The Morning After: Seahawks Beat Cardinals, 22-10

My 9-year-old had just scored the winning goal of his soccer game on Saturday, but he was steaming mad. His father chose the walk back to the car to make a comment about his lack of effort. The timing was unquestionably poor, but the message needed to be delivered. Just last week, the same father lavished praise on the same kid for going scoreless in a loss because his effort and attitude had been so consistent and outstanding. The lesson I continue to try and convey to my son is that the focus needs to be on the effort and attitude, not the result. An individual or team that brings great intensity and spirit every week will more often than not maximize the possible results. Meet your Seattle Seahawks, a team defined by how consistently hard they play each, and every, week.

“Our team was built through competition,” Milloy said. “It started in the offseason. The 53 guys in here, we know we belong. We earned it. Our roster is still changing, but the one thing that’s a constant is effort. A lot of times, effort gets you through the tough times.”

Spoken like a man who has seen both sides of that coin. This offense may still be susceptible to long stretches without being effective. This defense can still give up big chunks of passing yards. Even the once-consistent special teams have had some sub-par results the past two weeks. The team, however, brings the same intensity every time. Think back to those powerhouse Mike Holmgren teams. They were talented enough to beat some teams at 75% effort, and they did just that more times than I care to remember. This Seahawks team does not have that luxury. Then again, most teams don’t. How do you think Saints and Broncos fans are feeling this morning?

The best part of the Seahawks victory yesterday was that they managed to win by a comfortable margin without playing at a high level. Give the Cardinals credit for coming out ready to play. Lost in all the talk about a 5-1 turnover advantage for the Seahawks was that the Cardinals were a tougher opponent than anyone predicted, including yours truly. Their defense was consistent and stout. Their offense ran for more yards against the Seahawks than any other opponent has so far this season. Their lack of just an average NFL quarterback had more to do with the outcome than the turnovers. It felt like they were one Matt Leinart away from having a real shot to win. The Seahawks defense was loading up men in the box to stop the run for the first time, and the Cardinals were still gashing them at times. Brandon Mebane’s absence is starting to be felt.

The secondary played an outstanding game. Coverage was tight, and passes were contested to the tune of a whopping 10 passes defensed. Walter Thurmond and Roy Lewis continue to develop, and Earl Thomas is growing at a pace close to his sprinting speed. A rookie Pro Bowl season is not out of the question. The talent of this group is what makes the bandit defense (7 defensive backs, 1 linebacker, 3 lineman) so effective. It was unclear why the bandit made so few appearances on Sunday. It may have been because of Arizona’s success running the football, or a belief that the team could get home with less exotic packages. Whatever the case, it matched last weeks success when the bandit did finally make an appearance late in the game. The defense is at its best when it is blitzing and attacking. There was not as much of that yesterday, and it showed in the pass pressure numbers with only two sacks and four QB hits. It is hard, though, to argue with 10 points allowed.

Quick shout-out to Colin Cole for leading the team in tackles. I haven’t seen that from a defensive tackle since the Cortez Kennedy days. Cole is not in the same universe as Tez, but give him credit for an amazing game.

Criticizing the offense is easy. They did not play well. What will get overlooked is that the offense sustained a few long drives for the second straight week, two of which were crucial after Arizona climbed back to 16-7 and 19-10. Take a look at the Seahawks last three possessions after the Cardinals scored their TD:

14 plays 78 yards 4:54 time elapsed RESULT = FG
12 plays 57 yards 7:20 time elapsed RESULT = FG
12 plays 53 yards 4:39 time elapsed RESULT = Ran it on 4th down inside the 10 yard-line

Add that up and up have 38 plays 188 yards 16:53 time elapsed, and essentially three scoring drives. Those drives accounted for 63% of the total offensive yardage, and they did it in crunch time. Remember the state of our time of possession going into the Bears game? The Seahawks were 31st in the NFL, averaging just over 25 minutes of possession each game. After holding the ball for an astounding 37+ minutes Sunday, the Seahawks have completely reversed their TOP the last two games to where they are now holding opponents to just 25 minutes of possession. That’s a 20 minute swing. Think about that. Each game is only 60 minutes long. The fact that they were able to put together those three late drives without Russell Okung is notable, but not likely sustainable. Okung’s injury may have been the difference between 22 points and 34+ points.

Mike Williams was just short of superhuman. He reminded Seattle what a transcendent athlete looks like. Shawn Kemp, Ken Griffey Jr., Walter Jones could all do things their counterparts couldn’t. Things that were not born from preparation, but of pure physical talent. The Seahawks now have a wide receiver with that skill. His catches were more often spectacular than routine yesterday. Lost in the beauty of his game were some similarly inspiring receptions from Deon Butler. Now, we get to see how coverages start to change.

The most frustrating aspect of the offense had nothing to do with the players. Jeremy Bates, I will find you and smack you if you continue to be such a dumbass on 3rd and 1. You have Marshawn Lynch. A player whose nickname is Beast Mode and is almost a sure bet to get a single yard on any given attempt Yet, you continue to run out Justin Forsett and call pass plays. Stop being an idiot!! Also frustrating was watching Matt take at least three sacks. He claims it is because he is being told to hold onto the ball longer to allow receivers to get open. Bull. The statement might be accurate, but no offense (outside of Mike Martz’s) wants the QB to hold onto the ball for longer than the line can contain the pass rush. Everyone in the stadium could feel the clock ticking except for Matt. That has to get cleaned up right away.

Lynch and Forsett were terrific again. They combined for 161 yards, or 53% of the team’s offense. They are providing a solid foundation to build a more reliable offense. Even with some of the struggles, the Seahawks have now scored in every quarter that Lynch has been on the team, eight straight. Lynch epitomizes the effort and attitude ComPete Carroll is bringing to this franchise.

My son eventually started talking to me again after some pizza and lemonade. He heard my words, and time will tell if they sunk in. More than likely, it will be a lesson that needs to be reinforced over time. It helps to have professional athletes that are demonstrating just how powerful consistent effort can be. The limits of where it can bring the Seahawks is still yet to be determined.

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