GLENDALE, Arizona — The spotlight in Sunday afternoon’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals was on the quarterbacks. Seattle’s Russell Wilson is the one who proved short, mobile quarterbacks can succeed in the NFL, and Arizona rookie Kyler Murray is attempting to follow in Wilson’s footsteps.
But while all the focus was on the ball throwers, it was a ball carrier who stole the show.
Chris Carson answered all the questions directed his way during the week with a dominating performance, setting the tone as the Seahawks defeated the Cardinals 27-10 at State Farm Stadium.
Carson was coming off a disastrous two-fumble performance in a 33-27 home loss to the Drew Brees-less New Orleans Saints last weekend, and there was speculation his ball-security issues could cost him his starting job.
But Carson delivered a physically punishing all-around performance, rushing for 104 yards on 22 carries and catching four passes for 41 yards as Seattle (3-1) used a ball-control offensive game plan to dictate the pace.
“The guy I’m most excited about is Chris Carson,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He had a great game, sending a message about his style of play and our style of play.
“If you look at the plays that happened before, there’s some freaky things about how they got the ball away from him, and that’s just not going to happen,” Carroll added. “I was convinced Chris was going to put it away, and he did.”
Sunday’s game was hyped as the initial meeting between Wilson and Murray in what was the first matchup between NFL quarterbacks under 6-feet tall since 1970. Wilson is the proven commodity, having led the Seahawks to two Super Bowls. Murray, the first-overall pick in this year’s draft, is the hopeful usurper, trying to succeed using the same formula Wilson has used throughout his career.
But while Wilson was busy giving Murray a lesson in game management — he was an ultra-efficient 22-for-28 for 240 yards and one touchdown — he also had the aid of a running back who was out to prove that his three lost fumbles over the season’s first three games were the exception, not the rule.
“What was great was seeing Chris Carson battle,” Wilson said. “He’s a star, he’s a guy who’s worked so hard. I told him Monday, ‘You know, Walter Payton has fumbled before, too,’ At the end of the day, if you want to be great, you’re going to have a lot of amazing plays and there’s going to be some tough ones in between. The key is the great players overcome it, they move on, they let it go. He’s been able to do that.”
The Seahawks also received a big game out of tight end Will Dissly. Dissly, playing on the field where he suffered the knee injury that derailed his rookie season last September, caught a career-high seven passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. He now has four TD receptions in four games.
Murray finished the game 22-for-32 for 241 yards and one huge interception. David Johnson added eight receptions for 99 yards and 11 carries for 40 yards for the Cardinals (0-3-1).
While much of the attention was on the offenses before the game started, it was Seattle’s defense that delivered the opening punch, and specifically the player the Seahawks added just before the season began. With Seattle leading 3-0 midway through the first quarter, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney made the type of athletic play he was acquired from Houston to make, reaching up to snatch a screen pass and racing 27 yards for a touchdown, sparking a team-photo celebration and giving Seattle early breathing room.
“He looked like 7-feet on that play — maybe just because Murray was throwing,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “But that was a big play in the game. He tips it to himself, ran it back, showed a little speed. It really ignited the whole team, and on the road you need plays like that.”
Seattle continued to control the game, and Dissly’s 9-yard touchdown reception on a wheel route to the left corner of the end zone midway through the second quarter helped the Seahawks take a commanding 20-3 lead into halftime.
Seattle seemed safe with its lead until the Cardinals marched the length of the field early in the fourth quarter, with Murray’s Wilson-like 9-yard quarterback keeper cutting the lead to 20-10 and potentially making the game interesting.
But Seattle responded with exactly the drive it needed, as Carson and Wilson led a 15-play, 75-yard drive that ate more than eight minutes off the clock. It concluded with C.J. Prosise’s 9-yard run touchdown run that clinched Seattle’s second road win of the season.