Seahawks Seek to Even the Score vs. Cards

When the Seattle Seahawks faced the Arizona Cardinals for the second time last season, they were 8-4 and had the opportunity to clinch the NFC West. However, a loss to the Cardinals sent the Seahawks into a three-game slide that prevented them from winning the division until the last week, when they needed some serendipity to capture their third straight division title.

On Sunday, the Seahawks host the Arizona Cardinals, they have an 8-4 record and they have the opportunity to clinch the NFC West.

And the last thing Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren wants is a repeat of last season, when the Seahawks lost their focus at an inopportune time and nearly saw their entire season collapse.

With a two-game lead on the Cardinals, a win would give Seattle a three-game lead with three to play, as well as the tiebreaker, an insurmountable lead. "If you remember last year, in a very similar situation, we didn't handle that positioning here last year at that particular time," Holmgren said. "We let a couple of games get away from us, and as a result it got really tense at the end. Unacceptable letdown of some kind last year, so we can't let it happen again."

Holmgren said he spoke to the team on Wednesday morning about not relaxing after earning two big road victories. Don't take a victory for granted just because they are playing at home and get an additional boost from the crowd. The players have to create their own energy, Holmgren told them.

"There was such effort and such emotion tied in with the last two weeks," Holmgren said. "We have to still play with the same intensity. Just because now we're home, and you get to sleep in your own bed an extra night, and you're not on an airplane a long time, we cannot relax for one second.

"The month of December decides everything for everybody, and we have four games now that will determine, for everybody in the league, where we are if you're a playoff team. So I asked them to crank it up one more notch, because while they've done some great things, our season's just starting right now and we've got to crank it up and get going here."

The Seahawks have at least some additional incentive because when the teams met the first time, the Seahawks kicked the game away at the end when Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck botched a snap, giving the ball back to Arizona.

Neil Rackers ended up kicking a 41-yard field goal with one second left to win the game.

"It was really bad how that game ended," Holmgren said. "You don't expect that to happen. It is like anything else in our business that is as automatic as it can be, the quarterback handing off to the running back. We didn't execute it and lost the game because of it. There are other reasons, but I think we had a chance there to kick a field goal. You just don't expect it."

SERIES HISTORY: 18th meeting. Cardinals lead the series, 9-8, and have won two in a row after Seattle captured the previous four. Both wins were in Phoenix. The Seahawks have won four consecutive home games over Arizona.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The last time the teams played, the Seahawks, second in the league in sacks, were unable to record one because Matt Leinart kept getting rid of the ball so quickly.

--When Arizona QB Kurt Warner first came into the NFL, he was in a minicamp in Green Bay with Mike Holmgren, the Packers' coach at the time. Holmgren cut Warner, and he went overseas to compete before coming back to the league. "Every time I see him, he gives an obligatory hello and asks why I cut him," Holmgren said.

--QB Matt Hasselbeck's brother, Tim, is a backup QB for the Cardinals. "I'm sure we'll talk this week but we won't talk football," Matt Hasselbeck said. "There's nothing good that can come out of that. I can't talk with my mother about injuries because I know it will go right down the chain of command."

--Seahawks LB Lofa Tatupu had three interceptions in a victory over the Eagles on Sunday. The last time Tatupu had an interception this season, it came against Arizona in the second week of the season. "Is there any way we can negotiate getting him off the field," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

--After the botched handoff at the end of the last meeting, which came about because of a dummy audible by Matt Hasselbeck, the Seahawks QB said they did not dummy audible for a month after that. They have started again. "We just sort of earned the responsibility back to be allowed to do that," Hasselbeck said.

--Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander needs one TD to reach 100 for his career. Alexander scored his first TD last week since the second week of the season.

--DE Patrick Kerney will be named NFC Defensive Player of the Month after getting seven sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception at a time that the Seahawks have gone 4-0.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- The number of offensive line combinations the Seahawks used last week after keeping the same line intact all season. Floyd Womack last week played left tackle, left guard and right guard.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Who is who? I guess I'm John Stockton." -- Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck, when asked if he and WR Bobby Engram had a Stockton-to-Malone type of relationship.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Seahawks waived fullback Fred McCrary and signed former special teams player Josh Scobey. They also placed safety C.J. Wallace on injured reserve, signed Kevin Hobbs from the practice squad and signed Omowale Dada to replace Hobbs on the practice squad. The Seahawks needed some depth on special teams and in the defensive backfield because of an injury to Josh Wilson, the team's dime back, and on kickoff coverage, which Wallace played. Scobey played 28 games in the past for Seattle. He also can be an up blocker on kickoff returns.

Also, coach Mike Holmgren said he will platoon Floyd Womack and Rob Sims at left guard for the rest of the year, if only to allow Sims to take a breather and watch from the side for some series. "That is another way you learn," Holmgren said.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--C Chris Spencer has a strained oblique and sat out Wednesday's practice. However, he is expected to play Sunday.
--WR D.J. Hackett is progressing more quickly from a high-ankle sprain than initially anticipated but is wearing a boot and will be out against Arizona.
--CB Josh Wilson sat out Wednesday' practice with a pulled quad and will miss Sunday's game.
--LB Will Herring has recovered from a hamstring injury and is expected to play against the Cardinals, his first action in three weeks.
--S C.J. Wallace suffered a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve.

GAME PLAN: Even though the Seahawks went back to a more balanced attack against Philadelphia last week, they should return to the pass this week. The Cardinals are 24th in the league in pass defense, and they have lost star defensive back Adrian Wilson, giving Matt Hasselbeck less fear about Arizona's secondary. Also, defensive coordinator John Marshall may send everybody after immobile Kurt Warner, particularly if WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are sidelined with injuries.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Cardinals RB Edgerrin James vs. Seattle's defensive line. James had 132 yards rushing in the last meeting, and that was when the Seahawks had Chuck Darby on the field. Now, he is on injured reserve and rookie Brandon Mebane has taken Darby's place.

Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck vs. Arizona's secondary. In Hasselbeck's last two meetings with Arizona, he has four TD passes, zero interceptions and a 111.7 passer rating. The Seahawks are 34-11 when Hasselbeck has a rating better than 90.

INJURY IMPACT: C Chris Spencer has a strained oblique and will get limited time in practice this week. It could alter the Seahawks' continuity because RG Chris Gray is Spencer's replacement at center, meaning the line is in a state of flux all week in practice.

With CB Josh Wilson out for two weeks at least, the Seahawks need to determine who their dime back is going to be. It was not such an issue against Philadelphia last week because the Seahawks dropped a LB into coverage, but it probably needs to be figured out against an Arizona team that likes to see Warner pass.

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