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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

November 24, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Seahawks vs. Cardinals: National media raving about Seattle defense, look ahead to 49ers

Michael Bennett pats Seahawks teammate Earl Thomas on the head after Thomas broke up a pass early in Sunday's win over Arizona.  Dean Rutz / Seattle Times staff

Michael Bennett pats Seahawks teammate Earl Thomas on the head after Thomas broke up a pass early against Arizona.
Dean Rutz / Seattle Times staff

The Seahawks’ defense saved its best performance of the season for when Seattle needed it most. The national media heaped praise on the defensive effort, but stopped short of saying Seattle’s back in the NFC West playoff race.

That will have to wait for the showdown with the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara on Thanksgiving night.

But just as in the game, Seattle’s defense was the focus of coverage from national media and major newspapers after the Seahawks’ 19-3 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field. Here’s a roundup of what was written after Sunday’s game.

“MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: ODELL OF A CATCH”

By Peter King, SI.com

I feel for San Francisco and Seattle on Thursday. And for the other four short-week teams playing on Thanksgiving. But particularly the Niners and Seahawks. Both were involved in very physical games Sunday, San Francisco against Washington and Seattle against tough-as-nails Arizona. Russell Wilson and the Seattle skill players were bruised and battered by the Cardinals’ defense. I can’t imagine how they’re going to prepare, and feel close to normal, for such a playoff-significant game by late Thursday afternoon in Santa Clara. …

Offensive Players of the Week

Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle. The only prediction I am very sure of this morning: Wilson will wake up very, very sore. He threw 22 passes, ran 10 times and was sacked by the Cardinals seven times. Of those 39 ball-handling opportunities, I would bet Wilson was hit hard or tackled 25 times. But he kept coming, and his play didn’t fall off. He was 17 of 22 for 211 yards with one touchdown and no picks (121.6 rating), ran it 10 times for 73 yards and led five scoring drives. The drives I found most impressive: Wilson bled the clock with a 19-3 lead (the final score) for the final 6:53 on an efficient 11-play drive to end the game. When his team needed him most, in a game Seattle had to have, Wilson fought the best team in the division and won. …

Defensive Players of the Week

Calais Campbell, defensive end, Arizona. In a losing cause, the Cardinals’ pass-rush did its part to bury Russell Wilson, sacking him seven times and hitting him significantly eight more times behind the line. Campbell, one of the best 3-4 ends in the game, was all over Wilson, sacking him three times. As long as the Cardinals get Campbell’s power-rushing—and get pressure from a solid group of versatile safeties—they’ll be a very tough out in January. …

Coach of the Week

Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator, Seattle. Arizona came in 9-1, not the smoothest machinery on offense with backup quarterback Drew Stanton handed the job for the rest of the year. But the Cards had scored 24 or more points in six of 10 games, so they were capable. Then they faced the multiple Seattle fronts, and they managed just one field goal drive (and one drive of more than 55 yards) out of 10 on the day. Seattle 19, Arizona 3, and Quinn improved his chances to be a head-coaching candidate with his defense holding Arizona to 204 yards. …

“LEGION OF BOOM RETURNS TO FORM AS SEAHAWKS TOPPLE CARDINALS”

By Doug Farrar, SI.com

Carroll said after the game that it was his team’s best defensive performance of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, really — the Seahawks have a Thanksgiving night game down in San Francisco, and the brutal divisional battles keep coming. In 2013, this team was able to retain its status as the toughest kid on the block from start to finish. It hasn’t been the case this time around, but as the cliché goes, it’s not how you start … and if the Seahawks can remember how to finish, they just might find themselves back on top of the NFC West. Arizona still has the lead from a win-loss perspective, but if Seattle is able to sweep the series when they go down to Arizona for that Dec. 21 rematch, things could get really interesting.

“We’ve had some good games and stuff, but this was the best one,” Carroll concluded. “It comes at a good time. We have to turn this thing around in a hurry, and hopefully we can put together another quick week and continue to move in that same direction.”

There have been times this season when the Seahawks looked like anything but champions. But in this game, against this team, they put everything together and made the kind of statement that could be heard more than once in the next couple of months.

“SEAHAWKS ALIVE IN NFC WEST AFTER SHUTTING DOWN CARDINALS”

By Frank Schwab, Yahoo.com

The Cardinals play at Atlanta next week, and since the Falcons are incapable of winning a game outside their division, Arizona should win there. The Cardinals’ four December games won’t be so easy: vs. Kansas City, at St. Louis on a Thursday night, vs. Seattle, at San Francisco.

That’s what gives the Seahawks hope. Their schedule isn’t easy either (at San Francisco on Thanksgiving, at Philadelphia, vs. San Francisco, at Arizona, vs. St. Louis) but at least they have a shot now. If the Cardinals and their backup quarterback drop a game or two before they go to Arizona on Dec. 21, there’s hope at winning the division and hosting a playoff game, and they’re very tough to beat in Seattle. Also, the 49ers are having the same feelings of being alive in the NFC West. San Francisco won on Sunday to improve to 7-4, same as the Seahawks.

So is the NFC West race on? The Cardinals aren’t likely to think so just because of one bad game. But the Seahawks are still alive after Sunday. The champs aren’t dead yet.

“LAST CALL, WEEK 12: SORTING OUT AFC RACE

By John Clayton

With a three-game lead in the NFC West entering the day, the Arizona Cardinals could have all but clinched the division had they beaten the Seattle Seahawks. Though it was no surprise the Seahawks won 19-3 at home, the Cardinals have to be concerned about how they looked with Drew Stanton at quarterback.

According to Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, the Seahawks lined up in basic man coverages most of the day and limited what the Cardinals did passing.

“We lined up in more man than I can remember in a while,” Wright said. “It was a real simple approach.”

Stanton completed only 14 of 26 passes for 149 yards and was sacked three times. The Cardinals gained only 204 yards total. At 9-2, the Cardinals are still in a good position to win the division. If they can get to 11 wins, the Cards could get at least a No. 2 seed.

What the Seahawks learned from this victory is that their defense matches up well against what the Cardinals have offensively the rest of the season. The Cardinals don’t have a power running attack, which gave the Seahawks trouble last week in Kansas City. The Seahawks diagnosed the outside running plays and screens involving Andre Ellington. For the game, the Cardinals had only 64 yards rushing, 41 by backs.

Cornerback Richard Sherman said the reason for the strong defensive effort was the Seahawks’ improved health, particularly the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. This sets up for a great Thanksgiving game between Seattle and the San Francisco 49ers.

“BOBBY WAGNER, KAM CHANCELLOR SPARK SEAHAWKS’ DEFENSE”

By Terry Blount, ESPN.com

The heart and soul of the Seattle Seahawks‘ defense was back Sunday, with two star players who were healthy for the first time in a long time.

The heart: Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who played for the first time in six weeks after a turf-toe injury. The soul: Strong safety Kam Chancellor, playing full speed and without pain for the first time this season.

The result was a defense that got its swagger back and shut down the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals in a 19-3 victory at CenturyLink Field.

“WITHOUT LARRY FITZGERALD, LAST MAN UP DOESN’T PRODUCE A WIN”

By Josh Weinfuss, ESPN.com

For 10 games, it has been more than a motto, more than a slogan, more than coachspeak.

Arizona’s next-man-up mentality was as tangible as it could get.
When one player went down, another stepped in, took his place and kept the Cardinals’ engine purring to a league-best 9-1 record.

Until Sunday.

When wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was ruled inactive at Seattle 90 minutes before kickoff, the baton was handed to the latest in a long line of next men up. This time that honor was bestowed upon Jaron Brown, who entered Sunday with nine catches for 76 yards. He showed no matter how good a team has become, enough injuries can pile up until it hits a limit.

“SEAHAWKS POUND CARDINALS TO STAY ALIVE IN NFC WEST”

By Marc Sessler, NFL.com

Seattle (7-4) turned in a defensive masterpiece to save its season and gain ground inside the division. Holding Arizona (9-2) to just 117 first-half yards, the Legion of Boom shut down passing lanes and kept Arizona to three of 12 on third down. Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton was held to just 86 yards with a pick over the first 44 minutes of play and visibly missed Larry Fitzgerald.

“THIRTY-SEVEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW FROM WEEK 12”

By NFL.com staff

The Arizona Cardinals finally hit a bump in the road on Sunday, dropping a 19-3 decision to the Seattle Seahawks at The Clink.

There’s no shame in losing to a good team on the road, much less to a team that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in February. But Bruce Arians is going to have to fight hard to keep doubt from creeping into the Cardinals‘ locker room.

At 9-2, Arizona remains in great position to pull off its upset win of the NFC West. But Seattle and San Francisco — the two recognized superpowers of the division (and conference) — are not too far in the rear-view. Both teams sit at 7-4, and the schedule tells us the Cardinals are going to have to earn this thing.

Let’s give the schedule-makers a hand. The last three weeks of the regular season will offer up three division battles for each team. The Cardinals will travel to St. Louis in Week 15 before closing with home dates against the Seahawks and 49ers.

Where we stand, nothing is decided.

“SEATTLE SEAHAWKS DOMINATE AS ARIZONA CARDINALS DO LITTLE RIGH”

By Kent Somers, Arizona Republic/AZCentral.com

The Cardinals won 9 of their first 10 games by playing efficient, clean football and allowing opponents to foul the air with pollutants such as turnovers, mental mistakes and sloppy fundamentals.

But at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, the Cardinals were the ones emitting noxious fumes. A dropped touchdown pass. Poor punts. A blocked punt. Missed blocks. Shoddy tackling.

It wasn’t even close to the quality of play it was going to take to beat the Seahawks, a desperate defending champion at home. If anything, the Cardinals were lucky the score wasn’t worse than 19-3.

“ARIZONA CARDINALS QUARTEBACK DREW STANTON MUST GET BETTER AND FAST”

By Dan Bickley, Arizona Republic/AZCentral.com

After a brutal performance at CenturyLink Field, the Cardinals said all the right things. Everyone took responsibility. Everyone vowed to get better. They are fortunate they can absorb a bad loss and still retain the best record in the NFC.

But this team can’t endure without an effective quarterback, and here’s the ugly truth: The offense can’t run the football, and Andre Ellington’s longest run on Sunday was seven yards. They haven’t scored a touchdown since the first two drives against Detroit. Head coach Bruce Arians should seize the moment and insert Jonathan Cooper into the starting lineup.

“NFL GRADES, WEEK 12: BROWNS LIVING DANGEROUSLY WITH BRIAN HOYER LIVING DANGEROUSLY”

By John Breech, CBSports.com

In a game the Seahawks couldn’t afford to lose, Seattle came out and punched Arizona in the mouth. The Seahawks held the Cardinals to their lowest point total (3) and yards (204) total of the season. Russell Wilson was also brilliant, despite being sacked seven times and constantly pressured. Wilson led the team in rushing (73 yards) and also tacked on 211 passing yards and a touchdown through the air.

“MONDAY MUSINGS: SEAHAWKS, COLTS, EAGLES DISPLAY OL WOES IN WEEK 12”

By Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com

As we were sitting in our green room watching all the early games Sunday at our CBSSports.com offices, the thing that stood out to me was how poor some of the offensive lines are in this league.

It carried over to the late games as well. Sacks might have been down early this season, but the defenses are doing their best to make up for it now.

There were five games Sunday where one team had five or more sacks and there were three games that had a combined eight or more sacks.

It seemed every time I was looking up at a different game Sunday, a quarterback was taking a shot, or doing his best to avoid one.

There were nine sacks in the ColtsJaguars game, five of those by the Jaguars on Andrew Luck in the first half. Were it not for his ability to move, there would have been even more.

The Bears had five sacks against the Buccaneers. The same for the Eagles against the Titans and the 49ers against the Redskins.

The worst performance of the day goes to the Seahawks line, which saw Russell Wilson get sacked seven times by the Cardinals, including five in the first half. Wilson is a mobile quarterback who can move, and in this game he needed it in the worst way. He took a ton of shots, yet ran away from even more.

It’s amazing to me how bad some of the lines are in this league right now. In some instances, like Seattle playing without starting center Max Unger, injuries are a factor. But there are a lot of other issues.

“NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE: THE CARDINALS ON TOP BUT PLAYOFF SPOT NOT A LOCK JUST YET”

By Steven Ruiz, USA Today

The Cardinals started 9-1 and are still not assured of a playoff spot. Such is life in the rugged NFC West.

Arizona has the fifth toughest schedule in the conference and has to play it out without its starting QB. A trip to San Francisco and another game against the Seahawks remain on the schedule. The Cardinals lead in the West is down to two games, and a wild card spot could take 11 wins this year. The Lions currently hold the sixth and final spot in the playoffs and have a cakewalk of a schedule ahead of them. The Cowboys are fifth in the NFC and play three games against bottom-feeding teams.

“NFL HOT READS: COWBOYS, EAGLES SET UP THANKSGIVING SHOWDOWN”

By Tom Pelissero, USA Today

Sunday might have been the season for the defending champion Seahawks, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone they came to play, at least on defense. The Cardinals managed a season-low 204 net yards, reaffirming the challenge they have ahead to score with QB Drew Stanton, who’s completing all of 53.8% of his passes. Meanwhile, the 49ers also scuffled offensively in a 17-13 win over the Redskins. The top of that division has gotten back to its roots — letting dominant “D” cover up for suspect offense — at a time Arizona’s lead has shortened to two games with five to go. There still are opportunities to play catchup, with the last two games on the Cardinals’ schedule against the Seahawks and 49ers, who meet at San Francisco on Thanksgiving night.

Arizona is still in a good spot, but January football is not a foregone conclusion just yet.

“SEAHAWKS STEP UP TO NOW-OR-NEVER MOMENT VS. CARDINALS”

By Jim Corbett, USA Today

Pete Carroll sent the right message of win-or-else urgency Wednesday during what linebacker Bruce Irvin called a “heart-to-heart team meeting,” exhorting his defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks to recapture their missing defensive swagger.

No better time for the tenacious, ball-hawking Seahawks to resurface with their most complete 2014 defensive performance than in Sunday’s 19-3 rout of the 9-2 Arizona Cardinals. Coach Bruce Arians’ NFC West-leading Cardinals entered CenturyLink Field leading the 7-4 Seahawks by three games.

Then, the Seahawks of last postseason resurfaced in answering Carroll’s call for an inspired last stand with their season teetering on the brink.

“Pete just told us, ‘That it’s make-or-break, playoff time, basically,” Irvin told USA TODAY Sports. “We had a heart-to-heart as a team. Guys did a great job of re-focusing and just buying in and flying around.”

“WEEK 12 CHECKDOWN: BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FOR EACH NFL TEAM”

By Vinnie Iyer, Sportingnews.com

Cardinals: It’s time to really worry about this offense. Drew Stanton is doing his best to manage Bruce Arians’ downfield attack, but it’s difficult when Andre Ellington can’t do anything in the running game and a receiver of Michael Floyd’s caliber disappears in a game that Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t play.  The rushing attack is a snowballing problem, and so are Floyd’s “all or nothing” stats.  Other than next week’s game at Atlanta, the defenses don’t get easier (Chiefs, Rams, Seahawks, 49ers).

Seahawks: Byron Maxwell and Bobby Wagner are huge, healthy boons to their defense. Maxwell has missed time with a bad calf, but he looked good opposite Richard Sherman again with a key INT. Wagner had been sitting with toe woes, but he was at full speed flying around against the run at middle linebacker. It wasn’t a coincidence they dominated time with Wagner’s return after missing five games.

“MIKE TANIER’S MONDAY MORNING HANGOVER: JOSH GORDON AND LATE-SEASON SPARKPLUGS”

By Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report

Seattle Seahawks games are becoming unbearably ugly to watch. At least one touchdown per game is negated by a penalty, and there are not many touchdowns to begin with.

Russell Wilson scrambles and options are about the only offensive highlights, making Seattle games look like Pop Warner games where the coach’s kid is the only player who is any good. All of those Wilson heroics typically hide a dark secret: The Seahawks offensive line is horrendous.

Wilson endured seven sacks in Seattle’s 19-3 win against the depleted Arizona Cardinals, and most of the Seahawks’ productive offensive plays included some form of scrambling or quarterback desperation.

Lewis, the center filling in for Max Unger, looked decent, though I did not do any focused scouting on him (Broncos-Dolphins was far more entertaining). Bailey, now starting at left guard, got beaten repeatedly.

Russell Okung, the Pro Bowl left tackle who has not looked like a Pro Bowler very often this year, also made some mistakes, but it is sometimes hard to tell how much blame to assign to a lineman whose next-door neighbor is screwing up so badly.

At this rate, Wilson will not survive Thanksgiving against the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks have to fix this line problem so they can start worrying about other issues, such as their complete lack of downfield playmakers, and figure out how to claw their way back into serious contention.

“NFC PLAYOFFS COULD SEE 5-11 TEAM IN, 12-4 TEAM OUT”

By Michael David Smith, Profootballtalk.com

Here’s how bad the NFC South is, and how good the NFC wild card race is: There are scenarios in which a 5-11 team is in the playoffs as NFC South champion, and a 12-4 team is left out of the playoffs entirely.

We noted last week that it’s entirely possible that a five-win team could win the NFC South. That scenario only became more plausible on Sunday, when both NFC South teams in action lost.

And with four of the NFC’s worst teams concentrated in one division, that means there are more good teams in the other divisions than there are playoff spots available. There are seven NFC teams — the Cardinals, Packers, Eagles, Cowboys, Seahawks, Lions and 49ers — that could still win 12 games, and there are plausible scenarios in which six of those seven actually reach the 12-win mark. (All seven can’t do it because the Seahawks and 49ers, who still play each other twice, can’t both get to 12 wins.) Only five of those seven teams with hopes of getting to 12 wins can make the playoffs because at least one of the six NFC playoff spots has to go to the NFC South champion.

“NFL WEEK, 12: TOM BRADY AND PATRIOTS PLAYING LIKE A HOUSE AFIRE”

By Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times

The Seahawks bounced back from a defeat at Kansas City with a commanding 19-3 victory over Arizona, playing the kind of  defense that won them a Lombardi Trophy in February. The win put to rest, at least temporarily, the notion the Seahawks are beginning to unravel.

“WILSON, SEAHAWKS’ D  LEAD SEATTLE OVER ARIZONA, 19-3”

By Tim Booth, The Associated Press

After 10 games, the defending champions needed to ask the difficult questions of each other. Most of all, whether the Seattle Seahawks were willing to put aside egos and get back in the NFC West race.

Led by a stingy Seattle defense reminiscent of a season ago and some more playmaking by Russell Wilson, the Seahawks handed the Arizona Cardinals their second loss of the season, 19-3 on Sunday.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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