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2016 Regular Season
Preview: Seattle @ Cards

Setting the Stage:
Sunday Night Football (Oct. 23 - 8:30 pm ET). Both teams are coming off big wins (The Cards convincingly whipped the Jets 28 - 3 to reach .500. Seattle (who played one less game due to an early Bye Week) benefitted from a lucky 4Q break to defeat the Falcones 26 - 24. This is a matchup of divisional powerhouses with the Cards seeking to stay on the favorable side of .500 and Seattle seeking to widen their NFC West lead.

Opponent's Last Game
Seahawks started off fairly quickly and opened up a 17 - 3 lead by halfime. But Atlanta came back in the 2H with a vengeance, scoring three 3Q TD's to retake the lead 24 -- 17 only to give up a 4Q touchdown and squanderi (via interception) a late opportunity to ice the game to find themselves on the wrong-end of a 26 - 24 final score.

First Quarter
Seattle received. Lockett returned the KO to the Seattle 19. Seattle started with 3 short passes followed by 3 running plays, reaching the Atlanta 45 before Ryan's punt went into the end zone for a touchback. Falcons made it out to their 49 where Bosher' punt was fair caught at the Seattle 14 by Lockett. A 21-yard C Michael run off RT helped move the Seahawks to their own 46, but a (10 yd) sack of Wilson helped stall their drive at their own 43.

A holding penalty on Atlanta was tacked onto their punt return and gave the Falcs the ball on their own 9. Three plays later, Ryan was sacked by Avril and his fumble was recovered by McDaniel at the Atlanta 9. On the first play from scrimmage, Micheal scored on a run off RT to give the Seahawks the lead. Seattle 7 - Atlanta 0.

Weems returned the KO to the Atlanta 21. Falcs reached their own 35 in 4 plays as the quarter ended.

First Quarter Score: Seattle 7 - Atlanta 0

Second Quarter
Lockett returned Bosher's punt to the Seattle 19. Seattle went 3 & out. Punt was downed at the Atlanta 33. Falcon marched in 11 plays to the Seattle 15, where they settled for a 33-yd FG. Seattle 7 - Atlanta 3.

KO returned to the Seattle 25. Completions of +13 (to Graham) and +24 (to Spiller) set up a 2-yd TD run by Collins off RG. Seattle 14 - Atlanta 3.

KO returned to the Atlanta 25. A penalty and a 5-yard loss on a pass play pushed them back to their own 15. Punt was returned by Seattle to the Atlanta 45.A 25-yard pass to Graham on the opening play helped set up a 42-yard Hauschka FG. Seattle 17 - Atlanta 3.

TB on the KO. 0:42 left till halftime. A sack was nullified by penalty.A 22-yard completion was nullified by penalty. Halftime.

1st Half Score: Seattle 17 - Atlanta 3.

Third Quarter
Atlanta received. (TB on the KO) - Ryan led the Falcs on a 9-play (3:59) TD drive capped by a 36-yard pass from Ryan to J Jones (It's now a 1 TD football game). Seattle 17 - Atlanta 10.

KO returned to the Seattle 25. Seattle held to 3 & out. Punt returned to the Falcon 21. On the 8th play of their possession, Ryan hit Sanu for a 10-yard TD. Longest plays of the drive were a +24 completion to J Jones and an 18-yard run around RE by D Freeman (Game is all tied up). Seattle 17 - Atlanta 17.

KO returned to the Seattle 20. Seahawks clawed their way to the Atlanta 45 but had to settle for a punt. Punt (net a holding call) gave Falcs the ball on their own 3-yd line. A +24 yard completion to J Jones moved the Falcs to the Seattle 46, where Ryan hit Tollollo for a 46-yard TD. (Third Atlanta TD of the 3Q). Atlanta 24 - Seattle 17.

KO returned to the Seattle 26. Wilson scrambled for +2 as we moved into the 4Q.

Third Quarter Score: Atlanta 24 - Seattle 17

Fourth Quarter
Carroll dialed it up a notch, with the Seahawks gaining +9, +9, +17, +9 and +18 yards on its first five plays of the quarter (Including a 17-yard flea flicker). But the drive stalled on the Atlanta 10-yard line and Hauschka's 29-yard FG attempt was wide left. Falcs took over on their own 20. They picked up a 1st down on their opening play but were forced to punt from their own 30. Punt (less penalty) gave Seattle the ball on their own 30.

Wilson engineered a 9 play (3:51) TD drive featuring completions of +12, +10 and +11 yards and a 17-yard defensive PI penalty and capped by a one-yard TD run off RT by C Michael. XP try was blocked. Atlanta 24 - Seattle 23.

TB on the KO. 4:43 left to play. On the third play from scrimmage a pass deep left rbounced off J Jones and was picked off by E Thomas to give Seattle the ball at midfield with 3:48 still on the clock. Wilson guided the Seahawks to where Hauschka's 44-yard FG gave Seattle the lead. Seattle 26 - Atlanta 24.

TB on the KO. 3 & out. Three knees. Game over.

Final Score :Seattle 26 - Atlanta 24.

Key Game Stats

Wilson was 25 of 37 - 270 yds, 0 TD's and no interceptions. (Ryan was 27 for 42, 335 yds, 3 TD's and 1 interception.

Michael ran for 64 yds and 2 TD's on 18 carries. (Seattle held Atlanta to 52 yds on the ground).

Graham caught 6 passes for 89 yds. Baldwin caught 4 for 31 yds. Four other Seahawks (Spiller, Kearse, Lockett, Michael) caught 3 apiece. (Arlanta's 2 leading receivers were J Jones (7 catches, 139 yds and a Td) and Sanu )5 catches for 47 yards and a TD).

Defensively, Wagner had a had a huge day with 14 tackles followed by Shead with 8 annd Bennett with 5.

Avril was credited with 2 sacks. Marsh and Reed had one sack apiece.

Seattle sacked Ryan 4 times. (Wilson was sacked just once).

Seattle converted 5 of 14 3rd downs (35%) while holding Atlanta to 3 of 11 (27%)

Seattle held Falcs to 2.9 yds per rushing play (Seahawk runners were held to 2.7 rushing ypc).

Seattle Net Punting average was 39.8.

Falcs were penalized 8 times (Seattle 3).

Seattle was 3 for 4 (75%) in the Red Zone (Falcs were were 1 for 2).

Turnover Ratio: +2. (Atlanta lost 1 fumble/Ryan picked off 1 time). Seattle did not surrender a fumble or a pick.

Team Stats to Date

Passing Yards Per Game - Seattle 263.8 / Cards 244.3

Rushing Yards Per Game - Seattle 88.8 / Cards 124.3

Third Down Conversions - Seattle 38.8% / Cards 42.0%

Passing Yars Allowed Per Game - Seattle 209/ Cards 191

Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game - Seattle 74.6 / Cards 104.0

Points Allowed Per Game - Seattle 15.6 / Cards 17.3

Passing Compl/Att/Int/Avg/Yds -Seattle 362/604/16/6.9 - Opponents - 343/601/18 /6/7

Sacks - Seattle 10 / Opponents 16

Field Goals - Seattle 10/11 / Opponents 7/9

Time of Possession -Seattle 1937/ Cards 1889

Turnover Ratio - +1

Key Player Stats

Passing: Wilson -112 of 170 for 1334 yards and 5 TD's. 1 pick. (Palmer - 13 of 187 for 1363 yards and 7 TD's).

Rushing: C Michael - 354 yards on 81 carries (4.4 ypc) and 4 TD's. R Wilson - 21 carries for 35 yards (1.7 ypc) and no TD's. (D Johnson - 568 yards on 113 carries (5.0 ypc) and 8 TD's).

Receiving: Baldwin - 28 catches for 361 yds (12.9 pyc) and 2 TD's. Graham - 22 catches for 355 yards (16.1 ypc) and 1 TD. Lockett (11 catches for 152 yards (13.8 ypc) and no TD's. Fitzgerald - 37 catches for 410 yds (11.1 ypc). Jo Brown - 24 catches for 301 yds (12.5 ypc) and no TD's. D Johnson - 20 catches for 265 yds (13.3 ypc) and no TDs.

Field Goals - Hauschka is 10 for 11 (the one miss from inside the 30.

Punting - Ryan's gross yardage is 43.9.

Punt Returns - (Info from Seahawk website is unreadable).

Kickoff Returns - Lockett (4 returns) is averaging 21.3 ypr.. Spiller (2) averages 23.0. Richardson (2) averages 19.5.

Tackles - Wagner (44), Wright (42) Shead (28), Chancellor (26)

Sacks - 16 Sacks. Avril (4), Bennett (3), Clark (3), Marsh (2), Wright (2)

Interceptions - 5 Picks: Thomas (2), Sherman (2), Wagner (1). (Opponents have 2 picks)

Rosters/Match-ups

Seattle Offense

WR....89 Baldwin (AA)....16 .Lockett (P)
LT......78 Sowell (P).........73 Webb (P)............74 Fant (A)
LG.....63 Glowinski (A)....70 Odhiambo    
OC     68 Britt (A)............53 Hunt             
RG     76 Ifedi (P).....
RT......79 Gilliam (P)
TE     88 Graham (AA) ....82 L Wilson (P).........86 Willams (P)......81 Vannett (P) 
WR    15 Kearse (P)........10 Richardson (BA)..19 McEvoy                                    
QB ...R Wilson (AA)........02 Boykin
FB
RB......32 Michael (A).....36 Collins (P)............28 Spiller (P).........22 Prosise (A)
...34 Rawls (P)

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality)

Cardinal Defense

LDE      93 Campbell (HQ) ....72 Stinson (P)
NT        98 Peters (A)..............69 X Williams (P)......72 Pierre                
DT        95 Gunter...................92 Rucker (P) ..........97 Mauro (A)....90 Nkemdiche (R)
SLB     55 C Jones (AA).........57 Okafor (P)               
ILB       20 Bucannon (P) .......50 G Martin           
ILB       51 Minter (A)..............54 Bartu                
WLB    44 Golden (A).............96 K Martin (P)     
LCB     21 Peterson HQ)....... 29 Simon                
RCB    41 Cooper (BA)..........26 B Williams .........28 Bethel              
SS       36 Swearinger (BA)            
FS       32 Mathieu (BA).........22 T Jefferson (HQ)

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality) 

Matchup: Seattle Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Seattle is averaging 263.8 passing yards per game. On paper they have the weapons (They've got the QB. TE Jimmy Graham is back. Baldwin is always a consistent threat. MIchael is deadly out of the backfield), but thus far has not been putting large numbers on the scoreboard.

Although Russell Wilson has only been sacked 10 times (compared to 16 sacks by Seahawk pass rushers) the answer may lie in Seattle's pass blocking (3 of Seattle's starting O-linemen are rated Poor by PFF. The other two are rated Average). Wilson's low sack numbers may disguise the fact that he's chased around a lot, but very effective using his mobility to avoid being sacked.

Seattle's top receiver is Baldwin but their TE (Graham) is right up there (& actually has a 33% better YPC average.

Cardinal's have been trying to be effective rushing four - with OLB's C Jones and Golden effective off the edge. Cards are starting to work in Nkemdiche inside in passing situations.

Although Cards have been fairly successful putting Peterson in man-coverage vs. opponent's best receiver (in this case probably Baldwin/maybe Lockett) there's some reluctance to employ a lot of man coverage because it would mean defenders would be turning their backs away from the mobile and ever-dangerous Wilson.

Expect the Cards to (1) Start off rushing four, but increase pressure on Wilson if four won't get it done, (2) Combine man coverage (by Peterson) with a lot more zone than usual (by everyone else), (3) put a spy on Wilson (but not always the same guy), 4) make certain Graham is always accounted for and (5) disguise coverages.

Key Matchups: R Wilson vs. Spy (Mathieu or Bucannon). OL vs. C Jones, Golden, Nkemdiche. Graham vs. Jefferson or Bucannon. Peterson vs. Baldwin.

Matchup: Seattle Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Seattle is averaging 88.8 rushing yards per game. They no longer have Marshawn Lynch and their backup thumper (Rawls) has been sidelined for much of the season. That's left ground duties up to Christine Michael (similar in style to Andre Ellington) with CJ Spiller (how'd Seattle grab him?) in a backup role and Russell Wilson (who runs the ball about 20% of the time) always a second ever-present running threat.

They're not always as consistent as they should be, but Cardinal defenders have shown in their better=played games that they can shut down the run (as in holding the Jets to just 33 rushingyards last Monday). Keys have been: (1) match their opponents physically/win "low man wins" leverage battles, (2) protect gaps/outside contain and don't overrun Wilson (who'll gash you if you do). Reliable tackling on the perimeters/open field.

Key Matchup: Spy vs. Wilson. Card Front Seven vs. Seattle OL/TE. Minter, Bucannon, Okafor vs. Michael.


Cardinal Offense

WR1    11 Fitzgerald (HQ)...13 Jaron Brown (BA)...10 Golden
LT        68 Veldheer (A).........75 Ulrick                    
LG       76 Iupati (AA)...........73 Wetzel (BA)                      
C         53 Shipley (AA)........70 Boehm                    
RG       78 Watford (P).........61 Toner          
RT........74 Humphries (A)
TE       .85 Fells (BA)............80 Momah (P)      
WR2    15 M. Floyd (P)........12 John Brown (A).....14 JJ Nelson  (A)       
QB       03 Palmer* (P).........05 Stanton (P)     
RB       31 D Johnson (AA)..38 Ellington................30 Taylor
TE        84 Gresham (P).......89 Valles (P)

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality)

Seattle Defense

LDE......72 Bennett (AA)..........99 Jefferson
LDT.......77 Rubin (P)..... .........98 G Smith
RDT......90 Reed......................93 McDaniel (A)
RDE.....56 Avril (A)...................55 F Clark
OLB.....91 Marsh ....................58 P-Louis (P).....41 McDonald
MLB.....54 Wagner (HQ)..........52 Coyle     
OLB.....50 Wright (AA)...... 
LCB.....25 Sherman (A)...........27 Thorpe
RCB.....35 Shead (HQ)...........20 Lane................21 .Elliott
SS........31 Chancellor (AA).....33 McCray      
FS.......29 Thomas (A).............23 Terrell.............40 Powell

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality)

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Seattle Pass Defense
Carson Palmer returned to action last week and looked fairly good, but he is nursing a tender hamstring. The Cards have had to replace both starting OG's (Mathis and Iupati) with "the two W's" (Wetzel and Watford) but all that's happened is that the Cardinal running attack has been "on fire" and their pass pro has been relatively solid. Iupati is back, but it makes you wonder - why fix what ain't broke?

Seattle has registered 16 sacks (roughly half that of the Jets). Avril (4_and Bennett (3) are the two team leaders. No doubt, Seattle will try to put as much pressure on Palmer to exploit his lack of mobility and limit his decision-making time.

Palmer has as potent and varied an arsenal of receivers as just about any team in the NFL - with Fitzgerald, Floyd, the 2 Browns (though Jaron's a bit gimpy) and Nelson leading the charge and RB David Johnson a former WR. Cardinal TE's (Gresham, Fells, Momah, Valle) are unsung, but fairly effective when called on).

Seahawks will attempt to counter this with a rock-solid defensive secondary of Sherman and Shead at corners, Thomas and Terrell (& when healthy) Chancellor at safety.

Interesting piece in Bleacher Report attributing Atlanta's ability to score three 3rd quarter passing TD's to "lack of communications" in the Seattle secondary caused by Chancellor's (groin) absence. They picked up a successful play-design pattern which had (a) an outside receiver running a square-out and two TE's or receivers running down the middle seam. For whaver reason - with Chancellor out of there - this caused miscommunication and blown coverage in the secondary and contributed to at least 2 of the Atlanta TD's.

No doubt, Pete Carroll and his staff will have addressed this vulnerability, but - in case they haven't (& assuming Chancellor can't go) - we can expect Smokey Brown to take the square-out route (like he did three straight times vs. the Jets) and Fitz and one of the TE's running deep down the seam. (And just to make things even more interesting, have David Johnson running square outs or a circle route on the opposite side).

Biggest challenge for Card pass blockers will be to fend off Avril, Clark and Bennett off the two edges and for our interior linemen to keep the pocket clean enough for Carson to bye time and step into his throws.

Key Matchups: Fitz vs. Sherman. Floyd vs. Shead. TE vs. Thomas. Veldheer vs. Avril or Clark. Humphries vs. Bennett. D Johnson vs. Wagner.

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Seattle Run Defense
Seattle run defenders are giving up 3.3 yards per carry. Top tacklersare MLB Wagner and OLB Wright.

Even more impressive than David Johnson's #1 ranking at RB is his outstanding production from week to week. Last Monday, he gained 111 rushing yards against the #2 rushing defense in the NFL.

Seattle has enough talented defenders to carry the team on their back when asked to do so. Best way to deal with this challenge is to spread them out keep them honest guarding against the inside run, chunk pass plays and pressure on the perimeter.

The Seahawks (Rubin, Reed up front and Wright, Wagner, Marsh backing them up) figure to be less stingy up the gut than were the Jets...and therefore more vulnerable. Makes you wonder - If the Cards can gain a lead going into the 4Q and we get control of the football, can Seattle's run defense find a way to get off the field.

Key Matchups: D Johnson vs. Wagner. The two W's vs. Rubin and Reed. Cardinal TE's vs. Avril, Clark or Bennett

Special Teams

Seattle

K         04 Hauschka                      
P         09 Ryan                       
H        09 Ryan
LS      48 Nolan                      
KR      16Lockett                
PR      16 Lockett

Cardinals

K          07 Catanzaro                             
P          09 Quigley                                   
H          02 Butler                             
LS        46 Brewer                                 
KR       38 Ellington              
PR       12 Jn Brown

Matchup: Seattle Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Lockett is threat to break it all the way. Hauschka has the edge over Catanzaro. Ditto Ryan vs. Quigley. Card returners have not done anything thus far to scare anybody..

Key matchups: Campbell and Bethel vs. Ryan (Will this be Bethel's breakout comeback game)?

Coaching
Seattle - Surprising that Carroll's "new age" approach to coaching (featured in a leading sports magazine over a year ago) hasn't received more attention. Least you can say about him is that he's smart, resourceful and innovative. (Play "match Seattle play for play"
with him and he'll find a way to beat you. The perception this year is that, talent-wise, Seattle has got a little less in the tank than in years past. But that doesn't mean that - if you take your eye off the windshield for just a split-second - he won't find a way to beat you (Translation - the win over Atlanta).

Cards - Coach Arians is making an art out of being "old school" - saying the right things to keep his team humble when they win/offering the right blend of tough-love and encouragement when they lose. He's got his team back to .500, but I'm reasonably sure he isn't taking too big a sigh of relief just yet. His team has got to get past Seattle and Carolina before Bye Week (& then the pleasure of SF and the Niners when they return to action).

Medical
Cards - Looks like they'll get Iupati back (but not Mathis). Palmer has a gimpy hammy.

Seattle - Chancellor (qb of the defense) may be out with a groin. Graham (hip) held out of praactice. Pierre-Louis nicked up.

How to Beat Seattle
(1) Don't let Wilson beat you with his feet (2) Use spies/disguise looks. (3) Match Seattle's physicality. (4) Win leverage battles. (5) Make fewer mistakes than they do. (6) Establish run it to set up short passing game.

Last Word:
It's a huge game. It's at home. It's on national TV. It's the first of four big contests that will be a major influence on whether or not we reach the playoffs. By now the Cardinal players should know what they need to do to succeed in every play. It then becomes a matter of how well they execute what they know they've gotta do. This is where coaching, talent and team character come into play.

This past Monday, the Cards finally "were what most of its followers thought they were." ("On paper" they were expected to blow out the Jets and they did just that). It's the measure of a good football team - to perform as expected. The next four games are not expected to be easy. To win most if not all, the Cardinals will have to perform better than expected. Welcome to the N...F...L.


 
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