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 →
For the Seattle Seahawks, what a difference 5 days makes! Last Sunday they took on the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals at “The Clink” in a game that meant everything. At kickoff the Hawks were 3 games behind the 9-1 Cardinals in the conference with six games left to play. A loss would likely strike a fatal blow to Seattle’s ebbing chances at repeating as Super Bowl champs. Pete Carroll’s crew made sure that did not happen. Across the next three and a half hours Seattle throttled Arizona with a defensive performance that ranked with the best of any from last year’s Super Bowl run; and Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the offense made just enough plays to take an impressive win by a score of 19-3. In the process they demonstrated that, despite their lofty record, the Cardinals are vulnerable. The Seahawks defense stifled any Cardinals running attack, holding them to a paltry 64 yards for the game and a 3.4 yards per carry average. Simultaneously they turned up the heat on Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton, harassing him continuously while sacking him 3 times and forcing an interception.
For their part, the Arizona defense was tough and their pass rush was brutal, sacking Wilson 7 times. You can see that a big part of the Cardinals 9 wins going into this game is that defense (defensive end Calais Campbell is a monster, recording 3 sacks of Wilson all by himself); but despite the pressure, the Hawks QB never flinched. He completed 17-22 passes for 211 yards, a touchdown and no picks; and as the game went on he took increasing control, escaping the pocket and breaking off run after run to dismay the Cardinals. Overall the Hawks outgained Arizona by nearly one hundred yards and held them to 204 yards in total offense, while controlling the ball for nearly 36 minutes (to Arizona’s 24). Clearly, Seattle’s defense was dominating. Their performance highlighted the Cardinals offensive weaknesses, which centered on the lack of a running game and Stanton’s inconsistent quarterback play. Expect Seattle to take full advantage of these when the teams meet again in Phoenix on December 21st.
To make that contest the important game that it needs to be for Seattle to have a shot at repeating last year’s Super Bowl run, on Thanksgiving, just 4 days later, the Hawks had no choice but to go into that brand new $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium and best the San Francisco 49ers. Going into this game both teams sat in 2nd place in the NFC West with identical 7-4 records, 2 games back of the now 9-2 Cardinals. The winner of this game would get a big boost towards the post season—while the loser would be in serious trouble.
I will confess that I was worried about this game. In last week’s blog, written a couple days before the Cardinals game (please see “For Seahawks Its ‘Put Up or Shut up’—Next Two Games Will Define Their Season” in this blog site), I pointed out that these 2 games against their NFC West rivals would make or break Seattle’s season, and they had to win both. With the Cardinals win now in the bag, it would all be wasted if the Hawks lost to San Francisco. I know the 49ers have had some troubles this year, but based on what I last saw of them, that epic struggle last January in the NFC Championship game, I expected we would get their best shot—and that with all those great 9ers players that shot would be formidable.
So what did the Seahawks do? They went down to Santa Clara and did the exact same thing to the 49ers that they did to Arizona—only worse. They completely shut down San Fran’s running game, holding them to 64 yards rushing while forcing Colin Kaepernik into an even worse performance than the Cardinals Drew Stanton. In the face of Seattle’s defense Kaepernik looked dumfounded. Twice he threw passes right to the Legion of Boom’s Richard Sherman, who did not drop them, giving him 2 interceptions for the game. (Sherman did drop another ball right in his hands, but that one was not right to him, which was an improvement for Kaepernik) For the game the San Francisco quarterback completed only 16-29 throws for a microscopic 121 yards!
That’s right! The 49ers gained only 121 yards passing all night—a miniscule 4 yards per attempt. On top of that the Hawks pass rushers, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennet, Bruce Irvin et al, sacked Kaepernik 4 times and completely shut off his escape lanes. My fears of him scampering gazelle-like all over the field, like he did in the NFC Championship game last January, diminished as the game went on and as I saw the domination the Hawks were inflicting. With middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and strong safety Kam Chancellor both recovered from injuries and wreaking their wonted havoc; and with free safety Earl Thomas roaming the field in search of receivers and ball carriers like a heat seeking missile, in addition to Richard Sherman’s stellar play, another brilliant game by Russell Wilson and another 100 yard rushing performance by Marshawn Lynch, the 49ers had no chance. By game’s end the score board was identical to the Cardinals tilt 4 days earlier—another 19-3 victory for Seattle. Within slightly more than 96 hours across 5 days, while not surrendering even one touchdown, the Seahawks have defeated both of their arch NFC West rivals by a combined score of 38-6!
No pundit anywhere predicted that.
In the process the Super Bowl champs have established themselves as the best defense in the NFL. These last 5 days they have completely re-vitalized their shot at a repeat of their 2013 championship performance and, in short, they have re-defined their season.
Percy Harvin seems a long time ago now.
I have a feeling these next 4 weeks will be a lot of fun.
Copyright © 2014
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved