MMQB: Seahawks Throw it Away in Glendale

Dylan Johnson details a game that the Seahawks had many chances to win, but simply threw the game away. Early mistakes and one key exchage doomed the NFC West champs to an 0-1 division standing in 2007.

Arizona Cardinals 23 Seattle Seahawks 20
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.

Handouts To The Standouts:  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.

LB 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 game.

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 field.

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. 

Branch, 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 the game..

Shaun 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.

The 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)?

Daryl 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.

CB 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. 

Nate 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.

We 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.

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