24, Arizona Cardinals 21
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
Sunday, December 26, 2004
“I sat with my
wife, thinking of all the years I had known (him)…I thought, too, about
his devotion to God, his family, his craft and the men who played for him…
“In the hush of
the great cathedral, you could hear people weeping, people from all walks of
life – statesmen and soldiers, priests and politicians, athletes and owners.
And it seemed that the bigger they were, the harder they cried, especially the
men who knew him best, the men with names such as Robustelli and Gifford and
Rote, Hornung and Kramer and Starr and Jurgensen.
“When the funeral
service finally ended, we all solemnly spilled out onto Fifth Avenue, our eyes
red from tears, and then many of us proceeded to the cemetery. It was a memorable
tribute…and now when I think back on it, a memorable day in the life of
the National Football League.” – Howard Cosell
Howard Cosell opened his
1985 book, “I Never Played The Game”, with this touching description
of the remembrance of an NFL giant – in this case, the funeral services
held for Vincent T. Lombardi at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City
over Labor Day weekend, 1970.
It could be said, as of
few other men, that these words summarize the life of Reggie White just as well.
Devotion to God. To his family. To his craft. To the men that played with and
against him. Immortals live by a different standard – their Spartan wills
and indomitable competitive spirits take them to places most of us will rarely
And that’s why, to
me, Reggie White’s passing came as such a complete and utter shock. Wasn’t
he supposed to live forever? This wasn’t part of the deal…
Reggie White never played
for a team I had a solid rooting interest in, but I found myself unabashedly
choking back tears all morning after hearing the news of his passing on Sunday,
reportedly from respiratory failure due to sleep apnea, at the age of 43. My
emotional reaction may have been as much from the shock of such an idea as anything
else. Could a man like this really be taken from us so early in his life?
The primary reason behind
my emotions, and the emotions of so many upon hearing this terrible news, is
that we have lost a man who reminded us with every day that he suited up just
why we love football so much. Reggie White, as much as anyone, personified the
spirit - the will - the unstoppable reach beyond oneself to a higher place and
a higher calling - that marks the very best in all of us.
Ralph Wiley may have said
it best, and most simply, when he wrote about the Minnesota Vikings’ Alan
Page, a man who joined Reggie White on the defensive line of the NFL’s
75th Anniversary All-Time Team:
“He emptied his
vessel. Few do.”
The Minister of Defense
has been called home. And all those left behind who were touched by his efforts
on and off the field can reflect with grateful memories on a man who fulfilled
Meanwhile, on this lower
plane, the games went on. And for Mike Holmgren (who coached Reggie White from
1993 to 1998) and his Seattle Seahawks, a playoff berth and the first step to
a division championship was at stake.
Handouts To The
Standouts: Shaun Alexander, for coming up trumps and carrying the team
on his back…Trent Dilfer, for overcoming a rough start to make some key
throws and clinch the game with a clutch scramble down the stretch…Darrell
Jackson, for continuing his great performance over the last month…Chike
Okeafor, for spending an inordinate amount of time in the Arizona backfield…Seattle’s
young secondary, for fighting the good fight against what may be the next great
team of wide receivers…and Ravens’ coach Brian Billick, for deeming
Dilfer “expendable” after the 2000 season and Super Bowl XXXV…thanks
once again, Bri! We really should send this man a floral arrangement, shouldn’t
Things That Made
Me Go, “Blech!”: As always, the officiating (I mean, when
DICK VERMEIL goes off on the zebras as he did on Saturday night, you KNOW something’s
up)…Mike Holmgren, for failing to realize that there are other options
on third and long besides running plays that are virtually guaranteed drive-killers…Ray
Rhodes, for nearly tanking a nicely-drawn set of schemes with another late-game
prevent collapse…Koren Robinson, for coming back from a five-game Dual
Suspension Package and doing...well…nothing…and
the Football Gods. Four Arizona fumbles and they recovered them ALL? Sheesh!
Zebra Hunt: The
relationship between the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL’s alleged “officials”
has come to resemble a bizarre combination of angst and proctology more than
anything else, and today’s officiating was true to form. As always, we’ll
just list the offenses and wait for the apology:
Early in the game, Crew Chief Larry Corrente and his Merry Band of Idiots
missed obvious holding calls against the Cardinals on the persons of Jordan
Babineaux and Isaiah Kacyvenski.
• With 1:35 left in
the first quarter, Arizona QB Josh McCown threw a sideline pass to Bryant Johnson,
who was being covered by Marcus Trufant. Johnson did not get both feet in bounds
and Trufant barely touched Johnson after he caught the ball, but Corrente said
that “the ruling on the field” was that it was a forceout. Only
one small snag with that program: No official had actually ruled that it was
a forceout on the field. Ah, those pesky details…
• This one actually
went against the Cardinals, but it was stupid enough to mention, regardless.
With 7:50 left in the second quarter. McCown again threw a sideline pattern
to Johnson from the Arizona 20-yard line. Johnson was covered by Lucas –
in fact, Lucas was climbing all over him in what would appear to be obvious
pass interference. Johnson jumped to catch a high throw, grabbed the ball, and
appeared to have control until he hit the ground and the ball popped out, which
would make it a catch, right? Apparently not. The call was an incomplete pass,
which was upheld on review. For once, the Seahawks were the beneficiaries of
• With 6:46 left in
the second quarter, the Seahawks faced 3rd and 7 at the Arizona 17. Dilfer threw
to Darrell Jackson, who was being covered (ahem) rather closely by cornerback
Duane Starks. Could have been interference, but a five-yard illegal contact
penalty was called instead. What is interference, if not illegal contact? The
level of inconsistency in the administration of the new “five-yard rule”
has been absolutely maddening. And it’s not just affecting the Seahawks,
as evidenced by the increasing number of players and coaches who are quite willing
to give the Big Raspberry to whatever fines the NFL may pass down for questioning
the abilities of the alleged “officials”.
• With 9:36 left in
the game, Emmitt Smith rumbled out of the backfield from the Seattle 45 on 3rd
and 1, only to be met by several blue uniforms. Smith was driven back several
yards and eventually brought down by Ken Lucas. The official then called unnecessary
roughness, a 15-yard foul and automatic first down, on “the defense”
(The entire defense? Wow!), despite the fact that no official had blown the
play dead while Smith was still up. Shame on the Seahawks for not being aware
of the rule in which you’re supposed to GUESS that the player is stopped
and the play is dead! Did somebody’s whistle malfunction?
• 3:39 left in the
game, and the Cardinals were at the Seattle 49 with a 4th and 5. McCown threw
to Johnson, who was stopped by Trufant a yard short of the first down. The call
was illegal use of hands (facemask) on Trufant – a verrrrrrrry suspicious
call and a drive-extender for the Cards, which led to Larry Fitzgerald’s
second touchdown catch of the day, and a 24-21 Seattle lead with 2:37 left.
Fortunately, the Seahawks were able to get the ball back and kneel down a bunch
of times to run out the clock, a tactic which will probably be declared a 15-yard
penalty with loss of possession next week.
Offense (First Half
– D, Second Half - B): “Intangibles”. Is
there a more overused and less meaningful term in the Lexicon of Sport than
this? When pundits line up to deify overrated athletes like Derek Jeter despite
their all-too-average numbers, it is the “Intangibles” speech that
is spent like so much expired currency. The most unfortunate aspect of this
phenomenon is that when an athlete who possesses these “Intangibles”
in spades, and has shown the effects of those “Intangibles” over
and over again actually hits the field, it tends to have less of an effect.
Which is why I’m going
on record as saying that Trent Dilfer has…well, there’s just a thing
about this guy. Call it what you will.
With Matt Hasselbeck out
with a bad elbow (an aftereffect of a nasty Shaun Ellis hit last week against
the Jets), a Seahawk playoff berth, the season, and a lot of jobs were all put
on Dilfer’s back. And though he often resembled the backup quarterback
he is (going 1 of 6 for 18 yards at the end of the first quarter and 7 of 16
for 63 yards at the end of the first half), Dilfer did recover in the second
half to lead the team.
Finishing up 10 of 26 for
128 yards and an interception, Dilfer’s performance can be mitigated by
two…um…”Intangibles”. First, the creative overload blitzes
that Arizona defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was sending non-stop put
a real dent in Dilfer’s car. Second, his 7-yard run for a first down late
in the game which clinched an incredibly important win for the team.
You want to define it? Trent
Dilfer can make “winning ugly” look better than most. There’s
In truth, neither team did
much in the first half – both the Seahawks and the Cards punted five times
in the opening 30, and the Seahawks’ first three drives were 3-and-outs.
Arizona was getting great pressure and keying on Shaun Alexander…but unfortunately,
keying on Alexander only works for so long this year.
When Shaun finally broke
through the left side for a 1-yard TD with 4:51 left in the first half, a Beast
was awakened! Having run for 53 yards on 13 attempts and getting boxed in frequently
in the first half, Alexander blew up in the final two quarters, finishing up
with 30 carries (YES!) for 154 yards and 3 touchdowns. In this game alone, he
broke the Seahawk single season record for rushing yardage (he currently has
1,616 – Chris Warren held the mark with 1,545 in 1994), and his own team
record for touchdowns in a season with 19 after this game. With the passing
game so inconsistent all year and the defense all over the place statistically,
Shaun Alexander has been the lone pillar of reliability, and the team’s
MVP in a landslide.
The “big news” coming into this game was Koren Robinson’s
return from a five-game “maturation process” (a one-game coach’s
suspension, followed by a four-gamer sent from the NFL). In truth, Robinson
did little, besides a couple of well-placed blocks, to merit the number of headlines
he got this week. As always, Darrell Jackson was the man in charge of the receivers
- he continued an impressive stretch run with 6 grabs for 101 yards, including
a 53-yarder which was primarily attained after the catch (something he’s
been really great at lately). No other Seahawk wide receiver had more than one
Jackson also set his own
records – he now holds the Seahawks’ single-season mark for receptions
with 84, breaking the record of 81 by Brian Blades in 1994. His 1,186 yards
receiving this season is a career high, and he's reached the 5,000-yard mark
in 76 games, two games less than it took Steve Largent. Not bad, eh?
Anything else on offense? Oh, yeah. Walter Jones was carted off with a sprained
ankle (with rookie Sean Locklear playing well in spot duty), but there was something
going on with our All-Pro tackle before that – lots of leakage on the
left side. Was there more to his injury situation coming in? Oh, yeah…note
to Mike Holmgren. Quit the running plays on third and long. You called three
more of them today, and they never work. Flat-out drive-killers, sir. I’m
assuming that one of the greatest offensive minds of the modern era has more
than one play for third and long?
Defense (First Half
– B, Second Half – C-): After yet another defensive meltdown
against the Jets (y’know, the kind you’ve seen far too often in
his two-year tenure here), Ray Rhodes was finally thrown in front of the media
last week to do some ‘splainin’. He ‘splained it in a fairly
standup fashion, although the fact that he’s just now realizing that his
schemes don’t seem to work and that he’d better put some new plays
together is rather disconcerting.
In any case, the aftermath
was positive for the most part. Seattle’s run defense, a huge liability
over the last month, did a far better job of containment – especially
in the interior line. Frequent safety blitzes, sending Ken Hamlin from the edge,
were also very effective. On the Cardinals’ first possession, Hamlin and
Chad Brown blew up the line and Hamlin sacked McCown, causing the first of three
McCown fumbles (all of which Arizona recovered…). Chike Okeafor had two
sacks (and led the team with nine tackles) to lead an impressive (and far too
rare) amount of pressure.
In Anquan Boldin, Larry
Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson, the Cardinals have a Terrible Trio of receivers
who will likely terrify the NFL for quite a few years. Proof of this fact was
given when they went up against Seattle’s stellar secondary – it
was a schooling for both sides, and the most interesting and decisive ongoing
battle of the game.
Arizona’s first touchdown,
a 31-yard pass from McCown to Boldin, was impressive in that Boldin had Ken
Lucas completely turned around. No mean feat, and Lucas had revenge in mind.
At the end of the first quarter, Lucas made an absolutely unbelievable play
on a ball thrown to Fitzgerald at the end zone. Lucas jumped the route, deflected
the ball, and caught it for the interception – all seemingly in mid-air.
With Champ Bailey getting toasted like a bagel in the Mile High City these days,
there’s more and more momentum to the idea that Lucas is quite possibly
the NFL’s premier cornerback.
The Cards weren’t
done, however. Boldin continued his string of amazing catches in the third quarter
– a 21-yard catch at the Seahawk 39-yard line despite Marcus Trufant blanketing
him with perfect coverage was a frightening exhibition of Boldin’s skill.
the fourth quarter was yet another example of Ray “Take The Over”
Rhodes’ “Back ‘Em Off and Let ‘Em Score!” Collapse-o-Matic™
defense. At the very beginning of the fourth quarter, Shaun Alexander’s
third TD put the score at 24-7.
And if there’s one
thing that Seahawk fans know, it’s that you don’t want Ray Rhodes
anywhere NEAR a 17-point lead (See: Ravens, Baltimore; Rams, St. Louis).
Keeping Seahawk Nation on
the edges of their seats, Arizona almost pulled off yet another killer with
Fitzgerald’s two 4th-quarter touchdowns.
Procedural question: Seattle
was in a dime defense on both of those late TDs, and yet Fitzgerald beat single
coverage both times. How is that even POSSIBLE? Isn’t the whole point
of the prevent defense (if there IS a point to it) to insure that any offensive
plays will be reined in and that the end zone will be correctly covered? And
why does this keep happening over and over? And has the inventor of the prevent
defense been imprisoned yet?
Just wondering, Ray You
didn’t ‘splain any of THAT!
Special Teams (Better,
but still worrisome…): Again, an improvement, in that there were
no unmitigated disasters. In fact, Seattle had a special teams highlight! No,
really! With 7:42 left in the second quarter, Bobby Engram returned a Scott
Player punt 48 yards to the Arizona 20-yard line! Swear to God! Check the tape
if you don’t believe me! Ha ha!
With a playoff berth, this team has exorcised a few of their demons. If the
Rams do them a big favor by losing to the Eagles on Monday Night, or if Seattle
beats Atlanta next Sunday, the Seahawks will have their first division title
since 1999. Then, it’s all up to them. Having elevated themselves beyond
the miasma of mathematical probability and blind hope, the Seahawks now look
to rub shoulders and butt heads with those teams who live in the rarefied air
of Destiny, by way of Forward Perpetual Motion. And if they can stop tripping
all over themselves long enough to get there…well, who knows what else
they can do?
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief
of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.