As good as Russell Wilson can be sometimes, the heart and soul of the Seattle Seahawks is their defense, which shined at its brightest level in a 19-3 win over the Arizona Cardinals, backed by an excellent running game led by Wilson and Marshawn Lynch.
The Arizona Cardinals didn’t look bad because Drew Stanton (14-of-26 with 149 yards and an interception) was playing. They’ve already won with him and he played well. But Larry Fitzgerald was out, the running game was held to only 64 yards on 20 carries and every first down they got felt like a mini child birth. Of their 12 first downs in the game, two came from penalties and only two more came from running the ball.
Russell Wilson made no mistakes, completing 17-of-22 passes for 211 yards and one touchdown. His offensive line was a mess and he was sacked seven times. Few quarterbacks get sacked that much and come out with their hand up on top to declare themselves winners, but Wilson did really well in the times he was able to escape the blitz or his guys actually managed to pick it up.
He finished with 11-of-13 for 153 yards against the blitz, but was at his best when playing the zone read, turning five zone-read rushed into 46 yards, and leading the Seahawks in rushing with 73 yards on 10 carries overall. Maybe it says something about how weak the Seahawks have gotten over this season when it comes down to Wilson scrambling for his life in order to make plays happen, but if it works, as the Seahawks improve to 7-4, why not keep doing it?
This wasn’t a game for fans who love touchdowns and big plays. Of the 22 points, 15 came from field goals. Both kickers missed once, and it turned out to be a lot more crucial for the Cardinals, coming in the first quarter. No team scored after Cooper Helfet caught a 20-yard pass from Wilson, 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter. It’s a pace and style both teams thrive in, but the Seahawks, unlike the Cardinals, at least had the ability to make some big plays.
And still, even with a 16-point win in which the Seahawks limited the Cardinals to just 204 yards of offense (497 combined for both teams), they’re still trailing the in the NFC West by two games. The good news is that Arizona are hitting their worst patch in the end, and suddenly their nine-win season might not be enough to make the playoffs if they begin falling apart now. Last season the Cardinals were 10-6 and still didn’t make it into the postseason.
There are also the San Francisco 49ers to consider, who are at a tie with the Seahawks with a 7-4 record, which should make the two games between the two teams that hate each other the most for no good reason at this stage to an even more intense spectacle, which can only benefit the Cardinals. As good as the Cardinals’ defense is, their offense can be a liability, even against teams like Seattle that have no ability to protect their quarterback.
This isn’t the worst loss in the world for Arizona, who have enough of a cushion to even lose another one and still lead the division. But the Seahawks get to play them again and are closing in fast. With Russell Wilson at the helm, even a bad group of receivers can be made to look good sometimes, and they’ll be able to make it a very tight race. The Cardinals need to hope this appalling display of ineptitude on offense was just a one-time thing.