Tyrann Mathieu).
Tyrann Mathieu's season-ending injury near the end of the Philly game was treated by players, coaches, fans and media like a "death in the family." Rather than throwing up their hands and using the injury as an excuse to pack it in or, at the other extreme, stoically accepting the injury as "bad luck", the Cardinal brass asked itself how it could turn what seemed to be a season-killing blow to the Cardinal roster into a positive force that could help the team win
It appears that the answer lay in reversing the old-school philosophy that injured players should be quaranteened (because "injuries are catching"). Instead, BA, his players and staff leveraged Tyrann's energy, work-ethic, leadership and field-smarts by making him part of the loop ((like an "assistant coach" if you will) - i.e. Tyrann on the sidelines shouting out encouragement. Tyrann in the film room helping teammates understand coverages. Tyrann on the practice field helping less experienced DB's hone techniques. Judging by the thumping of the Packers, at the very least, this approach certainly "hasn't hurt." Tyrann is part of the team. Tyrann is helping the team. The team continues to motor on.
BA addressed the issue of "rest and rust" by announcing that the Cards will treat the Seattle game as though it were Game One. "All playoff games at home" may be at stake here. So far, of late, the Cards have risen to the occasion and taken care of business week after week. We need another "A" Game performance this Sunday. Judging by the businesslike rhetoric and "body language" coming out of Cardinal Hq., we should get it.