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2016 Regular Season
Preview: Cards @ Seattle

Setting the Stage:
This past week, the Cards lost another close one (this time a 48 - 41 barn-burner to NO. Seahawks took care of the Rams 24- 3. Seattle's the NFC West champ. Cards have been officially eliminated from the playoffs. Game is scheduled for 4:30 pm (ET) Christmas Eve in the hostile confines of Seattle. Talk in the Valley goes back and forth between (1) Off-Season Moves and (2) "Playing for Pride." Cards are banged up. "Hawks are getting some of their walking wounded back.

Opponent's Last Game
Seahawks allowed LA to score one measley FG in the 2Q and scored in the 2nd, 3rd & 4th quarters to paste a 24 - 3 "W" on the Rams.

First Quarter
Rams received and went 3 & out (after Goff was sacked for minus-9 on a 3rd & 12. Lockett returned the punt to the Seattle 37. "Hawks made it out to their own 47 but had to punt. Punt (net u-conduct penalty) gave LA the ball at their own 28.
Rams moved to the Seattle 7 in 10 plays but were unable to convert a 4th & 1. Seattle took over on downs and managed to reach the Ram 48 as the quarter ended.

First Quarter Score: Seattle 0 - Rams 0

Second Quarter
'Hawks made it to the Ram 8 where Wilson threw a TD pass to L Willson to complete a 13-play (6:47) TD drive. Seattle 7 - Rams 0.

KO (net facemsk penalty) gave LA the ball on their own 29 but were held to 3 & out, failing to convert a 4th & 9. Seattle took over on the Ram 30 & picked up zero yardage, but Hauschka's 48-yarder was good. Seattle 10 - Rams 0.

KO returned to the LA 21. A minus-9 yd sack of Goff bottled the Rams up at their own 22. Punt fair caught at the Seattle 28. Seattle went 3 & out. Punt downed by LA at their own 31. Rams made it to the Seattle 18 in 7 plays but had to settle for a 36-yard FG. Seattle 10 - Rams 3.

0:55 till halftime. KO returned to the Seattle 26. They ran Rawls a couple of time to reach the half.

1st Half Score: Seattle 10 - Rams 3.

Third Quarter
Seattle received.KO returned to the Seattle 18. They reached the LA 45 in 8 plays but had to punt. Fair catch at the LA 14. Rams went nowhere in 4 plays. Punt returned to the Seattle 38. A 31-yd comletion to Graham helped set up a n 8-play scoring drive capped by a 1-yd scoring pass to Baldwin. Seattle 17 - Rams 3

KO returned (net holding flag) to the LA 14. LA held to 3 & out. Lockett returned punt 13-yds to Seattle 33. Seahawks reached their own 44 as the quarter ended.

Third Quarter Score: Seattle 17 - Rams 3

Fourth Quarter
Seattle iced the game two plays later on a 57-yd TD pass (deep right) from Wilson to Lockett. Seattle 24 - Rams 3.

KO returned to the LA 20. Rams used up 7:30 on a 15-play drive that ended at the Seattle 18 where Goff was unable to convert a 4th & 11. Seattle (aided by Ram penalties) made it to the LA 15, but a couple of plays for losses set up an interception on a pass for Kearse. Keenum in for Goff. Rams took over on their own 9 & made it out to their own 36 before turning over the ball on downs Seattle took over on the Ram 37 with 1:57 left. Three knees/game over.

Final Score :Seattle 24 - Rams 3.

Key Game Stats

Wilson was 19 of 26 - 229yds, 3 TD's and 1 interception.

Rams rushers gained 72 yds and no TD's on 30 carries. (Rawls gained 34 yds on 21 carries).

Lockett caught 7 passes for 130 yds and a TD. Baldwin caught 5 for 35 yds and a TD.

Defensively, Seattle held Ram to 47 rushing yards. K Wright led the team in tackles with 10 followed by Shead and Chancellor with 5.

Seattle had 4 sacks. Avril and F Clark were credited with 1.5 sacks apiece. Marsh had one sack. (Wilson was sacked twice).

Seattle converted 7 of 15 third downs (46%) while holding Atlanta to 3 of 12 (25%). "Hawks shut out the Rams in 4th down conversions (0 for 4) while converting their one opportunity.

Seattle held Rams to 2.8 yds per rushing play (Seahawk runners were held to 2.4 rushing ypc).

Seattle Net Punting average was 36.0

Seattle was penalized 13 times (Rams 8).

Seattle was 2 for 3 (66%) in the Red Zone (Rams were were 0 for 3).

Turnover Ratio: +1 (No fumbles lost by either team. Seattle did not surrender a pick. Goff threw one interception.

Season Stats Comparison

Total Yards Per Game
Cards 368.1
Seattle 353.4

Passing Yards Per Game
Cards 257.1
Seattle 251.6

Rush Yards Per Game
Cards 111.0
Seattle 101.9

Points Per Game
Cards 24.3
Seattle 21.3

3rd Down Conversion %
Cards 42.9%
Seattle 38.2%

Time of Possession
Cards 1,885
Seattle 1789

Yards Allowed Per Game
Cards 312.1
Seattle 319.7

Passing Yds Allowed Per Game
Cards 212.9
Seattle 224.6

Rush Yards Allowed Per Game
Cards 99.1
Seattle 95.1

Points Allowed Per Game
Cards 23.1
Seattle 16.8

3rd Down Conversions Allowed %
Cards 39.9%
Seattle
41.1%

Seattle Offense

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

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality, E = Elite, R = Rookie, NA = No Info) 

Cardinal Defense

LDE      93 Campbell (HQ) ....92 Rucker (P)......72 Stinson (P)
NT        98 Peters (P)..............69 X Williams (P)......72 Pierre (NA)                
DT        95 Gunter (P)...................92 Rucker (P) ..........97 Mauro (A)....90 Nkemdiche (P)
SLB     55 C Jones (HQ).........57 Okafor (A)               
ILB      54 S Moore (P).......52 Gooden (P)           
ILB       51 Minter (A)..............58 S Wright (R)                
WLB    44 Golden (AA).............96 K Martin (P)     
LCB     21 Peterson HQ)....... 34 Miller (R)                
RCB    41 Cooper (P)..........26 B Williams (P).........28 Bethel (P)              
SS       36 Swearinger (AA)            
FS       32 Mathieu (A).........22 T Jefferson (HQ)

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality, E = Elite, R = Rookie, NA = No Info) 

Matchup: Seattle Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Seattle has gradually gotten its groove back. Russell Wilson has multiple threats in WR's Baldwin, Lockett and Kearse, TE Jimmy Graham iand RB Rawls to throw to. He's still operating behind a somewhat iffy O-line (4 linemen rated "Poor" by PFF; and only their center, Britt rated above average) but Wilson has the wheels to escape trouble most of the time.

Last week, Drew Brees picked apart the Cardinal defense like a chicken carcass. Surprising since the Card secondary includes Pro Bowl corner Patrick Peterson and safeties Tony Jefferson and DJ Swearinger. Major point of vulnerability continues to be at the other corner where Markus Cooper, Justin Bethel, Brandon Williams and (elevated from PS) Harlan Miller share the unofficial title of "Victim of the Week."

BA had nice things to say about rookie DL Robert Nkemdiche; so maybe the Cards will give him more meaningful snaps as the season winds down.

To contain the Seahawks, the Cards will have to be solid in gap-discipline, outside copntain, gang-tackling and wrapping up. They can't afford to let Wilson escape outside or burst up the middle Because the "Hawk defense presents so many multiple threats, no Cardinal defensive player can afford to have an "off" day.

Key Matchups: R Wilson vs. Spy (Mathieu or Golden). OL vs. C Jones, Golden, Campbell, Nkemdiche. Graham vs. Jefferson or Searinger. Peterson vs. Baldwin. Rawls vs. Minter. Backup CBs vs. Lockett or Kearse.

Matchup: Seattle Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Seattle is averaging 101.9 rushing yards per game. Their thumper (Thomas Rawls) is quietly working his way back to full health. You could say that their biggest HR running threat comes from QB (Russell Wilson), although their #4 RB (Procise) also can be worked in as a home run threat.

In general, the Cardinal run defense has been consistently productive, but there have been a few games where they've laid sizable eggs. The problem appears to be more one ofwant-to and ignoring fundamentals than it is talent. Give Rawls an opening and he and his blockers will blacktop you.

Cards need to protect gaps, win the ("lowest man") leverage contest and gang tackle if their to keep Rawls in check.

Key Matchup: Spy (Mathieu?) vs. Wilson. Minter and Golden vs. Rawls. Card Front Seven vs. Seattle OL/TE.


Cardinal Offense

WR1    11 Fitzgerald (HQ)......10 Golden (P).....16 Ross (BA)
LT        74 Humphries (A) ......                 
LG       76 Iupati (A)...........73 Wetzel (P)                      
C         53 Shipley (AA)........70 Boehm (BA)                    
RG       78 Watford (P).........65 Boggs (P).........61 Toner (R)          
RT........63 Price (R)  
TE       .85 Fells (P)  
WR2    12 John Brown (A).....14 JJ Nelson  (P)......18 Bundy (R)      
QB       03 Palmer (A).........05 Stanton (P)......04 Dysert (NA)     
RB       31 D Johnson (AA)..38 Ellington (BA).......33 K Williams (BA)........30 Taylor (BA)
TE        84 Gresham (P).......89 Valles (P)

PFF ratings in parentheses ((P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality, E = Elite, R = Rookie, NA = No Info) 

Seattle Defense

LDE......72 Bennett (AA)........55 F Clark (AA).....97 D Moore (P)
LDT.......77 Rubin (P)..... .........92 J Jenkins (P)
RDT......93 McDaniel (A) .......90 Reed (P)......................)
RDE.....56 Avril (A)...................55 F Clark (AA)
OLB.....57 M Morgan (A).....91 Marsh (P)....................58 P-Louis (P).
MLB.....54 Wagner (E)..........52 Coyle (A)     
OLB.....50 Wright (AA).........xx McDonald......59 Powell (NA) 
LCB.....25 Sherman (AA)...........27 Thorpe (BA)
RCB.....35 Shead (A)...........20 Lane (BA)................21 Elliott (P)
SS........31 Chancellor (E).....33 McCray (P).....40 Powell (R)      
FS.......23 Terrell (A)............xx J Johnson (BA)
........41 D McDonald (A)

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality, E = Elite, R = Rookie, NA = No Info) 

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Seattle Pass Defense
Give Carson Palmer enough time and he can be lethal. Give him less time and he's more likely to mix in poor decisions and bad throws. Protect him even less and he becomes a sitting duck (& injury risk), mobility-wise.

The banged up Cardinal offensive line performed in heroic fashion vs, NO, but the Seahawsk - with Bennett and Avril coming off the edge is an entirely different animal. With LT DJ Humphries still under concussion protocol, the Cards may have to field an offensive starting O-line of Wetzel, Iupati, Shipley, Watford and Price (with Boggs and Boehm seeing plenty of action in rotation).

The wide receiving corps (initially considered a Cardinal strong point) has been decimated by injuries and off-field issues. #1 wideout Larry Fitzgerald has been taking a beating in his revised role as slot/inside receiver. Michael Floyd is no longer with the team. Jaron Brown is on IR. That leaves Palmer with Smoky Brown (still learning to manage his Sickel Cell condition) and diminuative speedster JJ Nelson to throw to; with Brittan Golden, Jeremy Ross and Marquis Bundy as his backups.

BA has been relatively successful lining up two RB's and using one or both like wide receivers. Expect K Williams, Ellington and D Johnson to be very involved in the Cardinal passing game.

The solution to lack of receiving depth and pass-blocking vulnerabilities may be in play calling, with BA reeling in his temptation to "go for chunk yardage " and make Carson stay in the pocket longer. Expect to see more screens and dump-offs. and a more conservative run/pass ratio.

Seahawks will attempt to throttle the Cardinal passing effort with a rock-solid defensive secondary of Sherman and Shead at corners and Terrell (replacing Thomas) and Chancellor at safety.

Key Matchups: Fitz vs. Sherman. Brown vs. Shead. D Johnson vs. Wagner. Wetzel and Price vs. Avril & Bennett.

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Seattle Run Defense
Congratulations to David Johnson for making the Pro Bowl. BA may decide to run more (to protect Carson P). The temptation may be to give him a lot of work (to take the heat off Palmer and bolster his stats) but we expect to see a lot more of Ellington and K Williams this week to help DJ shoulder the increased load.

Seattle defenders are giving up less than 100 rush yds a game. PFF gives Seattle players ratings of Average or Higher in 10 of the 11 starting defensive positions Wagner and Chancellor are rated "Elite." (Only their LDT Rubin has a rating of "Poor.").

Statistically, the Seahawks don't have dominating numbers, with the single exception of Points Per Game (where they've allowed just 16.8).

This suggests that the "Hawks play very sound, opportunistic football and make fewer mistakes than they force.

Key Matchups: D Johnson vs. Wagner. Iupati, Watford and Shipley vs. Rubin and McDaniel.

Special Teams

Seattle

K         04 Hauschka                      
P         09 Ryan                       
H        09 Ryan
LS      xx Frese                      
KR      16Lockett                
PR      16 Lockett

Cardinals

K          07 Catanzaro                             
P          06 Wile                                 
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 is much better than (ughh!) Catanzaro. Ryan trumps newcomer Wile. Card returners have not done anything thus far to scare anybody..

Key matchups: Campbell vs. Ryan. Cardinal coverage teams vs. Lockett.

Coaching
Seattle - Pete Carroll's "new age" approach to coaching continues to pay off. Seattle won the division and has re-tooled its roster to where it's in solid shape going into the final 2 regular season games.

Cards - Coach Arians has had the privilege of watching what was considered a potential Super Bowl contender come unglued -a "train wreck in slow mo." While there's no indication that his job (or Steve Keim's) is in any jeopardy, he's faced mounting criticism over certain roster and coaching issues (most notably butt-awful special teams play which arguably was directly responsible for 4 losses this season. How well his team performs vs. Seattle and LA may have a strong bearing on how the Cardinals handle their off-season and their approach to next year.

Last Word:
NFC West Champs vs. the disappointing (below .500) Cardinals. (There it is).

But we're Cardinal fans. We root hard. We criticize hard. We recognize that the Cards face uphill challenges on the way to back to championship contention. Beating Seattle (against all odds) would be a good start.


 
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