Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
With eleven minutes and five seconds left in the third quarter of their game with the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night the Seattle Seahawks had the ball with a third down and three yards to go on their own 45 yard line. The Cardinals had held the Seahawks for a three and out on their opening possession of the second half and, after the punt, had driven into Hawk territory and kicked a field goal to cut Seattle’s lead to 17 to 13. Momentum in the game appeared to be turning toward the Cardinals. Their ferocious pass rush, aided by the missed blocks of the make-shift Seahawks offensive line, was getting to Russell Wilson. When they did not sack him outright they were pressuring him and knocking him down. If Wilson could not goad his team into making this first down the Hawks would need to punt again, giving the Cardinals the ball with a shot at a go-ahead score. The game was approaching a turning point. It’s moments like this that are coming to define Russell Wilson.
From the shotgun Wilson took the center snap and was immediately, again, under heavy pressure from Cardinal line backer Daryl Washington. With Washington in hot pursuit Wilson fled to his left while trying to locate a receiver. Seeing his quarterback in trouble, tight end Zach Miller was hustling through his route, crossing from the right side of the field to the left about six yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Wilson spied him about the time that Washington hit the Seattle QB from behind and started to drag him to the turf. As Wilson was going down, his body parallel to and only inches from the ground, he somehow managed to shove the ball toward Miller and got enough on it to get it to him. Miller dove to the ground and gently cradled the ball in his arms. The Seahawks had their first down and subsequently drove the rest of the field for what turned out be the game clinching touchdown in a 34-22 victory
The play typified the brilliance of Russell Wilson. More often than not, when the game is on the line and a play needs to be made, he is equal to the task.
There were other remarkable Wilson plays in this game. In the first quarter he escaped pressure and rolling to his right while fading backwards he threw a fifty yard strike to Sydney Rice in the end zone for Seattle’s first touchdown. Now, I have been watching football and great quarterback play my whole life and I can tell you that the throw Wilson made on that play cannot be done. Yet he did it, and the Seahawks had their first score.
Later in the game he hit Rice again. From his own forty-nine and under heavy pressure, Wilson escaped to his right, retreated to his own thirty-five and while running full speed laterally fired a pass at a low trajectory thirty yards down field. As I was watching on TV I, and no doubt thousands of other fans, thought for sure he was throwing the ball away. Instead Rice caught the ball while falling to the field just inches, if that, from the ground. It looked so impossible that the refs ruled the pass incomplete and it required a Pete Carroll challenge flag and referee review to confirm the catch had been made. In another instance, early in the second quarter on the Hawks’ second touchdown drive, Wilson hit Zach Miller with a perfectly placed ball just over the Cardinals defensive players and right before Miller went out the back of the end zone.
For the game Wilson completed 18 passes in 29 attempts for 235 yards and 3 TDs and for the second week in a row, despite the heavy pressure, he threw no interceptions. He also led the team to significant improvement in third down efficiency, which had been a trouble spot, converting seven of twelve chances. The only downside of Wilson’s game can’t really be described as his fault completely and more reflects the team’s offensive line problems. While being hit and/or sacked during passing attempts Wilson fumbled the ball three times with the Cardinals recovering two which led to short fields and 10 of their 22 points.
Understanding that, you can appreciate how great the Seahawk defense was in this game. Take away the points handed to them by the Hawk offense and the Seahawks held the Cardinals to twelve points. In my preview of this game two days ago in this blog  I made certain predictions. I foretold a 7 to 10 point Hawk victory which turned out to be twelve. I also predicted that Cardinal quarterback Carson Palmer would be intercepted multiple times and that a pick six would be included. The Hawks made me look wise by picking Palmer twice and, but for Brandon Browner tripping over a phantom blade of grass as he was heading in to the end zone, would have had that pick six. With ten minutes left in the fourth quarter they had held the Cardinals to 130 yards in TOTAL offense and something like 25 yards rushing. They also sacked Palmer seven times while pressuring him constantly. While Pete Carroll did not allow Richard Sherman to cover Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald on every play, the Seahawks coverage of the Cardinals great was suffocating, limiting him to two catches for a paltry 17 yards. The Seahawk defensive domination of the Cardinals was total and in actuality far exceeded what you would expect from the final score.
Lest we think that there is little room for improvement with this Seattle team we should all realize that as good as the Seahawks played in this game, it is obvious that their offensive line really needs some work. At times it seemed as if they were moving in slow motion while the Cardinals defensive line and linebackers were going at hyper speed. The veteran Cardinal linebacker John Abraham absolutely schooled Seattle rookie right tackle Michael Bowie on several occasions and the Hawks’ linemen really had trouble picking up the Arizona blitz schemes. A less mobile quarterback than Wilson would have been killed. The offensive line simply must be improved if Seattle is to make a serious Super Bowl run and I expect them to do it with their injured linemen  returning soon. Meantime, if nothing else, some of the Seahawks young linemen are getting some valuable experience which could pay off down the line, if Russell Wilson is not annihilated first.
With the Arizona victory in the books, week 7 of this Seahawks NFL season comes to a close with the team in first place in the NFC West at 6-1 and at least tied for the best record in the conference. In ten days Seattle will be in St. Louis for a Monday night, nationally televised game against the Rams. It is another road game and another NFC West clash as well and is a game that the Hawks need to win to hold their lead in the division and maintain the possibility of home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Between now and then Pete Carroll and crew need to do all they can to address that offensive line. Russell Wilson scrambles are certainly exciting and we love watching them, but it is not necessarily the best way of ensuring the quarterback’s health. Don’t get me wrong, it takes a TEAM to win and the Seahawks certainly have other great players. (Marshawn Lynch, for example, whose “beast mode” skills were on full display during this Cardinal game as he rushed for 91 yards and 1 TD) But this year the Hawks will go as far as Wilson takes them, and to do that he has to stay upright and healthy.
It would also help if the 49ers lost another game or two.
I will have more for you when I do my preview of the Ram’s game a week or so from now.
Copyright © 2013
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved
 Please see “Hawks vs. Cardinals Preview: A Short Week to Get Ready,” earlier in this blog site.
 Seahawks right tackle Breno Giacomini and left tackle Russell Okung are both out with injuries. Giacomini is two to three weeks from returning and Okung a bit longer