The balance of power has shifted in the NFC West. So has gone the narrative of this season thus far, as the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers stumbled while the upstart Arizona Cardinals got off to a torrid 9-1 start. There’s no denying the Cards, but maybe it’s too early to decree the power shift complete. That’s entirely the doing of the Seahawks.
Despite playing in the same division, there hasn’t exactly been lots of tension between Arizona and Seattle in recent years. Last year the Cardinals put Seattle on notice by being the first team in an unthinkably long time to beat the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. This year they put the world on notice by playing like the class of professional football. And today they returned to CenturyLink Field to suffer through a blowout loss.
Seattle beat the division leaders 19-3, overcoming an oft-stifling defense while not allowing the Redbirds to do the same. The gap between the two teams at the top of the NFC West is down to two games, and suddenly the division seems winnable. Not wide open, of course, but something that could be won. This was a critical test, and the ‘Hawks passed with flying colors.
To say that the ‘Hawks “survived” Arizona’s defense is to tell it like it was. Russell Wilson was sacked seven(!) times for 42 lost yards, yet he still went 17 for 22 with a touchdown and 211 yards in the air. He added ten carries for a team-leading 73 yards. Marshawn Lynch had only 39 yards with in 15 tries, and missed some of the game with the same back injury that’s been bugging him lately. Robert Turbin added twelve rushing yards of his own.
So Seattle was able to move the ball, but the likes of Calais Campbell and the rest of the Arizona defense was able to seriously limit the damage. Seven sacks! For every chance the ‘Hawks had at a touchdown, there was seemingly a drive-killing sack to limit them to three points. Steven Hauschka nailed four of his five field goal attempts, with the fifth being blocked. His longest was 52 yards.
Wilson did find Cooper Heifet for a touchdown in the third quarter, but that was the only piece of non-field goal offense in the entire game. Arizona scored three late in the first half, then was shut out the rest of the way. This game was a defensive battle. But the kind of battle where one defense allowed sixteen points more than the other defense.
Drew Stanton, filling in for Carson Palmer and his balky ACL, was held to 149 yards on 14 completions out of 26 attempts. He threw an interception and was sacked three times. John Brown had three nice, long catches. And, hey, look at that! We’ve covered all of the positive contributions made by the Cardinals offense in this game. A field goal at the end of a nice drive. Other than that, they did nothing.
Cliff Avril was death to the quarterback with a pair of sacks. Kam Chancellor was death to everything with eight tackles. Bobby Wagner was brilliant. K.J. Wright and Richard Sherman were excellent. When the Seahawks defense is firing, it’s a unit for the ages. Today they were firing, and we got to watch a pretty incredible showing of dominance.
Nobody’s asking what week it will be when Arizona clinches the division anymore. Better believe the Cardinals are pretty terrified of the Seahawks’ defense right now, and the rest of the division is feeling the heat, too. A loss today and everyone accepts that the ‘Hawks are toast. But the Seahawks didn’t lose. They dominated an opponent who was perceived to be their superior, and now nothing’s out of the question.
Make no mistake, the Seattle Seahawks are going to make a run at the division. They’ve quietly won four of their last five, and control their own destiny with most of their remaining schedule set to take place within the NFC West. They were the best team at the start of the season, and now there’s a chance they could end the season that way, too. Given all that’s gone on in between, that much is incredible.