If the Seattle Seahawks fancy themselves a playoff team, they can’t let middling clubs like the Arizona Cardinals beat them. But they did Sunday.
In a game that was every bit as scrappy and unattractive as it figured to be (because that is the kind of games these teams play), Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense failed to score on four chances inside the 10 at the end of the game, and Arizona escaped with a 20-16 win.
The Seahawks looked pretty much like the same team we saw last year, which does not bode well. They hurt themselves with penalties (13 for 90 yards) and turnovers (two) and did not get good enough play at quarterback (62.5 rating). Oh, yeah, and Seattle left tackle Russell Okung got hurt again.
As expected, the passing game struggled supremely. It was bound to happen with a rookie QB, Russell Wilson, throwing to a bunch of receivers who hadn’t been available in the preseason. Receivers didn’t get open enough, and Wilson often didn’t find them when they were open.
The final set of downs was a prime example of how out of sync Wilson and his receivers were, which can be blamed on a QB competition that left Wilson short of reps and injuries that kept out Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin (and has Golden Tate out now).
Wilson missed his last five passes — to Braylon Edwards, Baldwin (who dropped a TD pass on a diving attempt that knocked the wind out of him), Rice, Charly Martin and Edwards again. He was just a bit off on all of the passes.
All of Seattle’s points came via turnovers or big kick returns. Their longest scoring drive was 33 yards, after a fumble recovery in the first quarter, and they averaged just 3.6 yards per play. The last drive was 76 yards but was aided by two (legitimate) pass interference calls — one on fourth down and one on third down — against Arizona.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 85 yards on 21 attempts and perhaps should have been more of a factor.
Okung had a rough day. Before leaving with a sprained knee in the second half, he was called for two false starts.
The defense was great against the run (2.2 yards per carry) and very inconsistent against the pass. Quarterback John Skelton moved the Cardinals well in the first half, leading them to 10 points while not being bothered much by the Seattle pass rush.
The Hawks turned it up in the second half, holding the Cardinals to 11 yards on six drives until they knocked Skelton out of the game. Kevin Kolb then came in and promptly drove Arizona 80 yards in 11 plays for the go-ahead touchdown, a 6-yard pass to Andre Roberts.
Skelton was 14-of-28 for 149 yards and a pick. Kolb was 6-of-8 for 66 yards and the TD.
Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane had a strong game against the run, recovering a fumble and making four tackles.
Cornerback Richard Sherman had a mixed day: Two pass-interference penalties and one great interception in the third quarter, which set up a field goal. Sherman reportedly was in a walking boot after the game.
Defensive end Chris Clemons turned it on in the second half, pressuring Skelton on several plays. His rush forced Skelton into the throw that Sherman intercepted in the third quarter.
Return specialist Leon Washington kept the Hawks in the game with two long returns that set up 10 of the team’s 16 points. His 83-yard kickoff return in the third quarter led to Wilson’s 10-yard TD pass to Rice. Then he went 54 yards on a punt return in the fourth quarter, setting up a field goal.
Kicker Steven Hauschka is not reliable from 50 yards. He missed from that distance after missing two other 50-plus kicks in the preseason. He was 2-or-4 from that range last season. He did hit from 27, 47 and 39 on Sunday.
Wilson is a rookie, and it showed against Arizona’s aggressive defense. He played very tentatively — nothing like the let-it-loose guy who won the job over Matt Flynn.
Wilson often did not get the ball out quickly and seemed not to believe what he saw.
In fact, he told reporters: “Maybe a few of my reads, just go through them a little bit quicker. Just trusting what I see and just going with it sometimes.”
He also had two delay penalties and oddly threw laterals at least twice. The replacement officials did not notice either one, ruling both incompletions, but the Cardinals challenged the second lateral in the third quarter because they had picked it up. They got the ball at the Seattle 17 and ended up with a field goal.
Wilson completed 18-of-34 passes for 153 yards, one touchdown and an interception at the end of the first half. He also was sacked three times.
It’s fair to wonder whether Matt Flynn might have fared better, because Wilson was no better than Tarvaris Jackson was in 2011.
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Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.