Arizona Cardinals 23 Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, September 16, 2007
University of Phoenix Field, Glendale, Arizona
Play Of The Day: 4th and 1 from the Arizona
16, trailing by 10 late in the second quarter, Mike Holmgren chooses not to
kick the easy FG and calls an off-tackle left to Shaun Alexander who promptly
dashes 16 yards to paydirt. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t hollering at
the television screen “Take the points!”, but Holmgren evidently reads Gregg
Easterbrook’s excellent Tuesday Morning QB articles, including this one (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=easterbrook/060926
) from last year in which Easterbrook makes a quite convincing case that teams
are way too timid on 4th and short.
WR Deion Branch nabbed 7 passes for 122 yards, but it was his effort on two
incompletions that elevated him to “player of the game” status. On second
and four from the Arizona 19, a
Matt Hasselbeck pass was tipped at the line en route to Branch. The ball
bounded up in the air destined to be a drive killing interception but Deion
reached into traffic and poked the ball away from two Cardinal defenders,
keeping the ball in the Seahawks hands. Two plays later, the Seahawks would
score a touchdown to pull within three points. Later in the third quarter,
Branch was beat on a quick slant, but he, once again, played defensive back
and swatted the ball away. The drive would end with a Josh Brown field goal.
Branch may not have any points in the box score, but he made the kind of heads
up plays that kept the Seahawks in the game.
Lofa Tatupu played another stellar game anchoring the center of the Seattle defense. Tatupu led the team with 11 tackles and one huge
interception that killed a good looking Arizona drive at the start of the second half that really seemed to
turn the tide in the Seahawks favor. Tatupu made impact plays on runs, rushing
the quarterback and in coverage. If the first two weeks are any indication,
Lofa appears headed to Hawaii for the third straight year.
Things That Made Me Go “Blech”: Obviously, the botched exchange
between Hasselbeck and Alexander, that cost the Seahawks a shot at the go-ahead
score late in the 4th, is the largest “Blech” of the game. For
whatever reason, the Seahawks' two star players weren’t on the same page and
looked like a Pop Warner team in practice while attempting a handoff with
under two minutes left on the clock. These things happen, but when the two
players involved are paid millions and they botch the simplest of plays with
the game on the line, they’ve earned their way into the goat column for the
offensive line’s total inability to move the Arizona defensive tackles off of the line of scrimmage during the first
half of the game. Perhaps they should earn a pass based on the 49ers complete
inability to due the same a week earlier, but it was still disconcerting to
see so many plays up the middle get stuffed time and time again. Especially
considering that they enjoyed moderate success in the second half.
Mike Holmgren’s clock management at the end of the game. When you don’t have the ball, and
the clock is ticking, you need to stop it. Maybe it wouldn’t have made any
difference, but I’m thinking the defensive line could have used a little breather
in between some of the final four runs that put the Cardinals into field goal
range. Certainly, you’d like to give the ball back to Matt Hasselbeck and
give him a chance to redeem himself, even if just for one heave-ho down the
Offense: For the second straight game, the
Seahawks offense has stumbled out of the blocks but recovered midway through
the second quarter to make a game of it. Matt Hasselbeck was given good time
in the pocket all game and he managed to avoid throwing any interceptions,
although we must credit WR Deion Branch for breaking up two potential picks
with some outstanding defensive maneuvers for a wideout. Hasselbeck finished
the game 22 for 36 for 281 yards and a score.
for this part, overcame an early drop to post an impressive 7 catches for
122 yards with several key catches on the scoring drives, not the least of
which was a one handed nab on the sidelines on 2nd and 4 midway through the
4th quarter that was not only highlight material but kept the chains
moving on a drive that would give the Seahawks the only lead they’d have in
Alexander was tentative in the first half, not hitting the hole with much
pop and falling down on his only pass reception of the game, but he rebounded
nicely after reeling off a 16 yard touchdown scamper late in the first half
to finish the game with 18 rushes for 70 yards and score. Leonard Weaver
did spot duty on 3rd down and generally made a good showing in
his limited time.
offensive line did a respectable job in pass coverage, giving Hasselbeck a
lot of time in the pocket, too much time perhaps, as the only sack surrendered
was a direct result of Hasselbeck holding the ball for way too long. On the
other hand, the interior of the line seemed unable to move the Cardinal tackles
out of the way on interior runs during the first half, and were only marginally
better in the second half.
Defense: For the second straight game, the
Seattle defense played a solid game
without showing any serious flaws. The pass rush was solid, although, ultimately
not as effective at actually getting the sacks as they were against the Buccaneers
last week. Patrick Kearney and Julian Peterson in particular seemed noticeably
quiet. The official NFL stats on the game show no sacks for the Seahawks,
so I’m guessing the Patrick Kearney touching down of a prone Matt Leinart
doesn’t count as one, although it sure seemed to count for Michael Strahan
when he broke the NFL record (or does the NFL only count these plays as sacks
if “marquee players” are involved)?
Tapp had another solid game, getting into Matt Leinart’s grill on several
occasions. Brandon Mebane and the rest of the defensive tackles started out
strong but couldn’t keep RB Edgerrin James in check at the end of the game
when it mattered most.
Marcus Trufant played a solid game in coverage and punished the Arizona receivers when they opted for the short curl routes in front
him. The Seattle secondary, in general, did a decent job
containing the bigger, physical Cardinal receivers despite the success of
a few jump ball passes to Larry Fitzgerald, although the success of these
plays was more a factor of Fitzgerald’s height advantage than of any serious
short comings in the coverage. Perhaps more telling was the success the Cardinal
enjoyed throwing under the zone in front of the safeties. That is until Trufant
and S Deon Grant rung Larry Fitzgerald’s bell in the second half and that
seemed to cool the eagerness of the Cardinals to attack underneath. Still,
a defense that relies on the big hit instead of good coverage is one that
can be exploited by a team with a good QB and physical WRs … like next week’s
opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals.
Special Teams: Thanks to the hefty foot of Cardinals
kicker Neil Rackers, the Seattle return game was totally non-existent on kickoffs,
and Nate Burleson made each of his two short returns exciting but with, ultimately,
pedestrian results. Josh Brown boomed most his kickoffs into the end zone
and hit on all of his field goal and extra point attempts and Ryan Plackemeier
once again delivered with accurate short kicks and booming long kicks … there’s
just the small matter of the blocked punt in the first quarter that led to
the Cardinals first points of the game..
Additional Notes: One can only wonder the aforementioned
TMQB article will make of Holmgren going for it on 4th and 1 trailing
by 10 getting a touchdown, and then, later in the same game, opting for the
FG on 4th and 1 in a tie game, getting the three, and then, ultimately,
losing by 3.
Burleson fielded the first Arizona
punt of the game on the 4. Regardless of the fact that he managed to pull
out a rather amazing 15 yard return, he shouldn’t have touched that ball.
That’s exactly the kind of thing that will come back and bite the team hard
later on in the season.
have a Courtney Taylor sighting: with D.J. Hackett gone for a month with a
high ankle sprain, the rookie out of Auburn
caught his first NFL regular season pass on Sunday. Congrats, Courtney!
The Golden Microphone Award: Kudos to the announcers, Terry Donohue
and Chris Rose, for not making the horrendous mistakes that Baldinger
and Stockton made last week. With no major announcer
gaffes to pillory, we’ll award this week’s Golden Microphone to FOX who gave
us good announcers and proceeded to screw the pooch with broken microphones,
poor video signal and sticking us with the only NFL game not broadcast in
HD. Memo to FOX: if football is worth paying over $1.5 billion to broadcast,
then it’s worth investing in a few more cameras and broadcasting every game
in the best available signal possible, neh?
Summary: The Seahawks let one slip away on
one bonehead play by two All-Pros late in the game. Don’t get me wrong, I
want Hasselbeck and Alexander in the backfield in the same situation 100 out
of the next 100 times it occurs, but that doesn’t undo the loss. One hopes
that this will serve as motivation for both players to sweat the small stuff
in practice this week and return ready to rumble against the Bengals next
Sunday at Qwest Field. If this team winds up 9-7 and in second place in the
division this December, this is one we will all look back on and wonder what
might have been.
Dylan Johnson is a die-hard Seahawks fan trapped in Eagles Country, who
firmly believes that “Live At Leeds” is the single greatest live performance since a deaf
Ludwig Van debuted his final symphony in Vienna in 1824. You can e-mail Dylan at NJSeahawksFan@gmail.com.