I wrote about a few marquee matchups on Sunday morning to keep an eye on, now I want to go back and take a look at how some of them panned out (pre-game notes in italics):
Brandon Browner vs Larry Fitzgerald: This is the obvious one. Browner got smoked for 10 catches, 194 yards and a touchdown last week against Pittsburgh, according to Profootballfocus. Most of that was surrendered to Mike Wallace, arguably the fastest player in the NFL. That was a mismatch, and one that Browner was exploited on. This week, there's no rest for the weary, as Browner will be marking arguably the best possession receiver in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald. Problem is, he's also a very good deep threat. In theory, the size and length Browner possesses gives him an advantage on the jump balls and back shoulder throws that Fitzgerald makes a living on, but Browner will have to learn to get his head around on balls and lay off on the pass interference penalties he's been stacking up.
The advantage here is obviously Fitzgerald. That said, it will be interesting to see how Browner does here, as a big part of the reason so many of us have had high hopes for him rest on his ability to match up on the leagues 'big' receivers.
Well, Browner improved in this game. Fitzgerald caught 5 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, but all of his receptions came in the first half. He caught a ridiculous touchdown pass that was just out of the reach of both Browner and Earl Thomas, but apart from that, Fitzgerald wasn't his usual game-changing self.
Here's what you can expect from Browner, in my eyes. He's a guy that's good at the line of scrimmage, is improving on the jam and did a good job of this on Sunday, but has average coverage skills. He's going to get burned by some smaller, faster receivers and any cornerback in the NFL is going to get abused by Larry Fitzgerald on a play or two a game. What Browner brings to the Seahawks is physicality and length on the cornerback island, and so far he's played well against the run.
Marcus Trufant and Brandon Browner paired up to stop Fitzgerald in the second half, almost completely. Though Trufant was matched up against him mostly after halftime, Browner deserves a little credit here as well. I'd say that although Fitz did have that first half touchdown, because the Hawks secondary shut him down in the second half, the edge goes to Seattle on this matchup.
Todd Heap/Jeff King vs K.J. Wright/Leroy Hill/Aaron Curry/Kam Chancellor: Jeff King has already managed to slip through the cracks and catch two wide open passes for touchdowns from Kevin Kolb this year and thus far, Kevin Kolb is 7-of-7 for 145 yards and 2 TD on passes to in-line tight ends. This should be noted, and it's probably going to be up to our outside linebackers and safeties, notably Wright, Hill, Curry, and Chancellor to pick up and run with Heap and King. These TEs are Kolb's safety net, and as you can see he's used them well so far.
Part of the reason that Aaron Curry has faced criticism and probably part of the reason K.J. Wright will see more time this week is that running with these tight ends will be important. Curry's strength is against the run, and Wright is more fluid in pass coverage. Something to watch.
Todd Heap led the Cardinals with 6 receptions for 61 yards, with the bulk of those yards coming on a 28 yard catch and run early in the 4th quarter. Not surprisingly, Heap was targeted a team-high 10 times and did become a factor in the passing game. The good news is that the Seahawks kept him out of the endzone, and really only had one breakdown that led to that 28-yard gain.
Both Wright and Curry got involved in the pass defense, but neither really shined or failed there. I'd say that overall, this linebackers vs Cardinals' TEs matchup was a wash. On the other hand though -- the safeties vs tight ends matchup advantage goes to the Seahawks.
The big play was by Kam Chancellor, who jumped a Todd Heap route for a game-sealing interception with 1:15 left in the game. Kolb tried to hit his safety blanket in Heap and Chancellor read the play perfectly, a huge play the Seahawks needed as the Cardinals were marching down to potentially take the lead or tie up the ballgame.
Sidney Rice/Mike Williams vs Patrick Peterson/A.J. Jefferson: Two big receivers, Rice at 6'5, 212 and Williams at 6'5, 235 will be matched up against rookie Patrick Peterson at 6'1, 219, who has started all of three NFL games, and AJ Jefferson at 6'1, 190, who has started all of three NFL games. The advantage in size and veteran savvy goes to the Seahawks here, but it will be up to Tarvaris Jackson to get these two the football. Mike Williams addressed this on Thursday night on Seahawks Weekly, saying something to the effect of "I told Tarvaris: if they are 'this' close, just throw it."
I'm assuming he meant even if they're blanketing BMW, he'll go get the ball. That's what both him and Rice excel at, so watch for that.
This matchup turned out about even. Sidney Rice dominated, catching 8 passes for 109 yards and finally giving the Seahawks' offense some life. On the other side, Big Mike Williams was targeted exactly one time, in the first quarter, and was a total non-factor. So much for Tarvaris getting him the football. After the game, both Tarvaris Jackson and Pete Carroll noted that Mike Williams will need to be a bigger factor, so we'll see how that plays out.
In this game though, I'd say this matchup was a wash as well. The Cards' defense held the Seahawks to 171 yards passing, a big improvement for them, but they couldn't contain Sidney Rice. A little give, a little take.
Tarvaris Jackson vs Kevin Kolb: Though they won't be directly matched up against each other, this is an obvious comparison to make. Kolb was acquired by the Cardinals this offseason for, relatively, a King's ransom. Tarvaris Jackson was signed as a free agent for relatively cheap. If Jackson can even hold his own in this matchup you have to feel good about it. Some fans will regret that the team did not pursue the Kolb trade more fervently, but here we are. Kolb vs Jackson.
Jackson will hope to limit turnovers and distribute the ball. Kolb will look for the big play to Larry Fitz and try to stick a dagger in the Seahawks hearts. Watch for huddle command and body language. Watch for momentum swings on the backs of these two players.
Should be interesting.
Well, TJack did in fact hold his own in this game. He was responsible for the same amount of touchdowns as Kevin Kolb, but turned the ball over fewer times.
Yes, there were momentum swings on the backs of these two players. Kolb struck first with a gusty (read, lucky) pass to Larry Fitzgerald in the endzone that went for six. Tarvaris answered with an 11 yard scramble for a touchdown. The game was close throughout and ultimately the turnover battle won the game for the Seahawks. Kolb coughed it up twice and the second interception turned out to be the clincher for the Seahawks.
I thought both players had good body language and both played tough. They both took their licks and kept on playing. Though I'd still say Kolb is the superior quarterback at this point, Jackson held his own and as I said pre-game, you have to feel good about that, considering the Seahawks gave up nothing for him. Edge for this particular game -- , Seahawks.