Seahawks vs. Cardinals: Takeaways from Arizona's Blowout Loss to Seattle
Don’t let the 12-point deficit fool you. This game was not even close.
The game was ugly right from Arizona's first defensive series, when Seattle marched right down the field in five plays, covering 83 yards in just 2:31 and culminating with a Russell Wilson 31-yard TD pass to wideout Sidney Rice.
The Cardinals (3-4) have dropped back-to-back division games and now are all alone in last place in the NFC West. With 10 days to prepare for the Atlanta Falcons, the Cardinals have to tweak the offense; things just are not working the way they are set up now. Receivers are running wrong routes, the timing is off between them and Carson Palmer, who obviously has struggled all season, and the offensive line is a complete disaster.
Here are some takeaways from this nightmarishly embarrassing loss to the Seahawks.
Larry Fitzgerald Is Not Right
Speaking of having 10 days off before the Falcons game, no one needs it more than Larry Fitzgerald does. It was evident in this game that he was physically not right.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, who had the call along with Brad Nessler, mentioned numerous times throughout the game that Fitzgerald didn’t look like himself, mentioning that the hamstring injuries through which he has been playing were obviously bothering him.
Fitzgerald was an absolute non-factor all game, and even star cornerback Richard Sherman left him alone at times in favor of covering Michael Floyd. Fitzgerald ended up with two receptions for 17 yards for the game.
The bye week following the Falcons game means the Cardinals will play one game over the next 24 days. Hopefully, that is enough time for Fitz to get his hamstrings healed up for the stretch run.
Early Returns on Carson Palmer Trade
As of now, it looks like Carson Palmer is a dud in Arizona.
But appearances can be deceiving.
Has he thrown too many interceptions? Yes, obviously 13 interceptions through seven games is too many.
The first of two Seattle picks Thursday night was the result of an outstanding defensive play from cornerback Brandon Browner, who stuck his hand into Fitzgerald’s cookie jar and got away with it, jimmying the ball free and resulting in an Earl Thomas INT.
The second, a pick by Browner, wasn’t even a bad throw, as many at first assumed it was.
The replay from behind showed Browner break on the pass as Palmer let it go, and there may have been a tug on Floyd’s jersey to hold him back and propel Browner to the ball. But it wasn’t called, so it must not have happened.
Regardless, the box score will show two interceptions from Palmer again, and he’s already being slaughtered for it.
In all honesty, though, there wasn’t much to like from Palmer Thursday night.
He’s 3-4 in Arizona and winless in three division games, and that’s what people will harp on for now. It’s not a good start, but it’s not the end of the line for him.
The Running Game
The misuse of rookie running back Andre Ellington continued on Thursday night—it got worse, in fact, as Ellington carried three times for three yards. Rashard Mendenhall was no better, having 13 carries for a laughable 22 yards (1.7 yards per carry) and a gift three-yard touchdown set up a forced fumble by the defense.
Coach Bruce Arians called only those 16 running plays.
Playing from behind, combined with a struggling rushing attack, makes it difficult to stick with the running game. But abandoning it once again was not the right call.
Palmer threw the ball a season-high 45 times against Seattle and completed 30 of them (including a string of 15 in a row in garbage time as the game wound down).
Mendenhall once again showed no ability to hit open running lanes with speed or quickness. He’s 26 years old and runs as if he’s 36.
The running game needs an overhaul, and it needs to come quickly. More Ellington, more Stepfan Taylor and some Ryan Williams should be in order for the Atlanta game.
Offensive Line Woes
In his first two starts at left tackle, Bradley Sowell allowed a bunch of quarterback pressures but did a decent job keeping Palmer upright, allowing only one sack.
That changed Thursday night, when defensive end Chris Clemons made him look puny on several plays. Avril notched just one sack, but fellow defensive end Chris Avril also beat Sowell and the offensive line surrendered seven sacks in total to the Seahawks—by far a season high.
It is painfully clear that Sowell is not a starting-caliber offensive lineman at this level.
What Happened to the Run Defense?
Through Week 5, the Arizona run defense was among the best in the NFL. The Cardinals stopped everyone on their way to a top-5 ranking.
But the past two weeks have proven to be much different. Running backs for the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers combined for 58 carries, 237 yards (a 4.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.
It looks like a different defense defending the run right now. Seattle and San Francisco are a different breed of offense, but to compete in the NFC West, the Cardinals must stop what the teams within the division do best. And the past two opponents run the ball really well.
They both made that obvious.
Those Tight Ends
Once again, tight ends were a problem for the Cardinals defense. Zach Miller hauled in five receptions for 40 yards, Luke Willson got behind the defense for a 23-yard reception early and Kellen Davis’ only reception resulted in a 1-yard touchdown.
For most of the night, a combination of Jerraud Powers and safeties Yeremiah Bell and Rashad Johnson covered Seattle's tight ends. That group clearly was not working—and has not worked all season—yet this rotation continues to take on the coverage.
Thought: Why not stick Daryl Washington on a tight end every time he splits out wide and replace No. 58 in the middle with either Jasper Brinkley or rookie Kevin Minter? That has to be a better choice than allowing your defense to be outmatched by tight ends on a weekly basis.
Jay Feely Impressing
Because of his struggles this preseason and into Week 1, likely no one was harder on kicker Jay Feely than I was. I assumed he was done being a solid NFL kicker based on the training camp practices I saw and the preseason games he had.
I was wrong, and for that, I apologize.
Feely hit all three of his attempts Thursday night, including two from beyond 50 yards. In fact, he has connected on all 11 field-goal tries since missing a 50-yarder in St. Louis Week 1 and is 12-of-13 (92.3 percent) on the season.
If you have paid attention to my writing for any length of time, you may remember I was forced to apologize to punter Dave Zastudil after calling him out for a poor 2011 season in Arizona. All he did in 2012 was go out and have a great season on his way to setting NFL records for most punting yards in a season (5,209) and most punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line (46).
But I am willing to apologize for being wrong when the result is a positive one for the team.
It gets difficult when it’s the other way around. Apologizing for a player you thought was going to light it up who ends up struggling is tough. I may have to do that with a certain quarterback soon.