The Morning After: Agony in Victory for Wounded Seahawks
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Jarran Reed was the first to go. He would be followed by Duane Brown, Shaquill Griffin, Frank Clark, Sheldon Richardson, Kam Chancellor, C.J. Prosise, Russell Wilson, and Richard Sherman. The injuries that removed them from the field varied in severity. Some took only a play to return. Others, will not step on the field again this season. It will take a few days, and possibly a few weeks, to know the full impact of this game. That Seattle struggled so mightily to beat an already decimated Cardinals team after losing to a decimated Redskins team, paints a picture of a season with limited potential. There are far worse places to be, though, than 6-3 and the only undefeated team in the division.
This game was painful to watch for reasons beyond the litany of injuries on both sides. The teams combined for 21 penalties. Arizona’s first touchdown drive consisted of 39 yards gained by the Cardinals and 36 yards provided by Seahawks penalties. It felt like the game barely saw consecutive plays without either a penalty or an injury.
The NFL may want to consider a new slogan for Thursday Night Football: Where stars get hurt and the games suck! It got so cynically comical that Cards fans sitting near me (I was at the game), started saying things like, “C’mon Cards! Draw a flag!” before the ball was even snapped on third downs. Arizona had 90 yards of offense at halftime and the Seahawks had 81 yards in penalties. Seattle would easily finish with over 100 yards in penalties for their fourth straight game. Atrocious.
It is worth noting that few of the penalties were of the pre-snap variety. There were pass interference calls, face masks, holding, hands to the face, clipping, and more. It was a cornucopia of absurdity. The refs managed to amplify the absurdity by ruling that Andre Ellington’s blatant fumble at the end of the first half was instead an incomplete pass, despite the fact that he took three full steps before hitting the ground. If he had taken four steps, would it have been a fumble? Five? Twenty?
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Arizona came out aggressive on defense and the Seahawks offensive line had a lot of trouble holding up. Wilson was under attack from the get-go, and there was still no sign of a viable run game. ProFootballFocus (PFF) shared a note that the Seahawks offensive line gave up just 6 pressures on 39 passing plays, which is their best mark of the season. That is not how it looked from where I sat.
PFF noted that Wilson was responsible for 5 additional pressures himself. Thomas Rawls was responsible for one of the five sacks. Germain Ifedi gave up his first sack of the season. What was most perplexing was why Darrell Bevell attempted to incorporate some long-developing plays in the midst of these protection challenges. At one point, he called a play that required multiple play-action fakes to set up a deep throw. Wilson was enveloped shortly after the second fake. The play never had a chance. It was like taking someone who was struggling to clear a hurdle and asking them to run the Ninja Warrior obstacle course.
The offense still managed to put up 190 yards and 13 points in the first half (the defense got the other two on a safety). Matt Tobin had to enter the game after Brown went down with an ankle injury. He did reasonably well given the situation, but the offense screeched to a halt in the second half. They gained just 97 yards, and 54 of them came on a miracle heave from Wilson to Doug Baldwin that had nothing to do with good, repeatable offense. The best thing to say about the Seahawks performance on offense was that Jimmy Graham was terrific in the red zone, and Wilson put the ball in perfect spots for him to make plays.
Graham now has 6 touchdowns on the season, matching his total from last season with seven games to play.
Paul Richardson also managed to pull in another remarkable deep ball at the end of the first half, that had Cardinals fans near me gasping. J.D. McKissic had some nice moments.
In all, though, it was hard to watch the offense these last two games and have much faith in their ability to become a consistent unit. They look discombobulated. Worse, they look unsure of who they want to be.
The defense was troubling as well. Facing a horrific offensive line that lost their starting left tackle, and a dreadful quarterback in Drew Stanton, they should have been able to get disruptive pressure and cause more turnovers. Instead, Stanton had time to find open receivers in key moments. Had he not missed wide open players on a few big plays, and had some of his receivers caught passes that hit their hands, the Cardinals likely would have won this game.
Seattle’s run defense was stellar, and was easily the best part of the game overall. Arizona was determined to establish the run to take pressure off Stanton, and Seattle had none of it. Bruce Arians called six runs in the Cardinals first seven plays after halftime, and seven runs on that drive. Adrian Peterson managed just 19 yards. Peterson would run just three more times the rest of the game, losing yards on two of the runs, and totaling -7 yards. Eat it, Arians.
One of the best stories in the game was the return of defensive end Dion Jordan after being out of football since 2014. He got significant snaps at the base LEO defensive end spot that Cliff Avril used to play, and Frank Clark has taken over. I was surprised that he played almost the entire second half instead of Clark, even before Clark limped off the field with an injury. Jordan finished with a team-high 3 quarterback hits and a sack, as well as a tackle for loss. That is a promising debut.
Nazair Jones was terrific as well, getting more snaps after Reed left injured. Jones had a sack, a quarterback hit, and a tackle for loss.
The biggest story of the game, though, was the injuries. Sherman tore his achilles and is lost for the season. His courage and leadership will be missed almost as much as his talent. Still misunderstood nationally, both on the field and off, Sherman made his biggest impact in this game in run support. His tackling was fantastic.
Jeremy Lane stepped in after the injury and was his normal adequate self. There will be renewed urgency and interest in the status of Deshawn Shead. It was starting to feel like the Seahawks would not need him this year, but if he can play, they certainly would welcome him back. Former Seahawk corner Byron Maxwell is another option. It will be interesting to see if Griffin takes the opportunity to step forward. He had a mostly stellar game, although he was the beneficiary of a few errant Stanton throws and Cardinal drops.
The coming days will tell us a lot about how much the roster landscape will change. Earl Thomas will hopefully be ready to come back. Brown’s injury is a key one to watch, as he would be a crucial part of helping the offense find any stability. Reed has been great all year, and would be a big loss if he was out for extended time. Same with Chancellor. Seattle won a game on Thursday, but lost a lot. This is not a particularly joyous 6-3, but it certainly is preferable to what the majority of teams are facing. It is going to take some unnatural leaps forward on offense for this team to be a legitimate contender.