SEATTLE — Lost in all the hand-wringing over the Seattle Seahawks’ offense so far this season is the fact that you can win with defense in the NFL, and the Seahawks proved it again Sunday at CenturyLink Field in a gritty, determined 13-10 victory over Arizona.
While the offense showed some p
romise and balance for the first time this season, the defense held the fort, and that’s probably going to have to be the recipe for a while.
“Going into the season, with most teams the offense is sometimes behind the defense,” Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons said. “We (the defense) are a group that a lot of us were together last year, and the offense is pretty new. The offensive line is pretty new, the quarterback and a few of those guys.
“We know we have to hold it down until they actually start jelling together,” Clemons said. “Today was a day that they actually looked pretty good on offense. If they just score a few points …”
Thirteen points were enough on Sunday.
Arizona moved the ball well at times and finished with 324 total yards and 20 first downs.
But the Seahawks’ first two takeaways of the season and some other timely big plays kept the Cardinals from ever developing any real momentum.
Cornerback Marcus Trufant picked off a pass deep in Seattle territory at the end of the first half to eliminate a possible field goal attempt. Clemons had a sack early in the fourth quarter to push the Cardinals out of makeable field goal range going into a stiff wind.
And with the game on the line, safety Kam Chancellor had his first career interception with 1:04 left to all but secure the victory.
The Cardinals had third-and-12 at the Seattle 37-yard line. Going into the wind, they weren’t in field goal range, so Chancellor was certain they would play for the first down.
He said that in film study, the Seahawks noticed that in third-and-long with three receivers to one side, the Cardinals like to run the middle receiver on a crossing route and send the inside receiver deep.
When he saw the middle receiver start to cross, he knew Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb was going deep down the middle to tight end Todd Heap.
“I knew that he was going to try to come in behind me, and I saw my opportunity to make a big play and I just jumped it,” Chancellor said. “We stayed back an extra day (after practice) to watch their third downs because last week we had a bad third-down situation.”
“We’ve got to get the ball back to the offense and we’ve got to get turnovers. That’s just our job,” he said.
Chancellor also had the hit of the day when he lit up Heap after Earl Thomas had an apparent interception on Arizona’s second offensive play of the game.
The interception was nullified by a penalty, but the hit set the tone for the day.
“I love the way he plays. I really like this guy,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said of Chancellor. “He’s tough, aggressive. Guys look up to him. He’s a second-year guy, and he’s an old guy on the team. He’s going to make tough plays.
“I thought that was a great interception, cutting in front and stealing the ball at such a critical time,” Carroll said. “It was really a cool thing. I think he’s just getting started. He’s just getting going.”
Chancellor and Thomas are second-year players, and cornerback Brandon Browner is in his first NFL season after four years in the CFL. Trufant is the only seasoned vet in the Seattle secondary.
But the Seahawks kept Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona’s All-Pro wide receiver, largely in check. Fitzgerald had an amazing catch in the second quarter for the Cardinals’ only touchdown when he leapt high enough to win a jump ball with Browner and Thomas in the end zone.
But Fitzgerald had no catches at all in the second half and finished the game with a relatively quiet five receptions for 64 yards.
“I think at halftime we said ‘we can do this. We can deal with him,'” Carroll said. “The guys made some nice plays, big plays for us that you wouldn’t see because he didn’t get the football. There were some good drops and some good zone coverages, a couple of double-up situations that were really well done.”
Altogether, it was not a museum piece by any means. It was not the kind of performance anybody is going to talk about even a month from now.
But if the 2011 Seahawks are going to amount to anything at all, it was exactly the type of game they will have to keep playing and winning, at least for the foreseeable future.
“All three phases have to play well, offense, defense, and special teams, but on defense, we know that we have to be real good,” linebacker K.J. Wright said.
“As long as we play well like we did today we give ourselves a chance.”