In what could only be described as a hair-raising and hair-splitting game, the Arizona Cardinals put up 19 unanswered points on the Seahawks at Century Link field. Seattle would claw its way back into this contest, with a pair of offensive scores by Will Tukuafu, and Doug Baldwin, and a defensive touchdown by Bobby Wagner off of a Carson Palmer fumble in the 4th quarter. Ultimately, a pair of missed two point conversions by Seahawks and a late pair of offensive touchdowns by the Cardinals made a 7 point lead too much for the ‘Hawks to overcome.
Offensively, it seemed to be an ugly night for Seattle, capped by a few shimmering moments. Russell Wilson ended the night going 14/32, for 240 yards, with a 1/1 TD/INT. Marshawn Lynch rumbled for a touchdown in the 4th quarter, Tukuafu scored on a play supplanted by some Marshawn Lynch blocks, and the lone TD through the air came from a 32 yard Wilson to Doug Baldwin connection. Baldwin was the offensive star of the night, racking up 134 yards (from 10 targets) and a score on 7 receptions. Paul Richardson came in and snagged a deep pass of 40 yards from Wilson, but sustained a hamstring injury and would not return to the game. The offense would only gain 21:00 for time of possession, leaving the Seattle defense on the field for almost 39:00. A safety involving Wilson (running into his own player) in the early part of the 2nd quarter didn’t help the ‘Hawks woes. Tyler Lockett notched 104 return yards on the evening, but it was overshadowed by his drop on a punt reception. Jimmy Graham’s three drops in the night didn’t help alleviate the issues.
Defensively, the ‘Hawks showed intense moments of prowess, like Earl Thomas III’s goal line interception of Carson Palmer in the 1st quarter, and a Carson Palmer fumble, recovered by Bobby Wagner for a TD in the 4th quarter. While the defense held Arizona to 118 rushing yards on the night, 48 of those yards came off of a draw play by the Cardinals, where Andre Ellington displayed some fleet feet and burned the secondary for a score. They also demonstrated a number of head scratching moments, giving up 243 yards in the air to Larry Fitzgerald and Malcolm Floyd. This after allowing only 184 yards/game up until week 9. Richard Sherman had plenty of opportunities to shut down the Cardinals top receivers, and was peppered with Carson Palmer targets incessantly. One such target went to Michael Floyd, over his head for a TD. He would only defense one pass on the evening, same as Cary Williams, Bruce Irvin. Speaking of Irvin, he would suffer a sprained MCL, exiting the game and not returning. Kam Chancellor had the most tackles in this contest, with 17 (12 assists and 5 solo), and Bobby Wagner, Cary Williams and K.J. Wright fell in right behind the leader while racking up plenty of tackles, but noticeably absent from some of the bigger plays that evening.
When it came to making marquee plays, the defensive (and offensive) results were mixed. Carson Palmer seemed to get more and more comfortable as the game went on, stepping up in the pocket and even when he got sacked by Ahtyba Rubin, he simply lofted a 27 yard pass to Michael Floyd (his first of two scores in the game) in the end zone on his very next pass. The real difference in understanding why Seattle lost its 5th consecutive 4th quarter lead has to be attributed in part to penalties, as Seattle racked up 14 separate penalties, for 131 yards, DOUBLE what the Cardinals notched on the night (9 penalties, 66 yards). It seemed that almost all of the big plays were immediately followed by a penalty flag. Seattle continued to struggle with tight ends, with Arizona managing almost 50 yards off of 5 targets (and 1 TD) with their tight end pair.
Of more frustration, just about every big play on the evening was reviewed, contested, and the results were mixed, with some key calls being upheld, and some grievous fouls. The Seahawks are now three games behind the division leading Cardinals, and the stage has been set for a week 16 showdown between the two teams in Arizona. The referees still don’t seem to understand what a ‘catch’ is, overturning a potential Jimmy Graham TD. On another call, a pass from Palmer to his tight end, the tight end caught the ball and turned up field, before being tackled and fumbling the ball. Earl Thomas III scooped it up, and returned it, but the officials called it an incomplete pass, which was stupefying. As if this wasn’t bad enough, an earlier strip of Carson Palmer (forced by Cliff Avril, and subsequent recovery by KJ Wright, 1 of 2 strip sacks Wright would have on the evening), was called down by contact at the 2 yard line. It was clear that there was some type of contact, and Seattle capitalized on this opportunity the very next drive.
After the game, head coach Pete Carroll said: “We didn’t play that game the way we wanted to play it, obviously because of all of the penalties that put us behind. There must have been five 1st and 20’s. That’s really difficult when you do it to yourselves.”
Up next, the ‘Hawks welcome the Blaine Gabbert led San Francisco 49ers to Century Link, a game where Seattle is favored by double digits. At this point in the season, Seattle has to notch as many victories as possible, and play for a wildcard spot. This is seemingly unfamiliar territory, but the timing is ripe for a trademark Seattle string of wins. GO ‘HAWKS!