Games played between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals have most often been a weird watch over the past decade. It’s almost become a joke of a factoid that whenever these teams play each other, the home team loses, and at times, badly loses.
Two of the strangest games that I’ve ever watched in the Pete Carroll era of were against these Cardinals. One was a late December game in 2013 where it was freezing cold and Russell Wilson couldn’t do anything against the AZ defense, and Carson Palmer eventually got the Cardinals a game winning touchdown after getting picked off all day long by Richard Sherman. The other was that weird as fuck 2017 game down in the desert that resulted in a brutal tie with Kam Chancellor getting a neck stinger that would end his career, and Sherman blowing out his achilles and thusly playing his last game as a Seahawk.
There used to be a time when I rested easily as a Seahawk fan against this matchup, but I think that dates back to the Mike Holmgren era prior to smart phones. Nowadays, when the schedule comes out, I almost feel more inclined to chalk a home came up against the Cardinals as a loss, and then I feel inclined to chalk the road game against them as a win.
So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to myself in the second half of this dreadful match against the Cardinals, I found myself saying out loud, “why are these games against these two teams always so gawd awful weird????”
Folks chuckled around me because I said it after the Cardinal special teams got punter Michael Dickson to fumble the ball in the end zone for a touchdown that made the game 12-9 in favor of Seattle, but it was something I was thinking in my mind for a while before that. Even though Seattle seemed comfortably ahead 12-3 moments before that dreaded play, I sensed weirdness about to happen which would give Arizona new life, and it did.
Then Geno Smith and Kenneth Walker III happened together on Seattle’s next series. Geno would guide the Seahawk offense with his arm along with Walker’s wonderful playmaking ability, and the offense put together a beautiful touchdown scoring drive to effectively ice this game. In that drive, Geno peppered pretty passes to Noah Fant, Dee Eskridge, DK Metcalf, Walker, and Tyler Lockett, only to hand the ball off to Walker (who has lateral moves that I haven’t seen from a Seahawk running back since the days of Curt Warner in the 1980’s). Just gorgeous offensive football.
But that drive wasn’t nearly the full story. The larger storyline was how Seattle’s much maligned defense stepped up in this game against Kyler Murray and flustered him, rattled him, and made him looked decidedly human. The defensive unit that has been the laughing stock in the league since week two of the season, sacked Murray six times, and largely stuffed the ground game outside of the odd play where Murray took off for big yardage.
Defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt adjusted his defensive line in a way in which I have been hoping for weeks to happen. Instead of playing a more passive read and reaction style, they attacked with guys who are better penetrators than two gap cloggers. The result was that three of the sacks game from defensive tackles, Poona Ford, Shelby Harris, and Quinton Jefferson, two came from edge defenders Uchenna Nwosu, and Darrell Taylor, and one came off of a safety blitz by Ryan Neal. Seattle found multiple ways of getting after Murray. When he wasn’t sacked, he hurried throws into incompletions.
Linebackers Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton played much better, and the Seahawk corners were flipping fantastic! This was the first time this season where I felt Seattle played connected together on defense.
Rookie cornerback sensation Tariq Woolen now has four interceptions in four games, and he is just scratching the surface of knowing how to play NFL corner. All he is going off of right now, and God given length, strength, size, and ability. He’s the DK Metcalf of NFL corners, and when he really starts to figure out the nuances of playing the position.. my goodness.. then we are talking about a rare talent who can take away an entire side of the field.
He’s already making quarterbacks feels uneasy. From my seats in the nose bleeders, it looked like Kyler Murray was often wanting to go elsewhere with the ball.
That elsewhere just so happened to be the “other rookie” Coby Bryant who also had a nice game again. I’m telling you, do not underestimate the effect that Tariq Woolen can have on this defense in turning it around. If he starts to make quarterbacks more uneasy, the defenders can anticipate more where the ball might be traveling. That would make them better ready to make plays on the ball. Bryant made nice plays in coverage in this game. This is a really encouraging sign.
In terms of the sensational efforts of all these rookies, perhaps lost in the spectacular play of Walker, Woolen, Bryant, and the offensive tackles, is the steadily strong effort Boye Mafe brings as an edge defender against the run and pass. I’m high on Mafe, I think he’s going to be a special player. He’s already showing a strong ability as a run defender, and he’s only going to get better as a pass rusher.
He’s doing it right, too. First thing is first as a defender. You take away the run, and once you do that, you earn the right to pass rush. This is a timeless adage in football, and Mafe is on point with it. One off-season training with Cliff Avril in his local pass rush academy is going to turn this guy into a quarterback’s nightmare, too. Just you watch.
But the player of the game?
Come on, now. How could it not be Jason Meyers for making four out of four field goals, and providing most of the points?
Sometimes this league comes down to who has the better kicker. In weird ass games, it often comes down to that, and it did sorta in this one. Quietly, Meyers has been having an excellent year, thus far.
Seahawks played this game well rounded. It wasn’t perfect, Geno didn’t rattle off spectacular numbers like he’s done the last three weeks, and he took a number of sacks, and there was that weird blocked punt thing for a Cardinal touchdown, but Seattle did well enough on all three phases of offense, defense, and special teams to beat a dangerous divisional opponent at home. They played complimentary football for maybe the first time this year, and it was fun to see it against this particular team.
It was also fun to see Geno taking what was there against this aggressive and tricky Cardinal defense. Arizona seems very focused on taking away DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and forcing Geno to go other places with the ball. In years past, I feel like Russell Wilson would have played stubborn and would have tried to get into scramble mode to free up his preferred targets, and that would have lead to sacks, interceptions, and three and outs. Geno recognized the situation, stayed patient, and chose other outlets. The result was Dee Eskridge finally making an impact as a slot receiver, and Noah Fant having a bigger game.
While his stat line wasn’t spectacular, this game for me provider further evidence that Geno Smith should be more strongly considered as a longer term solution at quarterback for this team. It’s clear that he understands this offense well, and can execute it at a high enough level. He can make all the throws needed, and is pretty accurate, and protective with the football.
And the fans in the stands absolutely love this guy. In my section, there were Geno chants throughout this game. Sure, he’s going to continue to have some doubters and detractors, but as time moves on, I feel like those numbers are going to shrink.
Pete Carroll was immediately in high praise over Geno after this game. He knew how well his quarterback played. I felt it again, as well.
Bravo. Now, beat the Chargers next week.