Tag Archives: Rashard Mendenhall

Review: Cardinals 17, Seahawks 10

22 Dec
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Photo Credit: azcardinals.com

Well that did not go the way I thought it would.

The NFC West division championship celebration is on hold for one more week after the Arizona Cardinals came into CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon and stunned the Seattle Seahawks 17-10, giving the Seahawks their first loss at home since Christmas Eve 2011. The Cardinals improve to 10-5 on the season and their playoff hopes are still alive heading into the final week of the season. The Seahawks fall to 12-3 and are now only up by one game on San Francisco for the NFC West lead. What’s even scarier is the reaffirmation that it is in fact possible for a visiting team to come in to the hardest place to play in the NFL and beat one of the best teams in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals have created a blueprint for other teams to come to Seattle and give the Seahawks a run for their money. This game was very frustrating to watch in multiple aspects and extremely difficult to think about after the fact but this is what I took out of it.

A Hot Knife Through Butter: This is the only comparison to describe the Cardinals running game through the Seahawks defense. Running backs Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall, and Stepfan Taylor ran for a combined 139 yards on Sunday and the Seattle defense could not stop runs through the middle of the field if their life depended on it. After watching a replay of the game the Cardinals offensive line did a great job blocking and creating room to run but the Seahawks defensive line and linebackers were quite undisciplined in regards to their gap assignments. The Seahawks gave up 10 rushes of 5 yards or more, including two first down runs late in the fourth quarter that were of 10 yards or more. Whenever the Seahawks needed a crucial stop, it seemed like the Cardinals countered with a gain that extended their drives. What frustrated me the most was how easy it looked for the Cardinals to run the ball. On many of their long rushes the ball carrier went untouched until he got to the second level of the Seahawks defense. It was a very uncharacteristic performance by the Seattle defense but I give credit to the Cardinals offensive line for being able to create those humongous holes for their running back to run through.

Michael F**king Bowie: From a broad perspective the Seahawks offense played their worst game of the season. Russell Wilson only threw for 108 yards, one touchdown, and one “interception” and Marshawn Lynch added 71 yards of his own. But to truly understand just how poorly the Seahawks offense played on Sunday, you have to zone in on what was occurring in the trenches. Me and the guys around me nicknamed starting right guard Michael Bowie “Michael F**king Bowie” on Sunday because he stepped in for the concussed J.R. Sweezy and struggled mightily keeping the pressure off of Russell Wilson. I kept tabs on Bowie for three consecutive second half drives and this is what I noticed. In 11 total plays, Bowie was only able to successfully contain his man once, on a 27 yard scramble by Wilson. Defensive tackle Dan Williams and defensive end Darnell Dockett were able to collapse the right side of the offensive line and Wilson was under constant pressure during this span. In this three drive sequence, Wilson went 2/6 passing for 9 yards. The Cardinals have an incredibly talented front 7 and they flat out embarrassed Bowie on Sunday. Bowie is still very raw and I think it was a mistake to start him at a position that he has not played consistently this season. It got to the point that the Seahawks were substituting Bowie for rookie lineman Alvin Bailey to try to get some offensive momentum going. Hopefully Sweezy will be back next week because with another talented defense coming to town next week, Bowie may be in for another tough day at the office, assuming he starts once again over James Carpenter if Sweezy cannot go.

It’s All About the Ball: Well, usually it’s all about the ball. The Seahawks won the turnover battle 4-2 on Sunday but walked away on the losing end for only the fourth time under Pete Carroll (the Seahawks are now 26-4 when winning the turnover battle). The Seahawks pressure on Carson Palmer was very good early on and it seemed as though if we could keep up the pass rush, Palmer would continue to make mistakes. Richard Sherman took the league lead in interceptions after intercepting two more passes on Sunday. Sherman now has 8 interceptions on the season. Kam Chancellor and Malcolm Smith also added interceptions off of tipped Palmer passes.

Defense Can’t Hold: Last season the Seahawks failed to hold leads late in the fourth quarter of four different games. All of those losses came on the road. This week the Seahawks blew a fourth quarter lead at home for the first time since the last game they lost at home in 2011. After scoring a touchdown to take a 10-9 lead, the Seahawks kicked off and the Cardinals had 7:26 to go roughly 55 yards to get into at least field goal range to have the opportunity to take the lead. The Cardinals went the length of the field, culminating in the deciding 31-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd. The two-point conversion attempt was successful and Arizona took a 17-10 lead. This was one of the most unusual feelings I have had at a home game in a long time. Usually once the Seahawks take a lead late in a game, the crowd gets louder and the defense is able to feed off of the energy to step up and stop the opposing offense rather quickly. It has happened time and time again when playing at home over the past two seasons. Today the Cardinals were able to successfully finish their final drive and ultimately walked away victorious.

The Bad Calls: Fair warning, I am not trying to make excuses but I feel there were a handful of calls made by Scott Green and his officiating crew that may have shaped the outcome of Sunday’s game. There are 4 rulings that I felt were bad calls which killed our momentum and extended crucial Arizona drives.

The first questionable call came with 12:39 left in the game. Richard Sherman was called for pass interference on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald which gave the Cardinals the ball at the Seahawks 16-yard line. From my seats it looks like Sherman’s feet got tangled with Fitzgerald’s, resulting in incidental contact. After watching the game film it looked more ticky-tacky on television but I still saw no interference on Sherman. Questionable call number two came on the very next play. Arizona running back Rashard Mendenhall rushed for no gain but the ball was recovered by Seahawks defensive tackle Michael Bennett. It was ruled on the field that Mendenhall was down by contact but the Seahawks challenged the play. The ruling on the field was upheld even though one angle seemed to show that the ball was coming loose before Mendenhall’s arm hit the ground, however the referee saw no conclusive evidence to overturn the call. That drive ended in a Cardinals punt.

The third questionable call made me madder than any of the other bad calls. With 5:04 left in the game Malcolm Smith was called for defensive holding on a 3rd down and 5. Instead of forcing the Cardinals to punt, the penalty gave the Cardinals a first down and they scored the game-winning touchdown later on in the drive. What made me mad was the extremely long delay between the end of the play and the penalty flag being thrown. The official that threw the flag on Smith had waved his arms to signal an incomplete pass THEN reached for his pocket to throw the flag. How in the world can you call the play incomplete then suddenly change your mind several seconds later to call a penalty? That long delay tells me that the referee actually may have been unsure what to rule and went with the “safer” decision. The play did not look like a defensive hold to me and the Seahawks should have gotten the ball back up by one with a chance to close the game out. Instead, the Seahawks got jobbed.

To add icing on top of the cake one last questionable call was made at the two-minute warning. A Russell Wilson pass intended for Doug Baldwin was ruled a deflection and an interception but the replay showed that the ball hit the ground before popping up into the air, which should have made it an incomplete pass and kept the Seahawks potential game winning drive alive. Baldwin said after the game that he knew the ball hit the ground and the referees made the wrong call. The replay angles show the ball hitting the ground with the field turf rubber popping up into the air but head referee Scott Green explained after the game that he “did not have conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field.” This final bad call gave the Cardinals the ball back and they ran out the clock to win the game.

Thoughts on Arizona: If the Arizona Cardinals can make it into the playoffs, they are certainly a dark horse candidate to make a deep run. They certainly proved that they can win in an extremely hostile environment and their defense may be one of the best overall units in all of football. This team will certainly be a power in the NFC West moving forward in the coming years even if they fail to qualify to make the playoffs this season.

Random Thoughts: I cannot remember the last time I felt so tired throughout a Seahawks gameday. I need to get more sleep the night before home games… Or take a 5-hour energy… I couldn’t believe how foggy it was in downtown Seattle during the game. My seats offer a view to the south of I-5 and the fog was so thick you could not see past the outside of the stadium. It was almost as if we were in the middle of a cloud… Shout out to Ebenezer from Georgia who was a random stranger we drank and chatted with at the bar before the game. He seemed out of it before even getting there (if you know what I mean) and his commentary was very erratic and contradictory. He provided quality entertainment for us though… Just to reiterate how badly our section is patrolled by frickin’ boobs, the seating host for our section once again proved how he takes his job unnecessarily seriously. He talked to the group sitting to my left that they were behaving inappropriately but I did not hear or see any kind of behavior that could confirm that claim. The run-ins with the seating hosts and security our section has endured this season continue to get more and more ridiculous… I haven’t walked down the ramps of the stadium following a loss in a very long time. That was a strange and upsetting feeling. I am very worried about the possibility of the Rams coming to Seattle next week and beating us. Next week’s game must have a playoff feel to it in the stands. Or we could just hope for a 49ers loss either Monday night or next Sunday.

Instead of clinching the division this week and resting our starters against the Rams, next week’s game has suddenly become extremely important. Check back for my Rams/Seahawks preview next Saturday. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas everybody. Go Hawks!

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Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

21 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

At the beginning of the season a lot of casual fans probably would have overlooked this week’s game on the whole. However this week’s matchup has turned into a very important game for both the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks enter this week at 12-2 and a win would clinch both the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Cardinals come to Seattle a rather surprising 9-5 and a win would keep them alive in the NFC wild-card hunt. The Cardinals lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 15-14 but Seattle has had Arizona’s number of late. In their last meeting the Seahawks defeated Arizona 34-22 back in week 7, however note that the last time they played in Seattle was last December when the Seahawks won 58-0 in the most lopsided win in team history. It is very important for the Seahawks to not get ahead of themselves this week because if we struggle the Cardinals are definitely capable of gaining and maintaining a lead. This is what I will be looking for from both the Seahawks and the Cardinals this week.

After shutting out the New York Giants last week, it will be important for the Seahawks defense to keep their momentum rolling this week. After dominating the Cardinals back in week 7 it may be understandable for Seahawks fans to think that we will be able to shut them down again on defense this week. What you may not realize is the offensive roll the Cardinals have been on since our last meeting. In the 7 games since our last meeting with Arizona, the Cardinals offense has averaged 30 points per game. This week my primary defensive focus is on the Legion of Boom and if they can keep up their dynamite production after intercepting 5 passes last week. Richard Sherman will line up against Larry Fitzgerald and Byron Maxwell will battle both Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. I will be interested to see how often Carson Palmer decides to throw downfield given that he has been the most efficient throwing slants and out routes in the short to intermediate passing game, and since he fully understands the potential danger of throwing into our secondary.

Running the ball with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin as well as controlling the game clock will be the most important thing for the Seahawks offense to do this week. The Seahawks were able to effectively run the ball and control the clock last week in a winning effort. This week I would like to see the Seahawks run the ball more on third down instead of having Russell Wilson look for a receiver and take the risk of losing yards or even getting hurt, something that I discussed briefly in my Giants game review. Although he has been running the ball well, Marshawn Lynch has only carried the ball 20 times or more in a single game once in his last four games. This week, even against a ferocious and talented defense like Arizona has, I think it is in the best interest of our offense to feed the beast and let him run at least 25 times this week, using Robert Turbin for a handful of carries as well. If the running game struggles early I believe we will see creative packages and different play calling from Darrell Bevell in order to catch the Cardinals off guard. In short, the running game needs to be the Seahawks primary focus on offense but do not be surprised to see Russell Wilson be willing to run and throw if the Cardinals shut Lynch down.

Over the second half of the season the Arizona Cardinals have developed one of the league’s most improved offenses. Quarterback Carson Palmer has averaged 307 yards passing in his last 5 games to his array of wide receivers including perennial pro bowler Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, as well as the younger, potential-filled talent of Michael Floyd. Over the years, regardless of who their quarterback has been, the Cardinals have continued to be a predominant passing team but the newfound effective running game has helped keep Arizona winning week after week as of late. Last week the Cardinals ran for 145 yards on the Tennessee Titans and they have implemented a running back rotation that is continuing to work due to head coach Bruce Arians’ faith in establishing and continuing to run the ball. My X-Factor player to watch for Arizona this week is one of their two running backs, Andre Ellington. Ellington sees roughly half the number of carries that starter Rashard Mendenhall sees but his statistical averages make him a player the Seahawks front 7 must focus on. Technically as a backup, Ellington has averaged 56 rushing yards over the past three weeks including 71 rushing yards on 10 carries last week. Although these numbers do not scream “feature back,” the truth to Ellington’s effectiveness shows in the yards per carry category, where he averages 5.6 yards per carry over the past three weeks (7.1 yards per carry last week). Eliminating Ellington and the running game as a whole will force Palmer to throw which, in my opinion, is high risk/high reward when you think about the talent he has to throw to and the defense he is throwing into.

I have held the belief that the Arizona defense is one of the most underrated units in the league for a long time and they are maintaining and building on their quiet production leading into this week’s game. Believe it or not, the Arizona Cardinals currently have the number one ranked rushing defense in the league. As important as it is for the Seahawks to get Marshawn Lynch going early, the Cardinals are going to do everything they can to force Russell Wilson to throw. The Cardinals have a dynamic mix of pass rushers and tacklers loaded in their front 7. In the running game I look for leading tackler Karlos Dansby and linebacker Daryl Washington to make it hard for Marshawn Lynch to break through the first level of the defense and to fight for yards after contact. Outside linebacker John Abraham leads the Cardinals in sacks with 11.5 and along with Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, life will be made tough for Russell Wilson in the passing game, especially on passing downs. The Cardinals like to send maximum pressure using these three pass rushers and it could be even tougher for the Seahawks if the Cardinals are leading, or if the score is close late in the game. Something that also cannot go unnoticed is how the Cardinals try to force turnovers. The Cardinals average almost one forced fumble per game and John Abraham has forced 4 fumbles on his own this season. Due to the multiple ways Abraham can disrupt an opposing offense, it will be crucial (and perhaps necessary) to double team him along the outside. I recommend looking at how James Carpenter and Breno Giacomini do controlling Abraham on the line this week.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all-blue once again at home this week. I’m curious if the Cardinals will wear red pants this week, something they only do on rare occasions especially on the road… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Scott Green will be the referee this week… I am taking my friend Josh to this weekend’s game and he is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan first, Seahawks fan second. The Eagles play the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football so we will probably head to a bar after the game for him to watch the Eagles game. It will be interesting to see which jersey he wears on Sunday… It’s funny that Josh is an Eagles fan because this will be the 4th time he goes to the annual Cardinals/Seahawks game with me and we have gone to one game per year together for 7 years… Hopefully the Seahawks Pro Shop will have division champions gear for sale following the game if we win. I would love to be one of the first ones to get their hands on a division champions t-shirt and hat… This is the first Seahawks afternoon home game in 5 weeks. I’m going to have to get down to the bars early again this week… The Seahawks are giving out “#LOUDER” cheer cards this week to the first 20,000 fans. I don’t understand why they can’t make enough for everyone. All it is basically is a piece of stock paper… Remember, kickoff is at 1:05 not 1:25. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare if you are going to the game… I am hoping that the before the game, either before team introductions or before kickoff, they announce to the 12th Man what is at stake in terms of winning the division and clinching home field advantage with a win. I distinctly remember them doing that before we played the Cardinals in December 2007 and we won the game and the division.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs with a win. Regardless of whether we win or lose, Seattle can also clinch the division and home field advantage with a 49ers loss on Monday Night Football. Here are this week’s games that can affect the NFC playoff picture. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-5) at Seattle (12-2)

New Orleans (10-4) at Carolina (10-4)

Dallas (7-7) at Washington (3-11)

New York Giants (5-9) at Detroit (7-7)

Pittsburgh (6-8) at Green Bay (7-6-1)

Chicago (8-6) at Philadelphia (8-6)

Atlanta (4-10) at San Francisco (10-4)

Prediction: The Cardinals and Seahawks will combine for 5 interceptions and 7 sacks. Although the game will include strong defensive play there is no way you can doubt the Seahawks at home. Russell Wilson will throw for three touchdowns and the Seahawks will clinch the 2013 NFC West title and will make sure that the road to Super Bowl XLVIII will go through Seattle.

Seahawks 30, Cardinals 10

Check back for my Cardinals/Seahawks review late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Enjoy the game folks. Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 34, Cardinals 22

18 Oct

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Well the Seahawks sure proved me wrong. After I predicted that the Seahawks would barely squeak by with a win, Seattle dominated the Arizona Cardinals on both sides of the ball en route to an impressive 34-22 victory on Thursday night. The Seahawks extend their best start in franchise history as they improve to 6-1 on the season. The Cardinals fall to 3-4 on the season and are currently in last place in the NFC West. Here are the positives and one negative I took out of this week’s game.

Wilson Stretches Field and it Pays Off: Going into this game I felt that in order for Russell Wilson to be more effective he needed to throw the ball deeper for large gains. Tonight Wilson did a much better job of this. Wilson found Sidney Rice for a 31-yard touchdown on a beautiful rainbow pass into the endzone. Seven of Wilson’s passes went long for 16 yards or more. On the night Wilson went 18/29 for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns. I think it was the most impressive performance by Russell Wilson so far this season. The zone-read also played perhaps its biggest role by the Seahawks offense in a game so far this season. Wilson’s quarterback keeper runs gained at least 4 yards each and three were converted for first downs. Even with sub-par offensive line play, Wilson did a good job of keeping plays alive. He was the catalyst of what seemed to be a drastically improved offense since playing Tennessee last Sunday. The offense will continue to get healthier and better. With the talent coming back in the coming weeks both on the offensive line and at the skill positions, Wilson will become increasingly dangerous and I am confident the offense will be firing on all cylinders.

Lynch Shines: Why does it seem like Marshawn Lynch really likes to go full Beast Mode in primetime? Lynch ran 21 times on Thursday night for 91 yards and a touchdown (he should have had 2 touchdowns but one was ruled down inside the 1-yard line). Lynch ran like a man on a mission. I was really impressed with his ability to shed tacklers and the fact that he was nearly able to put up 100 yards on the 5th best run defense in the NFL. Going forward against easier run defenses, the Seahawks are in a great position to put up big numbers, control the games coming up, and continuing to win games. Lynch is averaging 83 yards per game on the road so far this season and the team is averaging 150.5 rushing yards per game on the road. Like I stated, Lynch has a knack for stepping up in primetime and with our next game also in primetime Lynch could be due for another impressive performance next week.

Pass Rush Very Impressive: Want to know how impressive the Seahawks pass rush was on Thursday night? 8 different Seattle defenders recorded at least half of a sack against the Cardinals. That number is the most of any defensive unit against a team so far this season. Of our 4 primary pass rushers Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett each recorded one sack. Bruce Irvin also recorded 4 tackles and had a hit on quarterback Carson Palmer which resulted in an interception. 7 sacks is the most by the Seahawks in a game so far this season as they took advantage of a Cardinals offensive line that not only game up those sacks, but were also ineffective in the running game as Arizona backs Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington, as well as two scrambles by Carson Palmer only ran for 30 yards. It is dominant play by our front seven that allows our defense to get off the field and for the offense to work to put points on the board. I was very impressed by the Seahawks defense being that it was a road game and the Seahawks defense has struggled at times on the road this season. My confidence in our play on the road has never been higher.

Bring the Boom: The play of the Legion of Boom Thursday night was nothing short of spectacular. Brandon Browner and Earl Thomas each made interceptions and Richard Sherman nearly had an interception which was smartly batted away by Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd. The Legion of Boom recorded 22 of the Seahawks 60 tackles and also added 7 passes defensed. Carson Palmer came into this game having thrown 11 interceptions in his first 6 games and even though he threw 2 against the Seahawks it could have been a lot worse. The Seahawks seemed more determined to make sure no yards were gained after contact and they helped in creating only a 33% conversion rate on third down for Arizona. After letting long drives continue the past few weeks, the secondary, just like the pass rush, showed significant improvement in stopping those drives.

Fumbles Still A Problem: As well as the Seahawks played on Thursday night there is always room for improvement. It is evident that the Seahawks offense still has a problem holding onto the ball. Russell Wilson fumbled the ball 3 times, including a combination of ball security and a lack of awareness of what is developing around him. The Seahawks have fumbled the ball 8 times in the past 2 games which is still unacceptable. It is getting to the point where I am hoping the ball carrier just falls down on his own on big plays to prevent the possibility of fumbling the ball. As dangerous as we showed we can be and for all the praise we have received so far following this game, imagine what people would be saying after a game in which the Seahawks played like this and were turnover free.

Thoughts on Arizona: The Arizona Cardinals showed potential for the future. Key words: For the future. Carson Palmer is believed to be an upgrade to John Skelton or Kevin Kolb but he played no better than those two guys on Thursday night. If Arizona can build the offense in the next year or two and keep the core members of the defense together, they could contend at that time. I do not see how you can possibly think the Cardinals will contend this season. After the game got away from them in the third quarter there seemed to be no sense of urgency on the field and a lack of belief from the fans in the stadium. The Cardinals were driving to try to make it a one-score game late in the fourth quarter and although they went no-huddle they drove at a speed that could warrant a huddle if needed. In addition, no Arizona fans seemed to care that their team could have made the game closer than the final score showed. Having seen the on-the-field product on the field and to see the incredible presence of the 12th Man after the game on the NFL Network postgame show, I would be quite embarrassed if I was a fan of the Arizona Cardinals.

Random Thoughts: For the second time this season the Seahawks broke out the wolf grey jersey’s and pants this week. I may be wrong but I think it is NFL uniform policy that teams can only wear their alternate jersey twice per season. If that is the case, we will be seeing the Seahawks in white for the remainder of their road games… Terry McAulay was the referee on Thursday night… The number of Seahawks fans in Arizona was incredible. My Dad was in attendance and texted me pictures of Glendale throughout the day. It looks like a raging party that will surely carry into the weekend as the Huskies get set to take on Arizona State on Saturday… The shots of the Arizona desert and sunset on the NFL Network broadcast looked amazing. I am big fan of their broadcast production… Russell Wilson was MVP of the game and was presented a bag of gifts by the NFL Network personalities after the game. For those who didn’t see it he was awarded the following gifts: A Leon Sandcastle bobblehead, a Thursday Night Football hat, a Kurt Warner VHS tape, and a Deion Sanders “Prime Time” CD… Oh and they gave Wilson a present intended for Marshawn Lynch; a box of Skittles… It feels so good to be 6-1. If we can get past St. Louis next week to get to 7-1 I may want to make some hefty predictions and/or guarantees. Stay tuned… Speaking of our next game against the Rams it is fun to know that the entire nation will once again get to watch this fun, exciting brand of football the Seahawks are delivering to us… After watching the various postgame shows on television, people are finally starting to believe that we WILL be serious Super Bowl contenders this season. I can’t wait to see how next week unfolds.

With our early-week game this week I will take a few days off from the blog. If anything breaking happens (Percy Harvin *cough*) I will hop back on. Until next week’s preview of Monday Night Football against the St. Louis Rams, Go Hawks!