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Take 2

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

December 22, 2014 at 7:50 AM

Updated Seahawks vs. Cardinals media reaction: Look for Seattle to be No. 1 again in NFL power rankings

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson greets fans after defeating the Arizona Cardinals 35-6 Sunday night.  John Lok / Seattle Times staff

Quarterback Russell Wilson greets Seahawks fans after defeating the Arizona Cardinals 35-6 Sunday night in Glendale, Ariz.
John Lok / Seattle Times staff

That explosion you heard was the air going out of the Arizona Cardinals and the Seahawks finally igniting their offense.

In other words, this was a blowout.

The national media and major newspapers showed up for the tight defensive battle nearly everyone predicted, but they saw a dominant performance from Seattle. They heaped superlatives on the Seahawks, and rightfully so.

Some wrote that the Seahawks look as good – and at least one writer said they looked better – than they did during last year’s Super Bowl run.

They also wrote about running back Marshawn Lynch astonishing 79-yard “Beast Quake II” run – and the crotch-grabbing finish that some thought marred it. A few fretted about Steven Hauschka’s three missed field goals. But they also wrote about another virtuoso performance by quarterback Russell Wilson, about tight end Luke Willson’s emergence with two touchdown receptions, including an 80-yarder. And, of course, they wrote about the Seahawks’ dominance on defense.

At least one believes that another Super Bowl run seems inevitable, and another, Peter King of SI.com’s Monday Morning Quarterback, jumped the Seahawks past the New England Patriots in his NFL power rankings.

First, here are links to The Seattle Times’ coverage, then a roundup of what the national media and other major newspapers are writing about Sunday’s game.

“MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: A REPEAT POSSIBILITY?”

By Peter King, SI.com

One year ago today, Arizona, on the outside of the playoffs looking in, went to Seattle and spanked the Seahawks, 17-10. The Seahawks were one of the best teams in the league, but as they walked off CenturyLink Field, a doubt or two had to be creeping in. They were just 3-2 in Weeks 12 through 16, and Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch were playing meh football.

On Sunday night, Arizona, having clinched a playoff spot and now playing for the NFC West title, hosted Seattle. Seahawks 35, Cardinals 6. Seattle is 5-0 over the past five weeks. The Seahawks have outscored teams 114-33 in those five games, and Wilson’s been a maestro and Lynch a battering ram.

The Cardinals, in the span of a month, have lost to Seattle 19-3 and 35-6, and have to be thinking, Where have you gone, Carson Palmer? A Valley turns its lonely eyes to you. Not that Palmer, or some combination of Dan Marino and Steve Young, would matter against the Seahawks right now. This Seattle team is stacked and as healthy as it’s been all season, and, if this weekend taught us anything it’s this: If you want to beat Seattle right now, you’d better bring your A-plus game.

By almost any measure the team that won the Super Bowl by 35 points last season is better this year. There’s almost a bitterness if the defense gives up a play of any yardage. The secondary is a bunch of attack dogs. On offense, Marshawn Lynch runs like he’s trying to hurt somebody on every play. He runs with violent intent. Russell Wilson knows when to take chances, when to live to fight another play. On Sunday night he knew when to throw for 80, when to run for 55. Here’s the thing about Wilson: He’s never going to be a numbers player—or so the impression goes. Well, that depends on the numbers you’re talking about.

Is Tom Brady a numbers player? Peyton Manning? Let’s look at a couple of things. (I promise—we’ll get to the league in a moment.)

Seattle put up 596 yards on a good defense Sunday night. Lynch and Wilson combined to run for 201 yards. The Seahawks are the best team this morning, but it’s a long six weeks until Super Bowl Sunday, back in Arizona. Maybe one of those AFC quarterbacks, or Aaron Rodgers, will be able to solve Seattle’s suffocating D. Maybe the offense will sputter; Seattle did score in the teens in three of its last five wins. But this season is the 10-year anniversary of the league’s last repeat champion—New England—and no one’s been this close, this good, this late in the season since. (The 2011 Packers went 15-1 in the regular season but were defensively flawed down the stretch, giving up 35 and 41 points in two December games before falling out of the playoffs with a loss to the Giants.) It’s going to be fun to watch over the next six weeks.

It’s so hard to measure the relative worth of players when they’re all so good. You’d take Clayton Kershaw over every pitcher now, but if you factor in the postseason, how does Madison Bumgarner compare? Where does Felix Hernandez rate, toiling for a mostly bad team? It’s amazing to see a quarterback hit the ground running the way Wilson has. This wasn’t the first player picked in the draft in 2012. He was the 75th. Manning struggled as a rookie. Brady didn’t play as a rookie. Wilson was a playoff quarterback with a 100.0 rating.

MVP Watch

4. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle. Another quarterback making his debut in my top five. He ran and passed the Seahawks over Arizona on Sunday night in his usual Cool Hand Luke way. Now Seattle and New England are neck and neck for the best team in football. Wilson is the biggest reason for the Seahawks’ recent rise.

 Fine Fifteen

1. Seattle (11-4). I hadn’t planned on jumping any team ahead of New England, but then I watched the Seahawks offense rack up 596 yards on a very good Cardinals defense.

Offensive Player of the Week

Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle. In the past five weeks this orchestra leader has led 16- and 29-point victories over the first-place team in the division. Sunday night in the desert, in the Cards’ cacophonous home stadium, he totaled 427 rushing/passing yards with one of the best performances of his three-year career: 20 of 31 for 339 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and six rushes for 88 yards. He’s got such a great feel for the game — when to stretch a play out, when to give up on it, how to make defenders miss, how to never take the huge hit. He’ll cost the Seahawks a fortune after the season when it’s time for him to get his second pro contract, but he’ll be worth it. All of it.

Things I think I think

Things I think I like about Week 16:

– Luke Willson’s speed. The Seattle tight end caught Russell Wilson’s lofted pass at the Seattle 47, and with safety Rashad Johnson in pursuit for half a football field, never got caught. Very impressive.

– Paul Richardson’s maturation, on the fly, for Seattle.

Things I think I didn’t like  about Week 16:

– I think I am dying to know what would compel a man (Marshawn Lynch, in this case) to score one of the great touchdowns of his career, a truly memorable 79-yard touchdown run, physical and athletic, and cap it by fall backward into the end zone and grabbing his crotch on the way down for the world to see. Lynch is a great player. Barring evidence that surfaces to the contrary, he’s a knucklehead too.

“JUST PUT THE SEAHAWKS IN THE SUPER BOWL ALREADY”

By Gary Myers, New York Daily News

The Seahawks certainly look like the first team that will repeat as Super Bowl champions since the Patriots won it all in 2003 and 2004. Seattle is playing exactly as it did on defense last year on its run to the championship. It’s an accomplishment when any team scores. The Seahawks have won five games in a row and given up just 33 points to get to 11-4. In two games against the Cardinals during this streak, they gave up three field goals.

One more note about the Seahawks: If they beat the Rams at home on Sunday, they will be the No. 1 seed. If they lose and the Cards win at San Francisco, they will be a wild-card. Taking things to their logical conclusion, the Seahawks will be the No. 1 seed, win two home playoff games and their next road trip will be back to Phoenix — they won there Sunday night 35-6 — for the Super Bowl. Last year, the Seahawks last regular season road game was at MetLife Stadium against the Giants. They didn’t travel again until returning to MetLife for the Super Bowl.

“SEAHAWKS BACK IN DRIVER’S SEAT, WITH SUPER BOWL JUST AHEAD”

By Mike Freeman, Bleacher Report

The Seattle Seahawks will return to the Super Bowl because they are so good. The Seahawks will return to the Super Bowl because the backup quarterbacks of the Arizona Cardinals are so bad.

Both things are true. Right now, no team is better than Seattle. Russell Wilson is playing the quarterback position as well as anyone. Marshawn Lynch puked and scored. I don’t think anyone can beat this team now, or anytime in the near future. Everyone else is playing for second place. …

This was a horrible mismatch in what would be an easy 35-6 Seattle win. No third-string quarterback, no second-string quarterback and almost no starting quarterback can beat this Seahawks defense. The Seahawks look at players like Lindley and Thomas and laugh. They just laugh. This was a like a scrimmage for them.

If you watched the Seattle safeties closely, they jumped every route. They ignored any potential deep pass because they knew Lindley had no chance to complete it.

This game was the easiest route to control of the NFC Seattle will ever see. The Seahawks will get back to the Super Bowl. It’s almost as sure of a guarantee as there is in football now because they’ll snag home-field advantage and no one will beat them in Seattle.

They just dropped 596 yards of offense on one of the most physical defenses in all of football. It was the most yardage given up by Arizona since 1958. They’ve also won eight of their last nine games.

If the Seahawks win next week against the St. Louis Rams, they’re guaranteed home-field advantage. And Seattle will win that game by three scores. The Rams will still be suffering from Odell Beckham Jr. nightmares.

“SEAHAWKS’ DOMINANCE ON ALL SIDES CONTINUES AS THEY THRASH THE CARDINALS”

By Doug Farrar, SI.com

Seattle continued to look that way in its blowout win over NFC West rival Arizona, but it wasn’t the defense or Wilson who defined the action. It was Marshawn Lynch, whose 79-yard touchdown run with 10:14 left in the fourth quarter brought back memories of the “Beastquake” run he pulled off against the Saints in the 2010 playoffs. That historic run put the 7-9 Seahawks on the map in Pete Carroll’s first year; this one sealed the win over the Cardinals and put Seattle in place to possibly run the NFC playoffs through their home city if a couple of different scenarios move into place.

Lynch made that run despite an upset stomach that had him coming out to the Cardinals’ home field late, and missing the entire first quarter. Even without Lynch, the Seahawks logged 134 total yards and 103 yards rushing against one of the NFL’s best defenses. That total was led by Wilson’s 55-yard run, the longest of his career. Through the air, Wilson completed 20 of 31 passes for 339 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Seattle set a team record with 596 yards overall in the game. Tight end Luke Willson scored two touchdowns, aided by Wilson’s ability to draw defensive players to him in play action moments, and the questionable decision by the Cardinals to back veteran linebacker Larry Foote into coverage.

The Seahawks looked like the most complete team in the NFL on this night, as they have over the last month in a five-game stretch that has seen them outscore their opponents, 114-33. If they beat the Rams at home next Sunday, and either the Cowboys lose or the Packers-Lions game doesn’t end in a tie, the Seahawks will have home-field advantage as long as they last in the postseason, which could lead them right back to University of Phoenix stadium in February for another shot at the Lombardi trophy.

A lot has to happen before then, but it’s tough to bet against this team right now.

“We believed in each other, and we’ve been working so hard,” Wilson told NBC’s Michele Tafoya after the game. “Our defense makes us work in practice, we make those guys work well, and we believe in each other. Our backs were against the wall, but we kept working and believing in it. We made plays tonight — Luke Wilson was unbelievable. Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson… Marshawn Lynch’s run; does it get any better than that?”

It doesn’t get much better, and the balance between offense and defense is the underrated and scary aspect to this team. Everyone knows about the defense and running game, but it’s the potential for big plays from Wilson — both in the passing game and when he runs — that set opposing defenses on edge, and make this offense a nearly unsolvable problem.

“SEATTLE’S ‘BEASTY BOYS’ ARE BACK”

By Jack Magruder, Fox Sports Arizona

No one has repeated as Super Bowl champions in 10 seasons, but that may be about to change. Seattle was about as good as a team can be in its 35-6 leveling of the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night, when it took peaking at the right time to Space Needle levels.

The Cardinals were a wounded group, forced to face the league’s No. 1 defense with an offense led by the next man after the next man up, third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley, who was going to have some trouble regardless.

Still, the Seahawks were something to marvel at while moving within a final victory, at home against St. Louis on Sunday, of claiming the No. 1 seed throughout the NFC playoffs. By beating the Cardinals for the second time this season, Seattle (11-4) owns all the tiebreakers going forward.

Marshawn Lynch offered the most awe-inspiring play, among many, on his Beast Mode II 79-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, when he ran over one defender, through several others and finished with a backward lead into the end zone as he grabbed his crotch. It was a run reminiscent of the nine-broken-tackles, 69-yard run to eliminate defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans from the 2011 playoffs.

“DEFLATING LOSS TO SEAHAWKS BRINGS CARDINALS BACK TO REALITY”

By Craig Morgan, Fox Sports Arizona

Scientists told us early Sunday that this would be longest night in earth’s history. It sure felt that way to Cardinals fans after Seattle’s 35-6 victory..

You knew in your head that it was too much to ask erstwhile Chargers‘ practice squad quarterback Ryan Lindley to lead Arizona to victory in the most important game of the season at University of Phoenix Stadium. There would be no Lind-sanity against the Seahawks.

You knew in your head that without quarterbacks Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton, the Cardinals had little chance of securing the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

You knew in your head that the defense was still playing without Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington and John Abraham, not to mention Karlos Dansby.

You knew Seattle was on a sick roll, having limited its previous four opponents to 27 combined points and less than 200 average yards of offense as it chased the first Super Bowl repeat since the Patriots did it a decade ago.

But the heart wasn’t willing to listen. All it saw was a team that had overcome adversity all season to tie the franchise-high in a single season with 11 wins. All it saw were those four fourth-quarter rallies. All it saw was that 7-0 home record. All it saw was a defense that always found a way.

Unfortunately for those wishful thinkers, they didn’t see any of that on Sunday. Chandler Catanzaro’s 27-yard field goal midway through the second quarter gave Arizona a 3-0 lead and brief hope, but it lasted all of three plays. Following the kickoff, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson hit tight end Luke Willson for an 80-yard touchdown on Seattle’s second play of the drive. The Seahawks added a Marshawn Lynch 6-yard TD run on their next drive and never had an 11-point deficit looked so large.

“DYNASTIC, FANTASTIC: SEAHAWKS GET NASTIER JUST IN TIME FOR THE PLAYOFFS”

By Vinnie Iyer, sportingnews.com

The Seahawks went through many bumps to get to this point. Just five weeks ago, they were 6-4 following a loss at Kansas City and did not look close to the NFC’s best, let alone the entire league.

They have seen a mass pileup of defensive injuries, and now that’s moved on to hurt their offensive line.

They had to make the hard choice of casting off a player, Percy Harvin, who was key in their Super Bowl run of a year ago.

What’s scary is that none of that has really mattered. Carroll has them right where they finished last season, and they’re the first to know it — and show and tell everyone about it.

The Seahawks have reemerged as the team to beat because it’s not enough that they’re better, they want to beat you up, too.

There’s a reason, from the Broncos in the Super Bowl, to the Packers in the opener, and to ripping both the 49ers and Cardinals in their home stadiums, that these Seahawks are so good in prime time. They don’t waste the big chances to remind everyone else they don’t have any chance against them.

The Seahawks have rediscovered their nasty. Good luck keeping them away from their dynasty.

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch charges past Cardinals linebacker Alex Okafor on his way to a 79-yard touchdown Sunday.  Bettina Hansen / Seattle Times staff

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch charges past Cardinals linebacker Alex Okafor on his way to a 79-yard touchdown Sunday.
Bettina Hansen / Seattle Times staff

“HAWKS TEAMMATES MARVEL AT ‘GREATNESS’ OF LYNCH”

By Kevin Patra, NFL.com

If you bailed on “Sunday Night Football” early in Seattle’s blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals you missed one of the most fantastic runs, ever.

It was simply: Beast Mode.

The 79-yard run by Marshawn Lynch was longer than the original Beast Quake, but we’ll take the playoff version that caused seismic tremors in Seattle and is the quintessential launching point of the current Seahawks Super Bowl squad.

However, that won’t stop us from marveling at Lynch’s awesomeness and it certainly didn’t slow his teammates’ praise.

“SEAHAWKS TAKE CONTROL OF THE NFC IN ROMP OVER CARDINALS

By Chris Wesseling, NFL.com

Dan Quinn’s defense deserves all of the credit they have been receiving as the NFL’s best, but it’s the improvement on offense that has to have the Seattle faithful excited. Whereas a month ago the offense was based on Marshawn Lynch and randomness in the passing game, Russell Wilson manufactured big plays over the past three weeks. Wilson is playing as well as ever, making blitzers pay with his unparalleled scrambling ability and keeping plays alive to hit open receivers down the field. Clicking on all cylinders, the Seahawks racked up 596 yards against one of the NFL’s top-five defenses. …

For at least the third time this season, Lynch sat by himself on the bench as the Seahawks offense took the field. The official announcement was an upset stomach. We find it suspicious that he grabbed his helmet as soon as the first quarter was over. It was all water under the bridge, however, after Lynch broke free for 113 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries. Beast Mode will carry a single-season career high 16 touchdowns in to the season finale.

Wilson unearthed a pair of new weapons in rookie receiver Paul Richardson and playmaking tight end Luke Willson. Richardson has made plays the past few games and could be forced into the starting lineup next week as a result of Jermaine Kearse‘s hamstring injury. Willson, one of the five fastest tight ends in the league, nearly doubled his single-game career high with 139 yards and two touchdowns. The passing attack will need contributions from both players going forward.

“SORTING THE SUNDAY PILE: DALLAS DOMINANT IN CLINCHING EFFORT”

By Will Brinson, CBSSports.com

Marshawn, Media Enigma

Lynch continued his white-hot streak of stonewalling the media by answering all questions asked of him with the simply reply “thanks for asking.”

What a grateful guy. “I appreciate you asking about my stomach.”

Oh yeah: Marshawn also had an AMAZING touchdown run during Sunday night’s game that helped put away the Cardinals and set the Seahawks up to steal the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC.

Quite similar to the “Beast Quake” run in the 2011 playoffs — Russell Wilson actually said it was better, but I’d disagree — up to and including the celebration, which will land him a fine from the NFL office.

The Seahawks would score again after a Richard Sherman interception and a ridiculous Russell run that featured a stiff arm and a juke move you shouldn’t see from a quarterback.

Wilson’s now got the fifth-most rushing yards for a quarterback in a single season since the merger, with a game to play. More importantly, he has the Seahawks peaking at the right time.

Seattle is a ridiculous 15-3 in December, January and February since Wilson took over. No it doesn’t hurt to have their defense playing as well as it played in 2013. But the offense is starting to come together. We say this every week but this team clicking at this time of the year is very bad news for the rest of football.

“MARSHAWN LYNCH’S POSTGAME INTERVIEW WAS INSULTING AS USUAL”

By Josh Katsowitz, CBSSports.com

I don’t think Marshawn Lynch‘s act with the media is funny. I don’t think his defiance is cute, and simply put, I think he goes out of his way to be unprofessional.

But I know many people love his rebellion. When he answers every question with a “yeah” or a “nope,” his fans (and people who don’t enjoy the media) think he’s hi-larious. …

Technically, he’s answering questions from the media, so the NFL shouldn’t fine him again. But come on, Marshawn — who, by the way, is contractually obligated to deal with the media on a weekly basis. Is it that damn hard to answer questions for 2 minutes?

“NFL WEEK 16 GRADES: FALCONS COULD BE PLAYOFF TEAM YOU DON’T WANT TO PLAY”

By John Breech, CBSSports.com

Seahawks (A-plus): The Seahawks entire roster went Beast Mode on the Cardinals. Seattle totaled 596 yards, breaking the franchise record of 591 yards that had stood since 2002. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks defense were both amazing, but it was Marshawn Lynch who stole the show with a 79-yard touchdown run that was “Better than the Beastquake,” according to Wilson.

Cardinals (F): No one expected a team quarterbacked by Ryan Lindley to go out and beat the Seahawks, but that doesn’t explain the complete and total breakdown suffered by the Cardinals defense on Sunday. Arizona couldn’t stop anyone and will now likely be heading on the road for the first round of playoffs.

“SEAHAWKS-CARDINALS: 10 THINGS TO KNOW FROM SEATTLE’S 35-6 WIN”

By Josh Katzowicz, CBSSports.com

So, it was a good day for the Seahawks. Their defense was stout, and it should have been. The Cardinals were starting a quarterback who hadn’t played an NFL game since 2012 and who wasn’t even on an NFL active roster until about a month ago.

Meanwhile, Russell Wilson found a new favorite target in the passing game. That would be tight end Luke Willson, who caught two touchdown passes, including a 20-yard score early in the fourth quarter in which he smoked Cardinals linebacker Larry Foote and gave Seattle a 21-6 lead.

But Wilson was a standout, throwing for 339 yards and rushing for 88 yards with three total touchdowns. He didn’t have much of a running game Sunday — one exception was a BEAST MODE touchdown in the fourth quarter — but Wilson did crazy Wilson things for much of the night, and the offense totaled 596 total yards, the most in franchise history.

And the Seahawks have put themselves into position to be one of the true contenders to win the NFC title.

“WEEK 16 WINNERS AND LOSERS; NO DOUBT IN THE NFC WEST”

By Nate Davis, USA Today

Seahawks offense: Russell Wilson (339 yards and two TDs passing, plus 88 yards and a TD rushing), Marshawn Lynch (113 yards on the ground, including mind-blowing 79-yard TD dash) and even Luke Willson (three catches, 139 yards, two TDs) fueled a 596-yard day in Seattle’s 35-6 destruction of the Cardinals, a victory that jumped the Seahawks into the NFC’s playoff pole position.

Seahawks defense: In the last five games (all wins), this group has allowed 33 points and fewer than 1,000 total yards. Yes, a team that’s about to surrender the fewest points in a third consecutive season deserves to be ranked among the all-timers.

“IN SHOWDOWN, CARDINALS CAN’T STOP THE SEAHAWKS”

By Ken Belson, New York Times

Still, the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson proved again that he was one of the most versatile young quarterbacks in the league.

Chased out of the pocket, he broke free for big runs, including a 55-yard sprint. Under pressure, he threw the ball away rather than make a mistake. Several times, he found receivers Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson and Luke Willson open for long gains.

In contrast, the inexperience of Ryan Lindley, the Cardinals’ quarterback, was evIdent.

Making his fifth career start, he underthrew open receivers and threw risky passes downfield against the league’s toughest cornerbacks. Arizona’s third-string quarterback, Lindley was pressed into action after injuries to Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. Stanton’s season had ended in the team’s previous game.

Wilson completed 20 of 31 passes for a career-high 339 yards and threw for two touchdowns. He ran for 88 yards and another score. Lindley completed just 18 of 44 passes for 216 yards.

Seattle amassed a club-record 596 yards of offense, nearly three times as many as the Cardinals had.

“SUNDAY NIGHT WRAP-UP: SEAHAWKS HAVE TOO MANY BIG PLAYS”

By Darin Gantt, profootballtalk.com

– Should we be worried about Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka missing three field goals?

Of course we should.

The misses are rare for Hauschka, and they were from distance. But kicking is a confidence game, and misses in big games can linger.

Until he hits something, it’s worthy of being concerned about, as you pick out every little weakness in a team playing well.

– (Luke) Willson, the tight end (man, that extra L in a similar last name is murder on spellcheck), can be a match-up problem for a lot of teams.

He seemed to surprise the Cardinals with his speed, but he ran a 4.51 40-yard dash prior to the 2013 NFL Draft, so he’s a legitimate threat to run away from linebackers.

It was still a bit of a shock to see him pull away from a safety, but he has the kind of size and speed to create space, and make the most of it.

“LYNCH CAPS TOUCHDOWN WITH DIVE THAT WILL PROBABLY PROVOKE A FINE”

By Mike Florio, profootballtalk.com

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch iced Sunday night’s win over the Cardinals with a career-long 79-yard touchdown run.  He entered the end zone with a dive that included a crotch grab.

The maneuver was identical to the manner in which Lynch capped off the “Beastquake” touchdown run from the wild-card playoffs four years ago.  When he did it the last time, no one noticed — so he was neither flagged nor fined.

This time around, it was noticed.  (Even though it wasn’t flagged.)  Lynch will now be in line for a fine.

“NFL NEWS, SCORES AND HIGHLIGHTS: WHAT HAPPENED IN WEEK 16”

By Danny Kelly and Eric Sollenberger, SB Nation

Seahawks are rolling, set up for run at No. 1 seed

The Seahawks routed the Cardinals in the desert on Sunday Night Football, running away with a big 35-6 win. Seattle absolutely caught fire in the second half on the way to a franchise-record 596 yards on offense, playing suffocating defense that held the Ryan Lindley-led Arizona offense to just 216 total yards. Seattle appears to be peaking at the right time.

Russell Wilson finished 20-of-31 for 339 yards passing against one of the best defenses in the NFL to this point, throwing two touchdowns while rushing for 88 yards and another score. Marshawn Lynch added an absurd 79-yard touchdown scamper while breaking several tackles along the way. The defense is the real identity of this Seahawks team though, and over the past five games they’ve only given up 33 points, an average of 6.6 points per game.

The win puts the Seahawks in the driver’s seat for the NFC’s No. 1 seed for the second year in a row, a right Seattle can guarantee next week by beating the Rams at home while hoping the Packers and Lions don’t tie. If Seattle can take care of business next week against St. Louis, the road to the Super Bowl may once again go through CenturyLink Field.

Marshawn Lynch celebrates as he scores a 79-yard touchdown against Arizona on Sunday, but some believe he'll be fined for his antics. Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Marshawn Lynch celebrates as he scores a 79-yard touchdown against Arizona, but some believe he’ll be fined for his antics.
Christian Petersen / Getty Images

“CARDINALS SUFFER CRUSHING LOSS TO SEAHAWKS”

By Dan Bickley, Arizona Republic/Azcentral.com

Before the game, the Cardinals coaches felt confident about their chances. They would take shots down the field, convinced they had to beat Seattle’s defense over the top. They implored their own defense to leave a mark on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.

A good plan, right? The Seahawks were missing two offensive linemen. They were facing one of the NFL’s best defenses and most hostile crowds. And on the second series of the game, Frostee Rucker flattened Wilson with a violent hit.

No matter, and no impact. Wilson proved again what a rare gem he is in today’s NFL. He’s the rare dual-threat quarterback still flourishing, a player that beats you with his feet, arm and brains.

One moment, Wilson is breaking containment for a 55-yard rush. The next, he’s floating a perfect pass on the run, allowing a 252-pound tight end to outrace the defense for a touchdown. Chasing him can be as disheartening as it is futile.

“We can’t let Russell make those plays with his feet,” Cardinals defensive back Tony Jefferson said. “We didn’t contain him the way we wanted to.”Problem is, no matter how stout your defense might be, you simply can’t corral greatness. That’s what Wilson brings to the football field. The better quarterback prevailed. That’s normally what happens in December, when winter descends upon the NFL.

“SEATTLE’S WILSON TOO MUCH FOR CARDINALS TO HANDLE”

 By Bob McManaman, Arizona Republic/Azcentral.com

The Cardinals desperately wanted to keep Wilson in the pocket by sealing the edges to prevent him from scrambling around and making plays. That’s when he is at his best, when he has room to get mobile and pick up a target on the fly.

He rarely misses on throws in these situations and when he doesn’t pass, he can burn you with his running ability.

He did both against the Cardinals.

In the first half alone, I counted seven plays in which he got outside the pocket and those seven plays produced a whopping 187 yards and a 14-3 halftime lead. Only once did it not produce positive yardage, as Wilson scrambled and threw an incomplete pass.

But the others were killers, like his 55-yard run at the end of the first quarter. Fortunately for the Cardinals, Steve Hauschka missed a 52-yard field goal — his first of three misses on the night. But on Seattle’s next possession, Wilson scrambled right and hit lon the run. Willson out-sprinted safeties Rashad Johnson and Tyrann Mathieu for an 80-yard touchdown.

After a quick three-and-out by Arizona, Russell Wilson did it again. His 22-yard scramble put the Seahawks in the red zone and four plays later, Marshawn Lynch bullied his way to a 6-yard touchdown to give the Seahawks an 11-point lead.

“CARDINALS’ LINDLEY DISAPPOINTED, NOT DISHEARTENED OVER LOSS TO SEATTLE”

By Paola Boivin, Arizona Republic/Azcentral.com

The script was ready: The Cardinals’ backup defies odds and leads the team to a victory over Seattle.

Turns out that was the emotional version, not the realistic one. The Seahawks were too good, the Cardinals offense too anemic. Anyone who defied the decision by oddsmakers to make Seattle a nine-point favorite got a return on their investment that was equal to the cyber offerings of a Nigerian prince.

It was not pretty.

Lindley was 18 for 44 for 216 yards, no touchdowns and an interception in a 35-6 loss at University of Phoenix Stadium. It was a crushing blow for a team that could have locked up home-field advantage during the postseason. No one felt worse than Lindley.

“I expect more from myself,” he said. “The attitude of this team is we take this seriously, and for me to get this opportunity and go out there and not play the way I wanted to, (I’m) frustrated by that.”

As much as the “next man up” story line has fueled this team, the segue is much more difficult at quarterback when you factor in practice reps, sophisticated schemes and expectations.

It might be why, as soon Lindley returned to the locker room after the game, there was an encouraging text from Carson Palmer and words of support from Drew Stanton. Logan Thomas sought him out, gave him a hug and told him to keep his head up.

“CARDINALS GET RUN OVER BY SEAHAWKS”

By Kent Somers, Arizona Republic/Azcentral.com

If the Cardinals re-watch the game today, they will lament the missed opportunities, like the interception cornerback Patrick Peterson dropped in Seattle territory in the third quarter. Or the long pass that receiver Michael Floyd didn’t catch in the first half.

But the real reason they lost is that Seattle is better, mostly because they were playing with their starting quarterback Russell Wilson, not their third-teamer (they don’t have a third one on the roster.).

Wilson was brilliant. He completed 20 of 31 for 339 yards and two touchdowns. He had runs of 55 and 22 yards in the first half.

“A couple of missed assignments will do that to you,” said strong safety Tony Jefferson. “They do a good job of running boots (bootlegs) and our eyes got in the wrong place and dudes were running free. That will happen to you if you’re not disciplined.”

Despite their statistical dominance, the Seahawks led just 14-6 at the end of three quarters. Then, as Arians said, “things fell apart.”

It was Wilson who did the dismantling.On second and 20, the Cardinals blitzed and Wilson lofted a pass under pressure to his tight end, who caught it between two defenders for a 39-yard gain.

Two plays later, Wilson found Willson again, the time down the middle for a 20-yard score. That made it 21-6 and it might as well have been 81-6.

“SEAHAWKS UNITS LOOK READY FOR POSTSEASON”

ESPN.com

The passing game looks ready

Wilson was 20-of-31 for a career-high 339 passing yards, including an 80-yard touchdown throw to Luke Willson that matched the longest touchdown throw of Wilson’s career (he had an 80-yarder to Golden Tate last season).
Wilson excelled in a myriad of ways in this game.

He was 12-of-17 for 264 yards and two touchdowns when facing five-or-more pass rushers.

He was 7-of-11 for 150 yards and a touchdown throwing from outside the pocket.

He was 10-of-14 for 194 yards and a touchdown when using play action.

He finished 5-of-8 for 208 yards and two touchdowns on throws of 15 or more yards downfield.

“BIG-PLAY SEAHAWK OFFENSE STEALS THE SHOW”

By Terry Blount, ESPN.com

But for the Seahawks to get to where they want to go (back to the Super Bowl), many people wanted to know if the offense could step up and play at a higher level. This was a franchise-record level on the road against one of the better defensive units in the league. And it pushed Seattle (11-4) ahead of Arizona (11-4) in the NFC West standings thanks to the Seahawks having swept the Cardinals this season.

They did it without starting left tackle Russell Okung and starting center Max Unger. They did it after starting receiver Jermaine Kearse left the game early with a hamstring injury.

“RYAN LINDLEY STRUGGLES TO FIND END ZONE, RHYTHEM IN EMBARRASSING LOSS”

By Josh Weinfuss, ESPN.COM

The faster Larry Fitzgerald can erase Sunday’s 35-6 embarrassing loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the better.

It was one of those games teams don’t like to talk about. One of those games that’s rewatched once and forgotten about. Nothing went right. Everything went wrong. But neither one person nor one unit could be blamed for the Arizona Cardinals‘ loss. Not Ryan Lindley. Not the defense. Not the running game.

Arizona’s first loss at home this season, on national TV no less, was bad all over.

“I don’t think much of anything really worked,” Fitzgerald said. “We didn’t execute the way we’re capable of doing it, and that’s frustrating.

“We put a lot of time and effort into going out there and executing the plays, and not having it come to fruition is frustrating.

“SEAHAWKS ARE SUPER FAVORITES ONCE AGAIN”

By Jacob Kornhauser, Rant Sports

When the new NFL season opened, many people thought the Seattle Seahawks could repeat as Super Bowl champions. Then, 10 games into the season, with the team sitting at 6-4, those same people were eating their words. Now, those same people may be regurgitating those same words once again.

Pardon the graphic explanation of the Seahawks’ streaky season, but it is necessary to show that this team is once again the favorite to win the Super Bowl. After looking like they were at risk of missing out on the playoffs entirely, Seattle has rattled off five wins in a row, with their most recent 35-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals being the most convincing evidence of their resurgence.

They now control their own fate in the NFC, and barring a tie between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions next week, they will be the top seed in the NFC playoffs. That’s not good news for other teams in the conference, because a playoff that runs through Seattle isn’t likely to be fun for anyone but the Seahawks.

“CARDINALS ROUGHED UP BY SEAHAWKS 35-6”

By John Marshall, The Associated Press

The Arizona Cardinals had everything they wanted: A rowdy, packed-in home crowd, a division title and home-field advantage all the way through the Super Bowl on the line.

The Cardinals responded with a dud in the desert, putting a big dent in their hopes of hosting a playoff game, much less reaching football’s biggest stage back at home.

Ryan Lindley struggled in his first start in two years and Arizona’s defense unraveled in the fourth quarter, leading to a disheartening 35-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.

“It just didn’t come out the way we imagined,” Cardinals defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said.

The Seahawks won the first game between the teams, 19-3 in Seattle on Nov. 23, and were 8-point road favorites over the Cardinals in the rematch.

It apparently should have been more.

The injury-ravaged Cardinals (11-4) had no shot against Seattle’s NFL-best defense, managing 216 total yards.

“SEAHAWKS COULD BE BACK IN SUPER BOWL”

By Bob Baum, The Associated Press

Seattle’s defense was stifling as usual and its offense had a record-breaking eruption against a defense that’s supposed to be one of the NFL’s best.

That team from the Pacific Northwest sure looked a lot like the Super Bowl champs of last season in its 35-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night.

”I think it feels better than last year,” Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said.

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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