If you stayed awake for the entire 75 minutes of last Sunday nights game (and hopefully, as a 12 you were able to) of the Seahawks versus the Cardinals, you were treated to a real defensive slugfest.
That would be putting it mildly, so let’s pay attention to get the elephant in the room recognized- the offensive line, while only giving up one sack, didn’t allow the running game or passing game to get going against Arizona’s stout and aggressive defensive front. Wilson struggled to get a lot going in regular time, only getting the field goal unit in position once to tie the game at 3 points apiece.
It was the defense- the apple of Pete Carroll’s eye, that was the judge, jury, and executioner in this game, even without Kam Chancellor (groin). They simply played phenomenally. Despite giving up 443 yards total yards and allowing the Cardinals to rack up 23 first downs, they only let the home team score two field goals.
The game was simply chock full of incredible defensive plays. Bobby Wagner continues his tear of the leagues best offensive efforts, channelling Kam in the 2014 divisional round and making a spectacular leap over the Cardinals special teams unit to block a field goal at 13:25 in the second quarter. While the Cardinals challenged the play and whether Wagner contacted any Arizona player (his foot did slide across the top of the long snappers back), the play was not reviewable and AZ lost a time out. The block appeared to stun the Cards and constantly kept them on edge for the remainder of the game.Wagner would again leap over the line at 3:20 to go in overtime. He didn’t get a block, but it’s hard to deny that his herculean effort didn’t have something to do with Chandler Catanzaro putting a lot of oomph into the kick and having it doink right off of the uprights.
Wagner (12 solo tack, 1 asst) played such a pivotal role in slowing down David Johnson, the NFL lead rusher this season. Johnson would finish the game with over 100 yards rushing, but his dynamic play making abilities were constantly minimized by Wagner, particularly late in the game when stuffing Johnson at the goal line. Even when Johnson split out as a receiver, Wagner followed him in coverage.
Michael Bennet,Cliff Avril and Frank Clark got after Carson Palmer early and often, with four sacks and a forced fumble between them. Their key pressures allowed guys like Cassius Marsh to move around and make plays, and also kept the ball being handed off to Johnson, where Atyba Rubin, Tony McDaniel, and recent re-signee Sealver Siliga to go to work. Frank and Cliff just made Palmers night a living hell.
DeShawn Shead continued to play outstanding coverage, and Kelcie McCray (fresh from last week’s game where he was pinned for not communicating the change in play that provided the breakdowns the Falcons used to claw their way back into the game), made sure no such plays this time that could be attributed to him. There are two players that supremely stand out in overtime, though.
Earl Thomas- ever omnipresent in the backfield, worked overtime in forcing an interception on Carson Palmer (wiped out by a holding penalty on Richard Sherman), and almost intercepting another one that he could have returned for a pick six barely dropping in front of him. He came screaming from the opposite side of the field to push David Johnson out of bounds at the Seattle 1 yard line, preventing a sure touchdown. It was a thing of absolute beauty, and further demonstrated that Thomas is en route to have one of the most highlight reel heavy stints of his career.
Does anyone remember week 1 of last season, when Deon Bailey (in for Kam Chancellor during his holdout) caught a case of turf toe and gave up a last minute TD to allow the St. Louis Rams? Deep in overtime, speedster J.J. Nelson caught a pass over the middle that Richard Sherman couldn’t prevent and tackle, leaving Nelson zipping down the right sideline for 40 yards. It looked to be a repeat knockout punch 12s feared, but McCray gave everything he had to bring him down by a shoestring tackle and prevent the score. Wagner stuffed the ensuing David Johnson attempts at scoring seconds later.
Ultimately, both offenses made Field Goals to tie at 3 before regulation ended, and both offenses kicked field goals in overtime to tie further at 6-6. From there, it got awfully fluky, and both kickers missed what would be the sudden death score. Russell Wilson, who looked like he didn’t have much gas in the tank early in the game, was a surgeon in overtime, moving the offense down the field with chunk gains on drives where it mattered the most. Ultimately, the heat, exhaustion of the players, and possible interference from the football gods left the Sunday night scrimmage tied, a first for the Seahawks in franchise history and the first tie for the NFL since 2014. Tying in Arizona means that Seattle (who could open up the division by 2.5 games if they won), maintains a 1.5 game lead, and should they win against Arizona at home on Christmas Eve, would have the toughest tie breaker in their division in favor. The Seahawks remain undefeated in Wolf Grey, and continue to be trouble makers for the Cardinals in the desert.
Pete Carroll said after the game, “Well that was a really amazing football game. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a tie before, and my brain doesn’t know where to go on that… It was an incredible match, and it stayed so close because both defenses stayed in there and gave us a chance.” He would go on further to say that “Many times, right before the half, and after the half, there were many chances where we could have let up and given them a chance to bust out a win, and our guys just wouldn’t do it.”
You could see the exhaustion in his face, and it was evident that with 108 snaps (all of which McCray played between defense and special teams), Wagner (who needed an IV), K.J. Wright and many more players were thoroughly worn out. Richard Sherman needed help after the game, and acknowledged that the missed tackle was his own body betraying him. It was a brutal game indeed.
Next, the ‘Hawks travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints, in what is already being dubbed as the “Jimmy Graham Revenge Game”. The ‘Hawks will be without Chancellor again, and also Michael Bennett. While it appears that this game might be headed for a shootout, Seattle is making a strong case for being the #1 scoring defense for the fifth year in a row (which would be a new NFL record). They need to apply pressure to Brees and prevent Brandin Cooks from marching all over them. Game time is 10am PT, Sunday.