By Chris Cluff
It was the perfect storm: A Seattle defense eager to make amends for two bad road games going against the worst offense in the NFL. The result was the most lopsided win in Seahawks history. Marshawn Lynch ran for three touchdowns and the Seahawks forced eight turnovers and scored on defense and special teams while setting a franchise record for points in a 58-0 embarrassment of the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The 58 points eclipsed Seattle’s total from a 56-17 win against Buffalo in 1977.
It was an amazing homecoming after an overtime win in Chicago as the Seahawks improved to 6-0 at home and 8-5 overall. With the Bears (8-5) losing to Minnesota, the Hawks moved into the first wild-card spot and would face the Giants in New York if the playoffs started this week. If the Hawks beat the Buffalo Bills in Toronto next week and the 49ers lose at New England, the Hawks could overtake the Niners in the NFC West if they beat them in Week 16.
The Hawks ran for a season-high 284 yards as Lynch and Robert Turbin each surpassed 100. Lynch had 128 yards on 11 runs, and Turbin went for 108 on 20. It was the first time Seattle had two 100-yard rushers since 2005, when Shaun Alexander and Maurice Morris did it against Houston. Leon Washington chipped in 38 yards on seven attempts as the Hawks’ three running backs averaged 7.2 yards per carry.
Quarterback Russell Wilson had his lightest workload of the season. He threw just 13 passes — completing seven for 148 yards, a touchdown and an interception — and was out after the first series in the third quarter, which saw the Hawks take a 45-0 lead on Lynch’s third TD. Matt Flynn played the rest of the way, handing off to Turbin and Washington for most of the second half. In his first action of the season, Flynn completed 5-of-9 throws for 68 yards and had a TD pass dropped by Jermaine Kearse.
The passing game didn’t have to do much, but tight end Anthony McCoy had the first 100-yard game of his career. He came into the game with 13 catches for 131 yards this season and had three catches for 105 yards against Arizona. He also had a 15-yard play called back by a penalty. He was wide open for an intermediate pass that turned into Seattle’s longest pass play of the season, 67 yards, and set up Seattle’s second touchdown, on Lynch’s run from the 4-yard line.
Among the few negatives for the Seattle offense: Wilson threw his first home interception of the season, the Hawks went just 3-of-11 on third downs and Breno Giacomini committed another personal foul. Grade: A-
The defense did not miss the suspended defensive back Brandon Browner against this woeful Arizona team. Fellow DB Richard Sherman, who is mounting a major defense against his own suspension, picked up the slack with two interceptions, returning one 19 yards for a TD, and Bobby Wagner added two more picks as the Hawks forced a season-high eight turnovers.
The defense, which had played poorly the last three road games (going back to the Detroit debacle), brought it against Arizona’s woeful unit.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who stupidly eschewed the blitz against Jay Cutler last week, sent guys this week and it paid off against John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, who combined to complete just 19-of-39 passes for 133 yards. Skelton threw all four picks.
Larry Fitzgerald, who has generally been a huge thorn in Seattle’s side, did not catch a pass until the third quarter. He was targeted 11 times and finished with one catch for two yards — that’s one fewer catch than Sherman and Wagner had.
The Hawks had just three sacks, but they produced fumble recoveries off two of them. Chris Clemons spiked the ball out of Skelton’s hand and recovered at the Arizona 42 in the second quarter. Jeron Johnson had a sack and forced fumble in the third quarter; Sherman ended up getting it after a mad scramble, giving him three takeaways in the game. Grade: A
This unit played a big role in building a 38-0 halftime lead.
After talking trash on a third-down play, Arizona’s Patrick Peterson got his comeuppance when he muffed the punt. Jeremy Lane dived for it, popped it into the air with his foot and Malcolm Smith caught it at the goal line for the touchdown and a 31-0 lead. Then Byron Maxwell forced Peterson to fumble again on another punt. Maxwell recovered with 19 seconds left in the half, and Wilson hit Zach Miller for a 24-yard touchdown two plays later.
The punt and return games were not great, but those two punt coverage plays helped turn the game into a rout. Grade: A
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called a good variety of plays and did a nice job of getting the tight ends involved.
Offensive line coach and assistant head coach Tom Cable swapped his guards, moving Paul McQuistan back to his more comfortable spot on the left side and alternating John Moffitt and J.R. Sweezy on the right side. Hard to argue with the results.
Bradley, meanwhile, finally pulled out the blitz seemingly more than he had in three weeks. You have to wonder why he doesn’t do it on the road more. Grade: A
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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.