Sunday, September 25, 2005
From ESPN Magazine, September 12, 2005 issue, page 126...
This can't be. A buzz? In Arizona? Actually, yes. This spring, when (Larry) Fitzgerald took in a Suns game, a fan yelled: "I'm a Cowboys fan! But I'm pulling for you guys this year!" And it's not just because of the potential star power (Warner, Boldin, Fitzgerald, Arrington) that Denny Green has to work with on offense. No, there's also buzz in Phoenix these days over DE (Bertrand) Berry, who might be the best free agent the team has ever signed (14.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl last season). This year, they added (Chike) Okeafor, who's totaled 16.5 sacks over the past two seasons. Mix in a linebacker corps led by future Pro Bowler (Carlos) Dansby and a secondary that'll be greatly helped by (Antrel) Rolle, and anything short of their second winning season since 1998 will be a buzzkill.
ESPN Magazine picked the Cardinals to win the NFC West, and they weren't the only ones to do so. As for some of the names in that paragraph, Fitzgerald caught three balls for 41 yards today, Boldin caught six for 88 yards, Arrington ran five times for nine yards, and Warner was 8-for-13 for 105 yards before leaving with a strained groin. Warner was also drilled a bunch by the Seahawks, though to be fair, another part of the ESPN preview piece did point out an offensive line weakness toward pass protection. Berry had three tackles and an assist. Rolle? Let's just say Matt Hasselbeck threw for 242 yards, and Darrell Jackson caught 125 of them. They lit him up all day. Just because Rolle led the team with ten tackles today doesn't mean it's a good thing. If he's a cornerback, and he's generally away from the line, and he leads the team with ten tackles... Oddly, the article didn't even mention the booming leg of Neil Rackers.
As Jeremy has pointed out, no team in 2004 made the playoffs after starting out the season 0-2. The Cardinals are 0-3. They had to do way more than bring in some free agents, make the Cardinal logo "meaner," and turn their uniforms into CFL knockoffs. Call everyone back when you get an offensive line. At least when the Seahawks were a trendy pick to win the Super Bowl two years ago, they started out the season 3-0. Two years ago, the Seahawks went to Lambeau after the Week 4 bye and got their behinds handed to them. Last year, I don't have to tell you what happened. Week 4 bye there also. This year, the bye is in Week 8. Time is ripe for change.
Week 2 against Atlanta was a must-win because the Seahawks couldn't afford to start the season 0-2. This game against the Cardinals wasn't necessarily a must-win, but losing a home game to a division foe would have really sucked. Though it's only three games into the season, 2-1 looks a whole lot better than 1-2. It also looks worlds away from 0-3. Thank goodness that didn't happen to the Seahawks.
What we have here is a game that turned into a gradually easy win. Also, congratulations to "Ground" Chuck Knox on his induction into the Seahawks' Ring of Honor. It's been a long time coming.
Here's my rap sheet for the 37-12 win over the Cardinals.
-- the only guy scoring for the Cardinals was Neil Rackers (again)
-- DEFENSIVE TAKEAWAYS!
-- Alexander fed regularly again
-- passing game crisp
-- really, a good balanced attack between run and pass
-- defense didn't allow a touchdown
-- Warner drilled repeatedly
-- Hasselbeck/Jackson picking on Antrel Rolle
-- great day for Alexander
-- great day for Jackson
-- Hasselbeck never sacked
-- no turnovers by the offense
-- the deep ball made friends with the Seahawk offense on a couple occasions
-- Ken Hamlin is nuts
-- it had to be fun on defense watching Arizona get whistled for all those false starts
-- Cardinal ground game? What Cardinal ground game?
-- PUT AWAY AN OPPONENT
-- scored second-half points for the first time this season
-- outscored Arizona 27-3 in the second half
other good times from my notes or the gamebook...
-- that first drive was great; Alexander six runs for 43 yards on the drive, including the 25-yd touchdown run
-- raucous crowd helps force Warner into the first of two Arizona false starts with the Cardinals on the Seattle 18 early in the second quarter
-- defense gets a three-and-out in Arizona's next possession after their second field goal, Warner sacked on third down
-- on following drive, defense plows Warner at least three times before the groin pull
-- opened half with magnificent touchdown drive, helped by a major facemask penalty
-- right after touchdown drive, Josh McCown backed up and sacked by Boulware, fumbles, Bernard recovers at the one, Alexander touchdown on next play
-- right after that touchdown, defense forces three-and-out
-- halfway through third quarter, defense yields nine yards on a first down, then yields no more yardage (field goal result)
-- 80-yard drive to end third quarter including 46-yard Alexander run, first play of fourth quarter is touchdown
-- held ball for 9:48 of third quarter to Arizona's 5:12
-- defense forces three-and-out after first Seahawk field goal in fourth quarter
-- second fourth-quarter field-goal drive eats 6:20 off the clock
-- held ball for 10:38 of fourth quarter to Arizona's 4:22
-- token game-ending interception for Babineaux
-- only a 10-9 lead at half?
-- Andre Dyson's illness/flu or whatever it was
-- that Warner run for 13 yards on a 3rd-and-13 in the first half
-- seems like Herndon got beat a couple times
-- a couple of deep balls made an appearance
-- there was a missed coverage assignment on one of those deep balls
-- jump balls too, they luckily were rare though
-- Arizona receivers on occasion able to use their size
-- Leo Araguz
other bad stuff from my notes or the gamebook...
-- that Warner run was a 3rd-and-13 on the first possession of the game
-- offense gets a first down in Arizona territory on first possession of second quarter, then gets two yards with the next set of downs
-- with a possession starting on the 50-yard line, offense manages only a field goal
-- what should have been a Seattle three-minute drill offense before halftime turned into a three-and-out with a penalty
-- with ball inside the two-minute warning, offense failed to get into field goal range
-- offense 1-for-5 on third down
-- jump ball, Fitzgerald over Hamlin for 24 yards to the Seattle 30-yd line midway through the third quareter
-- allowed three straight plays for first-down yardage on first three plays of first Arizona possession of fourth quarter
-- first full Seahawk possession of fourth quarter stalls on the Arizona 5-yd line (field goal)
-- third-down pass to Boldin on second-to-last Arizona possession of game broken up by Boulware and Dyson, who jarred the ball loose
-- Wallace, Warrick, Morris and Weaver get some touches on final Seahawk drive
...YOU KNOW I'VE HAD MY SHARE
It feels good, doesn't it? I didn't feel too great about the game at halftime with the Seahawks only up by one, though I felt better than I did before the Seahawks started to get to Kurt Warner and then he went down with the groin injury. After the half, the Seahawks mounted that great touchdown drive, recovered the fumble to set up another touchdown, then ended the third quarter with a drive that opened the fourth quarter with a touchdown. For all intensive purposes, the game was sealed when Rocky Bernard fell on that fumble deep in Arizona territory. It was the first forced turnover by the Seahawk defense this year, and was preceded just minutes earlier by the first points the Seahawks had scored in the second half of any game this season. What else is there to say? The Seahawks led at halftime, though by a sliver. In the second half, the Seahawks dominated the Cardinals 27-3 on the scoreboard and 20:26 (to Arizona's 9:34) on the clock.
Oh yeah, Chike Okeafor had two tackles and an assist. Orlando Huff had eight tackles and three assists. The Seahawks offensive line allowed zero sacks. The Seahawk defense allowed 266 yards, while the Cardinal defense allowed 447. The Seahawk defense recorded three sacks, forced two fumbles, and recovered one of the fumbles. I liked what he did on the field for the Seahawks, but what will Chike say now?
The only thing that could have made this all better would have been the Titans winning in Saint Louis, but that didn't happen today. Instead, the 2-1 Seahawks are tied with the 2-1 Rams for first place in the NFC West. San Francisco is in third place at 1-2, and Arizona is in sole possession of last place with their gleaming 0-3 record. And I couldn't be happier.
As we discussed in the thread during the game, Shaun Alexander's Burp the Baby touchdown celebration can get a little silly (especially when repeated a few times), but even he didn't repeat it after the fourth touchdown. My take? I'll gladly put up with burping the baby if Shaun keeps running like this and the Seahawks keep winning like this. I'll put up with it all season if the Seahawks are 10-6 or better and go to the NFC title game. Gladly.
People picked the Cardinals to win the NFC West. I still can't believe that. Sheesh.
It's a road game against the Redskins next week. That'll be tough. Prepare for the obligatory Mark Brunell stories in your local Seattle-area daily newspaper. They're 2-0 and coming off a bye week, but hopefully they come out like Mike Holmgren's post-bye Seahawk teams. I guess the bad news there is that the Seahawks are at Arizona for Week 9 after their bye, and I just can't have this team losing to Arizona this year. It's unfathomable.
Okay, that's a wrap. I need to stop it here before I ramble more.