Here’s how the Seattle Seahawks grade out in their 31-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at State Farm Stadium:
When quarterback Geno Smith had his screen pass picked off for a touchdown in the third quarter, giving Arizona a 14-10 lead, it seemed a sign Seattle’s offense had hit a stumbling block. But Smith and the Seahawks responded in astonishing fashion, engineering two long touchdown drives that ate a ton of clock, then racing to another long TD after Arizona pulled within 24-21 and was trying to get the ball back. Smith was in control throughout, minus his one hiccup; running back Ken Walker III got stronger as the game went along, scoring two TDs; and Seattle was an impressive 10-for-15 on third down.
Seattle’s defense gave up a touchdown on Arizona’s opening drive, then allowed another in the late going while playing to protect a two-score lead. In between the Seahawks gave up nothing. The only time the Cardinals had anything resembling a sustained drive ended late in the first half when Ryan Neal forced a fumble from Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray after Murray had scrambled for a first down, a play that preserved Seattle’s halftime lead. Seattle managed to sack the elusive Murray five times, including twice in a row to force a fourth-quarter punt after the Seahawks took the lead. Arizona’s 262 yards was a season low.
Kicker Jason Myers is a luxury, as his dependability on long-distance field goals — he nailed a 49-yarder Sunday — is a weapon few teams possess. There was a big play by punter Michael Dickson and his coverage to pin the Cardinals on their own 3-yard line n the second quarter. Coverage on punts and kickoffs was excellent throughout the game. Punt returner DeeJay Dallas had a couple of iffy moments when he let a first-quarter punt bounce instead of catching it, costing Seattle about 20 yards, then muffed a fourth-quarter punt before recovering it himself. But neither proved costly.
Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron got everything right on Seattle’s last three drives, from the decision to ride Walker — who was largely contained through three quarters — against Arizona’s tiring defense, to the repeated use of the play-action pass to the tight end on the back side that worked every time. It more than made up for the questionable play calls that resulted in a turnover on downs in the second quarter. The Seahawks are the runaway leaders in the NFL in forced fumbles, and at what point does coaching get some credit for that?
That’s four straight victories for Seattle, and with San Francisco having a bye and the Los Angeles Rams losing to Tampa Bay, the Seahawks suddenly find themselves with breathing room atop the NFC West. The mistake-prone Cardinals didn’t help themselves in this one, but it was still a complete performance by Seattle, which excelled in all facets of the game. Who would have guessed the Seahawks would be the team with the better record heading into the Week 9 game in Germany against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers?
– Nick Patterson, Herald writer