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 →
I hate to say it Hawks fans, but it’s true. It may have taken nearly two NFL football seasons to prove it, but the Seattle Seahawks are mortal on their home field. Today at “The Clink”, when Seattle had everything to play for, an NFC West title, a first round playoff bye AND home field advantage through the playoffs, they were beaten by the Arizona Cardinals 17-10. It was a tough, hard-fought game, but why Seattle lost is no mystery. The Cardinals came to Seattle and did to the Seahawks what the Seahawks have been doing all season, and that is win with stifling defense. The simple truth is that the Arizona defense dominated the Seattle offense and completely shut down Russell Wilson. That Seattle was in this game and even had the lead 10-9 midway through the 4th quarter is a testament to the play of their own great defense. They held Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer to 178 yards passing and intercepted him 4 times (you heard me right, I said 4 picks!). Ordinarily when you intercept a quarterback like that those turnovers lead to scores for your team and a win.
Not so today.
A series of plays that occurred right before the half illustrate why Seattle lost this game. With just under a minute to go in the half the Cardinals had the ball with a 3rd and 6 on their own 30 yard line and the score tied 3-3. From the shotgun formation Carson Palmer took the snap and looked to pass. With blitzing Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane bearing down on him, Palmer tried to hit a Cardinal receiver on a crossing route over the middle. The pass was tipped by Seattle’s Chris Clemons and the ball fluttered up into the air. When it came down it was right into the arms of Hawks linebacker Malcom Smith who returned it all the way to the Cardinals 4 yard line. With a first and goal at the 4 and 45 seconds left in the 2nd quarter we Hawks fans had visions of going into the half with a 10-3 lead as well as receiving the opening kickoff of the second half. It had been a tough first half but now things were looking good.
The first Hawks play from the 4 was a Marshawn Lynch run to the 1 yard line, which was followed by a timeout. The second play was another Lynch run that was stopped for no gain, followed by another time out. It was now 3rd and goal from the 1 yard line. After conferring with the coaches Wilson next tried a play action pass to the end zone that fell incomplete. OK…Hawks place kicker Steven Hauschka, who had made something like 30 of 31 field goal attempts this season, will come in for the field goal and we will still have a 6-3 lead at the half, right? I mean, come on….the line of scrimmage is the 1 yard line for God sakes! So what happens? The ball is snapped and Hauschka kicks it through…but wait a minute, the Hawks are called for a “snap infraction” because their center moved the ball deceptively while it was on the ground prior to the snap. It’s a five yard penalty and they have to kick again. At this point, knowing that Hauschka is just as automatic from the 6 yard line as he is from the 1 yard line, I went to the kitchen to get something to eat. I came back to the TV just in time to see the replays of the Hauschka’s kick clanking resoundingly off the left goal post. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…after all that the score was still 3-3.
Embodied in that minute long sequence just before halftime was everything that was right about the Seahawks in this game—and also everything that was wrong; the great defense to get the turnover and the scoring opportunity combined with Seattle’s utter inability to move the ball on the Cardinals defense and the ridiculous little mistakes, and sometimes big mistakes, that resulted in penalties. Not to beat a dead horse, but the stats in this game tell the tale. The Cardinals won the time of possession battle 37 minutes to 23. They had more first downs (16-10), more yards (300 plus to just over 200 for Seattle) and they held Russell Wilson to a paltry 108 yards passing and his worst completion percentage of the season (11-27). In addition Seattle was penalized 9 times for over 100 yards and 6 of these resulted in Cardinals first downs (that’s 6!), while the Cardinals gave up 1 first down by penalty.
Seattle’s defense played well enough to win but the offense was completely incapable of sustaining a drive and could not take advantage of the turnovers. The combination of those two, plus the penalties, cost Seattle this game and their shot at wrapping up the NFC West title and winning the aforementioned playoff advantages. The Cardinals were playing for their playoff lives; lose and they are out, and their defense responded and played with the heart of a champion.
And so we move on to week 17 of this NFL season. Though the Seahawks did not play well in this game, if they go on to defeat the St. Louis Rams next week at CenturyLink they will still win the NFC West as well as the playoff bye and the home field through the playoffs. The team’s good work through the earlier part of this season in compiling 12 wins has given them the luxury of being able to lose a few games here at the end of the season, and yet still have this shot. If they beat the Rams and make it through the playoffs to the Super Bowl, this Arizona game will be remembered as not much more than a speed bump on the way to a title. If they lose to the Rams and show poorly in the playoffs, this Cardinals game will be remembered as the turning point of the season; the game in which the Hawks were exposed as pretenders instead of contenders.
What this Seahawks team is trying to do in making it to the Super Bowl and winning it is a hard thing to accomplish. That should be obvious just by looking at the 37 years of futility of this Seattle franchise, during which they have made it to the Big Game once, and never won it. It is a competitive league and it is supposed to be hard. To repeat a famous saying, “If it was easy everyone would do it…It’s the ‘hard’ that makes it great.”
Are the Seahawks capable of being great? I think so, but talk is cheap. How they play next week against the Rams in a true championship opportunity will speak volumes.
We’ll see what happens.
Copyright © 2013
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved