The other day I was reading the local paper, and it had an article by Danny O'neil that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. It was entitled "Seahawks tend to play according to competition" and as the title suggests, it highlighted the fact that Seattle has lost some games to teams with poor records this season. It then extrapolated from that and suggested that Arizona's horrible slide somehow made for an "intriguing" Sunday matchup.
I have nothing against O'neil, in fact I'd say that his sports writing on the whole is slightly above average, but reading that article bothered me. For a guy who's job it is to cover the Seahawks, you think he'd a avoid a title like that. It's as if he hadn't even watched the games. The Seahawks did not play down to the Jets level. They did not play down to the Cowboys or Vikings .500ish levels. They held a lead in every game they lost all season. In the season opener, Arizona played awesome defense and BEAT the Seahawks, albeit just barely. The Lions BEAT the Seahawks thanks to a fantastic outing from Matt Stafford, who made perfect play after perfect play when anything less wouldn't be enough. The Dolphins figured out Seattle's defense in the 2nd half and tore them a new one late to eek out a clutch victory. In all those cases, the underdog teams elevated their usual level of play significantly just to compete, and barely beat, the Seahawks.
Really, the only two games all year where I'd agree with O'neil were the Rams and Panthers games. Both were at 10 am by the way, and Seattle split those two games which occurred on consecutive weeks. In both those games Seattle looked flat and legitimately did play on a lower level. So really, there isn't a great case to be made here. Seattle had two truly flat games against weak teams, but had 3 blowout wins against less than great teams too.
It annoyed me. You know what else annoyed me? That John Skelton somehow owned a 2-0 record against Seattle. Just like how Matt Leinart did at one point years ago.
I wouldn't have been satisfied with a close win today. I wanted the Seahawks to remind people just how scary good of a team they are. And holy hell, did they deliver.
There was no "playing down" to Arizona's level today. Seattle crushed Arizona in the first half, scoring 38 points while allowing none. Then in the 2nd half, Seattle pulled most of their starters on offense, and still tacked on an additional 20 points while maintaining the shutout. It could have been 23 points if Carroll had attempted a field goal on 4th and 23.
If we were to play the word game where you mention the first word you think of when discussing this football game, the first word for me is "humiliation." It's one thing to get blown out by a clearly superior team, but in this case even the backups were still ripping them a new one. Seattle kicked Arizona's ass so hard in the first half they lost a boot. Then they figured hey, let's lose the other boot too. Why not?
What was truly scary was that Pete seemed to want to avoid running up the score. Going for 4th and 23 in field goal range was actually good sportsmanship, because very few 4th and 23 plays convert and tacking on 3s when you have a 51 point lead is completely unnecessary. He took out Wilson, Lynch, and most of the starting O-line. If running up the score was his goal, he would have kept those starters in.
In the end, this was a historic game for the Seahawks on several levels. It was the biggest shutout win in team history, destroying the previous record (45-0). It was the highest scoring game in team history and (obviously) the largest margin of victory in team history. It was the 3rd largest shutout win in NFL history (Superbowl era), and it would have been #1 if Pete kicks that field goal (the current modern era record is 59-0, held by two teams). Seattle's defense might have set a record for fantasy points as well.
And while I personally think the evidence and Carroll's past history suggests that his intention was not to run up the score, so what if he was? You don't have to apologize to a guy like Whisenhunt who has a very real chance of not being an NFL coach next week. It's the cold hard truth of the NFL, and really we might have just done the Cardinals a favor. This utter destruction laid bare how simply awful that franchise is, and makes a clean start that much easier to justify this offseason. Whisenhunt is actually a decent coach, but that front office is a joke.
And during this whole one-sided affair the 12thman remained throughout. Though I guess it helped that Matt Flynn gave them a reason to keep watching.
As far as the game itself:
-For the first time in weeks, Russell Wilson failed to raise his passer rating. It's hard to complain though when his meager 87 passer rating performance led numerous scoring drives and averaged a gaudy 11.4 yards per attempt. His lone interception was the result of Golden Tate slipping, having the ball sneak just between his hands and Patrick Peterson making a terrific play. I've also been told that the ball might have been tipped, although I have not been able to confirm. It was Wilson's first ever interception during a regular season game at home, and his first interception anywhere since October.
-The most exciting development today was Walter Thurmond. Thurmond looked like an all-pro against the Giants in 2011- I really thought we had a superstar in the making back then. Unfortunately, he was injured the very next week. This was his first NFL action since that time. He pretty much took it where he left off. He was making diving pass defense plays, great tackles, and even tipped the ball up on that crazy interception which effectively began the blowout.
-The second most exciting development of today's game was that Seattle's odds of winning a rookie of the year award went up substantially. Bobby Wagner has 3 picks and 4 passes defensed in the last 3 games after having none in weeks 1-11. He's still behind Kuechly in tackles, but Kuechly only has one sack and one pick to his name, and commands a terrible defense compared to Wagner who manages an elite unit in possible Superbowl contention. Bruce Irvin also notched his 8th sack. RG3 suffered an ugly knee injury that could shut him down for the rest of the season, and even if he does play on, he likely won't be the same in the final 3 weeks. If Seattle keeps winning and RG3 slows down enough, Wilson could have a real shot. As over hyped as Luck is right now, it seems to me that Wilson has been a more popular topic since the Bears game. He's become the dark horse of the RoY discussion.
-This was a great game for almost the entire secondary. Kam Chancellor was making plays everywhere. Richard Sherman had the best game of his life- and that's saying a lot. He had two picks, a fumble recovery and a few passes defensed. Jeron Johnson had a strip sack and avoided the negative play.
-The pass rush today was below average considering the opponent, the game being at home, and the fact that Seattle wisely used mostly man coverage today. As usual, the pass rush came alive on blitz plays. I would be surprised if there is a 4-3 team in the NFL that benefits more from blitzing than Seattle does.
-Tim Ryan again, but you guys already knew that.
-Robert Turbin had his first 100+ yard game. Lynch also had 100+, averaging a ridiculous 11.6 yards per carry. Nothing showed more "quit" in the Cardinals today than their run defense, who entered this game ranked 3rd in the NFL in run defense.
-I really liked one particular playcall by Darrell Bevell today. Seattle had a well set up screen play spoiled by an alert batted ball when an Arizona defender swatted Wilson's screen pass down. A few plays later Seattle faced another screen pass situation, but instead of throwing it up the middle and risking another tipped ball, Anthony McCoy faked as a blocker and turned into a last second receiver on the outside. The play went for 21 yards and converted a long first down. It caught the Cardinals with their pants down, and it had an impact on their blitzing the rest of the game.
-Breno Giacomini looked like his early season self again. He would settle down after his 3rd mistake, but performances like that could cost you a playoff game. Seattle might want to start giving looks to Frank Omiyale before it's too late. And I say that as someone who likes Giacomini. He's not as bad as people think, but there are also times where no amount of run blocking can compensate for his negative plays.
-Matt Flynn looked pretty damn good today considering that he was playing with mostly backups. He's a clear step down from Wilson, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that Flynn has looked like a top 15 level QB in his last two outings (AZ and Oakland).
-Malcolm Smith has handled his increased role pretty well. I'd still like a nice investment there since Smith is not a guy you can count on to last 16 games (he's undersized with injury history). However, he's almost too perfect as a backup. He's a great player to have step in a few games a year.
-John Ryan had another great game.
A final thought:
If you had told me before the year that Seattle would have outscored Arizona 74-20 this season, I would have believed it. If you had told me they would have split despite that score, I would have begrudgingly believed it. But really, this game today was pretty much what I had hoped for and expected in week one. The talent gap between Arizona and Seattle is ridiculous. Not 58-0 ridiculous, but close. It's just a shame that you know, small sample sizes and all that. Arizona started 4-0. Anything can happen in small samples, especially in the parity heavy NFL.
So today was gratifying on just about every front. It was about as close to a perfect win as you could get. John Skelton finally played like the hot pile of doo that he really is and Seattle finally gave the Cardinals a righteous assbeating that was long, long overdue. I have a hunch it will be the first of many straight victories in this matchup. Arizona isn't turning into a great team any time soon.
But 58-0? That's neat. Even a bad team can blow out a team every once in a while, but tempting 60 is a rare feat. That's something normally exclusive to the New England Patriots.