SEATTLE — Russell Wilson used baseball and basketball examples to explain Sunday’s performance against the Arizona Cardinals.
“We didn’t play great,” the Seattle Seahawks’ starting quarterback said. “It’s like going to the gym. Sometimes you go up to bat, and sometimes you go 0-for-4. Sometimes you go to the gym and try to shoot, and the ball is not going in.”
The Seahawks never could find their groove Sunday, and the result was a flat performance that left much to be desired against Seattle’s sub-.500 NFC West Division rival.
Seattle’s lone touchdown came on its opening drive, the Seahawks recorded a season-low 224 total yards and yielded Kenyan Drake and the Cardinals a season-high 253 rushing yards in what amounted to a 27-13 loss.
The defeat sets up a Week 17 Sunday Night Football prime-time matchup with the San Francisco 49ers with the NFC West title on the line.
“Everything comes down to the final week of the season,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We’re fortunate that we have a chance to play for the division this late in the year. What’s important is for us to be disciplined about this so that we can turn our focus to that week and not be affected by what just happened.”
Seattle (11-4) came limping into Week 16 with injuries to several key players. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, offensive tackle Duane Brown, safety Quandre Diggs and cornerback Shaquill Griffin were all inactive, and the injury news only worsened following the loss.
Both starting running back Chris Carson and backup running back C.J. Prosise exited during the first half, and Carroll revealed postgame that both are done for the season — Carson with a hip injury and Prosise with a broken arm. Carroll also ruled Brown out for next week’s pivotal game, saying Brown will undergo knee surgery but has a chance to be back during the playoffs.
“We do kind of like running the football, you know,” Carroll said when asked about the challenge of losing Carson and Brown. “It’s a challenge. (General manager) John (Schneider) has to get working. He has a plan, and he was already preparing for every position that has a fallout wherever we go.”
Carson finished with 40 yards on eight carries, and Prosise added 14 yards on four rushes. The injuries thrust rookie running back Travis Homer into a featured second-half role, and he responded with 42 total yards.
Rushing the ball was just part of Seattle’s offensive issues. Wilson had little time to throw against Arizona’s pass rush, which was led by outside linebacker Chandler Jones. The Cardinal Pro-Bowler tallied four sacks, pushing his season total to a franchise-record 19. He also forced two fumbles. Seahawks reserve offensive lineman Jamarco Jones started at left tackle in place of Brown, but the entire unit struggled.
Wilson threw for a season-low 169 yards and a touchdown, completing 16 of 31 passes. Just three completions went to wide receivers, and rookie standout DK Metcalf was targeted just once and didn’t catch a pass.
“We had a terrible time today,” said Carroll of Seattle’s pass protection. “Chandler Jones, we went into the game knowing, and we tried chipping him and all kind of different things, and we weren’t able to keep him out of there. It was a really hard day.”
While the Seahawks statistically had their worst game of the year, they got off to a great start.
After an Arizona three-and-out, Seattle opened with a nine-play, 89-yard scoring drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to fullback Nick Bellore. Four plays during the drive went for more than 15 yards, including a Carson run, a David Moore run and passes to tight end Jacob Hollister and receiver Malik Turner.
Hollister finished as Seattle’s leading receiver with 64 yards on five receptions.
The early momentum Seattle captured instantly vanished courtesy of Drake, who was coming off a four-touchdown Week 15 effort.
On Arizona’s first play after the Seattle score, the Cardinals’ midseason acquisition took a carry around the right side, cut back inside to avoid a group of Seattle defenders and beat Seahawks backup safety Delano Hill down the right sideline for an 80-yard touchdown run. The score tied the game at 7-7 with 8:33 remaining in the first.
“I think execution and tackling,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said when asked what caused the struggles on defense. “I feel like there were a couple times where we could’ve made a play and got off the field, but it didn’t happen. We just have to put ourselves in positions to make those plays.”
The Cardinals took their first lead late in the first half when Murray creatively connected with Larry Fitzgerald for a 21-yard touchdown pass. Facing a second-and-7 on Seattle’s 21, Murray scrambled to his left after the play broke down. Just before he decided to run, he pulled back and flipped a short side-arm pass to Fitzgerald, who reacted quickly to pull the ball in before dashing for a 21-yard TD that gave the Cardinals a 14-7 lead with 4:16 remaining until halftime.
Meanwhile, Seattle’s offense found itself stuck in neutral or reverse following its opening scoring drive. Seattle recorded four consecutive three-and-outs during the course of the first and second quarters. Defensive pressure, penalties and sometimes both continuously hampered the Seahawks.
Seattle recorded just 129 total yards in the first half after logging 89 on its first drive. Arizona took advantage of Seattle’s offensive inefficiency.
Murray extended the Cardinals’ lead to two scores with a two-minute drill right before halftime that ended with a Zane Gonzalez 22-yard field goal. The score gave Arizona a 17-7 lead with 0:22 to play until the break.
Arizona added to its lead out of halftime after Moore lost a fumble on a third-and-10 completion for 20 yards. The Cardinals moved from their own 36 to Seattle’s 30 before Gonzalez split the uprights on a 46-yarder that gave Arizona a 20-7 advantage at 11:36 in the third quarter.
Seattle’s offense continued to struggle deep into the second half. With Seattle needing a big play and facing the potential of falling behind by three scores, defense end Rasheem Green delivered on special teams by blocking a Gonzalez 45-yard field-goal attempt. Reserve safety Marquise Blair returned the ball 46 yards, giving Seattle possession at Arizona’s 16-yard line.
The Seahawks were unable to pick up a first down and settled for a Jason Myers 30-yard field goal that trimmed Arizona’s lead to 20-10 with 14:56 to play in the fourth quarter. Myers followed with a second field goal — this time a 51-yarder — to bring the Seahawks to within one score at 20-13 with 10:02 to play.
Led by backup quarterback Brett Hundley, who replaced Murray after the rookie left with a third-quarter hamstring injury, Arizona ended Seattle’s comeback bid with an ensuing nine-play, 78-yard put-away touchdown drive. Drake capped the drive with a 3-yard TD run — his second of the game — to give the Cardinals a 27-13 lead with 4:18 to play.
“We definitely dropped the ball today,” Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald said. “But, we’ve still got everything in front of us, which is a blessing. The only thing we can do is bounce back and get ready to beat the 49ers.”