Tale of the Tape — Cardinals Combine Dreadful Offense with Nearly Elite Defense


It was hard to have much confidence in the Seahawks after their disastrous beatdown against the Rams. Yet, they went into Dallas against a team with playoff aspirations and their star running back as motivated as ever, and choked the life from their season. Go figure. I had surmised that the Seahawks had no chance to beat the Rams if Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright were not healthy and playing well. While it would be silly to imply the Seahawks would have won if both players were there, the Dallas game provided ample evidence of just how big of a difference those two can make when facing an elite running back.

The Arizona Cardinals have nothing elite in their backfield. Gone are David Johnson and Adrian Peterson. What remains is Kerwynn Williams and his 3.6 yards per carry. Never mind that his 351 rushing yards dwarfs the nearest active Seahawks running back total (Mike Davis has 192 yards on the year). His battery mate is error-prone Drew Stanton and his 69.7 passer rating. The offensive line is missing both tackles (Jared Veldheer and D.J. Humphries), as well as guards Mike Iupati and Earl Watford. It’s a motley crew.

The defense has been physical and stout all season, but they have a long list of injuries as well. Both starting safeties are now on IR as Tyvon Branch was injured in the last matchup against Seattle and Antoine Bethea just had his season end this week. Even backup safety Rudy Ford was lost to injury. Former Husky Budda Baker has stepped up, and will play a significant role in this game.

Seattle needs to win to have a chance at the playoffs. The Cardinals may be trying to send Bruce Arians off in style as reports are circulating that this will be his last season as the coach. The Seahawks have lost 3 of their past 4 home games this season, and have also lost 3 of their past 4 home games against the Cardinals the past four years. There is little question which team is better, especially given the Cardinals injury status, but these games are rarely easy.


The way this works: Each offense will be pitted against the opposing defense and compared on an array of key statistical attributes based on their respective rank in the NFL. The tables that follow show the rank of each unit for each of these categories. 

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Seahawks Offense vs Cardinals Defense

Cardinals key advantages on defense

Arizona features a number of playmakers on defense, even with a few of them out. Chandler Jones is a terrific pass rusher. Tyrann Mathieu is a clever gambler. Patrick Peterson and Tramon Williams are sticky corners. Baker is the latest addition, and plays with physicality. The defensive line gives the Seahawks trouble, as evidenced by the 5 sacks they recorded in the first matchup. That was a game Seattle won by not making major mistakes. They exited without a turnover. This Cardinals defense will be ultra-aggressive looking for any takeaway knowing their offense cannot win a game without a lot of help.


Seahawks key advantages on offense

Seattle did not have Mike Davis in the first matchup, and played much of the game with an injured Duane Brown. Luke Joeckel was also missing in that game. Those three all played the last two weeks and it didn’t appear to matter very much as the Seahawks offense struggled mightily. There is no reason to expect things to get any easier against this Cardinals defense that ranks 4th in the NFL in opponent yards per play.

Arizona really does not have a good answer for Jimmy Graham, especially in the red zone. Mathieu and Baker are undersized at safety. Graham scored twice in the first game, and could do more damage this time. Losing Bethea is a big deal. He was a disciplined safety who also was physical in run support. The Cardinals will likely try to play Mathieu and Baker as safeties in base defense, but may be tempted to swing Mathieu back to nickel corner when the Seahawks bring extra receivers on the field. If not, that would leave Doug Baldwin matched up with someone like Justin Bethel in the slot. That would be a huge advantage for Seattle. If they bring Mathieu in to defend Baldwin, that leaves someone else without much experience to play safety against another Seahawks player.

This is a game where smart scheming on offense could create a lot of big plays for Seattle.


Cardinals Offense vs Seahawks Defense


Cardinals key advantages on offense

The biggest advantage for Arizona is they have nothing to lose. Arians will open his playbook and be willing to do anything at anytime. This very well might be his last game as a coach, and you can bet he will want to go out with a bang. That could mean trick plays, going for it on fourth down at unconventional times, or just aggressive play calls that break typical patterns. Larry Fitzgerald is always an advantage, and he was their only real weapon in the first game. Seattle is missing both Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman who helped hold down the Cardinals in Arizona, but they now have Earl Thomas who missed that game.

Seahawks key advantages on defense

Seattle failed to force an interception by Stanton in the first game. He should have a much rougher time behind this line in this stadium. Will Holden and John Wetzel are the Cardinals two tackles. Frank Clark, Michael Bennett, and Dion Jordan should have their way with those two. Clark has a great chance to record his 10th sack of the season. I’ve got a hunch that this will be the game rookie Shaquill Griffin gets his first pick.


Special Teams

Seahawks kicking vs Cardinals returning



Cardinals kicking vs Seahawks returning

Like other parts of this game, I expect Arians to be aggressive here. Fake punts, onsides kicks, are all on the table. Seattle can gain significant advantages by being prepared for those types of shenanigans.




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  1. “Cardinals Combine Dreadful Offense with Nearly Elite Defense”. With < 200 yards total in each of their last 2 games, the Seahawks combine a dreadful one-dimensional offense with an injured/aging but still gritty defense. So a defensive slug fest is on the cards. The Seahawks D should be able to hold Drew Stanton to a QB rating below his average. If the Seahawks O is efficient with zero turnovers, the Hawks win this game comfortably.

  2. The Cowboys did very well on defense last weekend. Why? Because they were motivated. We got bailed out by our own great defense, and because their offense sucked.

    The Cardinals will definitely be just as motivated as the Cowboys were. If our team lacks the motivation we brought to Dallas, we’re very likely to lose. We’d better not take the Cardinals lightly.

  3. I have been thinking about why the Rams game went the way it did. That game was atypical on both sides of the ball, even if you consider the injuries to Wagner and KJ. The Seahawks looked completely unready for the Rams game in all phases.

    Is it possible that the Jags’ brand of smash-mouth football did to the Seahawks what the Seahawks did to so many teams 2012-2013? The record of teams in the next game after playing the Seahawks showed the extent of the physical damage inflicted by the Seahawks’ bruising run game and punishing defense.

    What we saw last week vs Dallas was more of a reversion to form, at least on D. If my theory is correct this Arizona game should end up as a romp. The Seahawks on D will be able to harass Stanton and contain the running game, and the OL will be able to open up enough lanes (and give Russ enough time to find receivers) to look efficient on O.

    Unless we see a dominant win here there is no point in making the playoffs (no hope). I hate the fact we are relying on Atlanta losing for a chance at the post-season: those losses to Washington and Atlanta REALLY hurt now.

  4. It would be unfair to reduce Brian’s entire commentary to a single comment because there are plenty of nuggets there, but what the heck? We’re almost at the end of the season and I don’t pretend to be fair anyway. So, to me, the most significant statement (which is apropos for the entire season really) is; “This is a game where smart scheming on offense could create a lot of big plays for Seattle”.

    Examples? Houston and Eagles games, both inspiring victories. The rest of the season? Well, just ask yourself, do you really, down deep, have FULL confidence that the Hawks will romp against the Cardinals? If you do, then you’re a qualifier for ” Fan of the year”, but not necessarily “Prognosticator of the year” or “Realist of the Year”. Many of us HOPE they will do it again, but it’s not anything like the confidence we had in 2013…………which was justified.

    Despite the injuries we still have what could be a competitive team, maybe not quite championship caliber, but competitive at a high level. That’s saying something considering how many top flight players we’ve lost and how inept the development of a meaningful running game has been. What we lack, particularly on offense, is a high caliber coaching/coordinating staff that can adjust to capitalize on the available talent. This is a relative thing. Our coaching staff could well compete against middling opponents (e.g. Dallas last week), but not against the higher caliber staffs that have evolved in the past couple seasons. And worse, we’re getting strong signals that next year will escalate another notch or two (e.g. SF……..watch out). The play of the defensive unit last week gives some hope, Richard did a pretty decent job of calling plays that kept the Boys just enough off balance. If he continues to grow we should get better next year if given sufficient player quality. But on offense, we’ve had successive seasons of poor scheming with no signs of growth in understanding of the need to evolve. Sure, you can hope for a lightning strike to shake the existing staff into shape………….but that’s not very realistic.

    So, while I HOPE our boys show their pride and whoop the Cards, that would salvage something positive from this season. Cheering for the league MAP (Most Arrogant Player) to beat the Falcons?……………………….eh! If so………great……but then the Hawks will be at a major disadvantage going forward. In 40+ years of Hawk fandom I’ve suffered through much worse. Let’s just reload for next season………we’re going to need to get a lot stronger across the board, coaching and players, to compete at the highest levels.

    1. Well said. The landscape has shifted and we are in need of a new set of coaches and players that can deal with playing at an elite level in a division that has now turned the corner. Probably a new philosophy – a different more sophisticated identity.

      Rewatching the first game in my head, Drew Stanton had three chances to beat us with wide-open TE’s running down the field – he missed on all three. If he hits on two of them, like he will here, then our season would have been totally different.

      The staff took the steering wheel away from RW last week. He got demoted to game manager. NO TO’s and we win in Dallas. Watch for the same game plan here, but 200 yds of offense is not enough.

      Arizona 20-17.

      Then we will awake to the question, is RW the worst QB in the division?

  5. Reading Brian’s column i highlighted “This is a game where smart scheming on offense could create a lot of big plays for Seattle.” & thought “i guess we wont be having any big plays!!” i see that it caught Uncle Bob’s attention as well. I disagree with Kurt, i think we have the best QB in the division & one of the top 5 in the league, however we have the worst offensive head coach, OC & OL coach in the league… ok, at least in the bottom 5. I watched some of the games on Gamepass coaches film, the routes the receivers run are very basic, poorly planned… 4th & 9 in jags game, one wr in the right slot area runs 20 yards out to where the db is waiting, instead of turning & coming back at the 15 yd mark… It appears tha RW doesnt know/understand where his receivers should be, that the offensive plan is “snap the ball & see what RW can do”. Imagine what Bellichek could do with RW on his team. If PC doesnt replace Bevill & Cable then IMHO, Carroll should go.

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