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Seahawks Vs Cardinals: Defense Holds, Offense Improves

Some ruminations about the Seahawks first win of the 2011 season.

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Welp, what do you say after a win like this? If felt good to watch the Seahawks take on a divisional rival and get the best of them. It felt good to hold on to the victory and outplay a team that is one of the favorites for the division. It was an ugly, low-scoring game. On one side, the Seahawks' impotent offense playing a very bad Arizona defense. On the other hand, a burgeoning Cardinal offense playing an increasingly tough Seattle defense. Not surprisingly, it was a hard-fought grudge-match.

Neither team's quarterback play was particularly impressive. Kevin Kolb impressed early but then faded a bit as the day went on. His touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald should have never been thrown and should have been intercepted, but what can you do? Larry being Larry. Kolb finished 25 for 39 in passing for 252 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, the final interception the nail in the proverbial coffin for the Cardinals.

For the Seahawks, Tarvaris Jackson looked better than he did last week, though that's really not saying a whole lot. He finished 18 for 31 with 171 yards passing, no touchdowns and 1 interception. He did run for an touchdown though, so 171 yards on 56% passing, an 11 yard rushing touchdown and an interception. The Cardinals dropped two sure interceptions as well. For those of you that were hoping Jackson would be a bright spot of this win, I'm sorry to disappoint you. This line also comes against probably the worst pass defense in the NFL at the moment.

But I'm not here to harp on Jackson. He did do some things today that I think the Seahawks can build on, and he played very, very tough. He did lead his team to a victory. Chalk that up. 

The Seahawks ran the ball well on Sunday, rushing for 122 yards on 30 attempts. That's a 4.1 average and is a large part of the reason they were able to convert nearly 40% of their third downs. Now, neither of those numbers is particularly awe-inspiring, but two areas of the game where they out-played the Cardinals.

The Seahawks put themselves in position to keep drives alive and their first 3-and-out didn't happen until late in the third quarter. Marshawn Lynch ran hard and gained 73 yards on 19 attempts. Leon Washington ran 3 times for 29 yards. Needless to say, I wish he'd get more touches.

The good news, in general, is that the line opened up some holes for the run game to grab a foothold, and that's huge for this team. If the Seahawks can run the ball with any consistency, it gives them a chance.

Speaking of the offensive line, I think they were much improved. Putting a 3rd round pick, a rookie at right guard in John Moffitt up against a very good veteran defensive tackle in Darnell Dockett is bound to create some problems for the Seahawks. Moffitt got beat badly on a few occasions and resulted in two sacks, that I remember. Other than that, I don't remember seeing any egregious breakdowns from anyone on the line, and to me that is very, very encouraging. Jackson was sacked four times but in my opinion, at least two of those were due to indecision and hesitance from the quarterback. No quarterback in the NFL can hold on to the ball in the pocket for 5 beats and expect not to get hit.

So, in my mind, hopefully this signals a turning of the corner for the line. At worst, it showed they can indeed play together and give our quarterback some time to throw, albeit against a bad Cardinals' defense.

In terms of the passing game, as I said, it wasn't super impressive. The one bright spot though was the premiere of Sidney Rice. He was everything we'd hoped he'd be -- making a circus catch on the sideline where he pinned the football against his chest after it literally hit him in the facemask all while being draped by a defender -- and doing the little things, catching comebacks and hook routes, helping to move the chains and keep the ball moving. If the Seahawks could figure out a way to get Mike Williams involved in the offense, they could really start to look competent. Williams, the Seahawks' leading receiver from last season, was only targeted one time. With Rice likely to get a lot of the attention of opposing defenses, Jackson will have to look for BMW.

Zach Miller was only targeted one time and Anthony McCoy got nada. I'm not sure if this was part of the gameplan -- to leave them in for blocking more than receiving, but it's disconcerting. The Seahawks' tight ends are some of their best offensive weapons and against good teams Jackson will need to spread the love a little bit away from Sidney Rice.

Jon Ryan punted well for the most part, except for a shanked 9 yard punt with 3:03 left and the Seahawks grasping to a 3 point lead. Fortunately for him, the Seahawks defense bailed him out on the ensuing possession. If you scratch that awful punt off the list though, he averaged about 49 yards a punt and did a great job of helping the Seahawks to win the field position game. He's looking like a pro-bowl caliber punter over the first three games and this can't be construed as anything but nice.

On the defensive side of the ball, there were quite a few bright spots. Chris Clemons might have been the player of the game, racking up 3 tackles for a loss, a quarterback hit, and a sack. He was consistently in the backfield and disruptive to what Kevin Kolb was trying to do, and he even batted down a pass at one point that he came ever so close to intercepting.

The Seahawks' safety duo of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas continued to impress. Thomas had an acrobatic interception in the first quarter that was unfortunately called back, and Chancellor picked off a pass at the Seahawks 25 yard line with 1:15 left to seal the deal. Outside of those two plays though, they both played solidly and consistently, and apart from a few instances where the NFL's best receiver made some ridiculous catches, they didn't give up any big plays to the Cardinals. It's encouraging to me to limit any team to 10 points, and a lot of credit should go to the Hawks' secondary.

The run defense held up again. After three games they're giving up 99 yards rushing per game, which is middling, but on a per-rush average, only a measly 3.1 yards per carry. That's good for 4th in the NFL right now. The killers row of Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, and Alan Branch has been very stout, but they've also been backed up by some exciting lesser-known players. Clinton McDonald and Anthony Hargrove have also looked legitimate on the Seahawks defensive line so keep an eye on them as the season goes on.

Finally, the public and embarrassing benching of Aaron Curry looked to be a little bit overblown. Both Wright and Curry played a lot of snaps and though Wright was officially the 'starter', I wouldn't say that either looked significantly better than the other. This is a job that Curry could still win back, in my opinion. We'll see.

Overall, the Seahawks did some good things. Most notably, on defense, but I'll what I can get from this offense until it can start playing together better.