By Cedric Williams
The Seattle Seahawks may have given away their most viable path of making it back to the Super Bowl this year thanks to Saturday’s 34-31 loss to the visiting Arizona Cardinals. There’s still one more week left in the 2016 NFL regular season, so there’s still time to fix it.
If Seattle could’ve just managed a couple of wins over a pair of NFC West divisional opponents with losing records to close the season, the Seahawks would’ve earned themselves the No. 2 overall seed in the NFC playoffs, which would include not only a home playoff game, but also an extra week off to get ready for those playoffs.
Instead, Seattle delivered a clunker of a performance on Saturday against Arizona. That now means the Seahawks aren’t likely to get any extra time off during the playoffs, and they’ll probably have to win twice on the road—a place this particular club hasn’t played particularly well this season—if it’s going to get back to Super Bowl once again.
And it’s because of Saturday’s less-than-spectacular performance that we have less-than-stellar grades for the Seahawks and how they played in that disappointing loss to 6-8-1 Arizona.
The Seahawks offense stunk in the first half of Saturday’s game, as it allowed five sacks, gave up a turnover, and fell behind 14-3 against an Arizona defense that gave up 48 points to New Orleans last week.
But then in the second half, Seattle came alive and scored 28 points to rally back and tie the game.
Quarterback Russell Wilson shook off those early problems and threw four touchdown passes in that second half to lead the Seahawks back. Receiver Doug Baldwin also had a big day, with 13 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown.
Unfortunately, none of those numbers, including Seattle’s 391 total yards of offense, was enough to overcome the big day Arizona had on the other side of the ball.
Except for the third quarter, when the Seahawks held the Cardinals scoreless, Arizona gashed Seattle’s defense all day long.
The visiting Cardinals finished with 370 total yards. Running back David Johnson did most of that damage, as he totaled 136 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns. Johnson also made the key play on Arizona’s game-winning drive, as he beat Seattle’s man-to-man defense for a 29-yard gain that gave the Cardinals the ball in makable field goal position.
Four plays later, Arizona’s Chandler Catanzaro banged home a 43-yard field goal to send Seattle home losers for the first time at The ‘Link this season.
Special Teams: C-
Seattle got some good work from Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson on kickoff returns, but the team wasn’t its best anywhere else on special teams Saturday.
Punter Jon Ryan averaged just 36.0 yards on four punts, and Lockett never had any room to work on either of his punt returns. But the real problem turned out to be kicker Steven Hauschka’s issues with PATs again.
This time, the veteran kicker, who has missed four PATs this season, had one blocked. And this particular PAT was huge, because had Hauschka made it, it would have given Seattle the lead with only a minute left in the game.
The point became moot because Arizona’s kicker hit a three-pointer to win the game as time expired, but who’s to say the pressure wouldn’t have been different on Catanzaro had he been kicking from behind, instead of kicking with a tie?
Either way, Seattle’s special teams weren’t at their best on Saturday, and it definitely played a factor in what could be a huge loss as the Seahawks look to get back to the Super Bowl for the third time in the last four years.
The Seahawks had a chance to put a stranglehold on the NFC’s No. 2 seed, which comes with it a chance to rest for an extra week during the playoffs. But instead, Seattle showed up and delivered another lackluster first half performance, albeit against a team that always seems to give it trouble.
Still, with so much to play for, it seemed like Seattle would’ve showed up more prepared and ready to play than they did on Saturday.
The Seahawks are a battle-tested, veteran club, but sometimes it seems like the coaching staff relies on that a bit too much, when it should be pushing its players’ limits more to get them ready for big games. Especially a game at home, in December, against an NFC West rival that’s coming to town with a losing record and not a lot to play for.
On the positive side, the ‘Hawks will get a shot to fix all that went wrong on Saturday, if they can pick up a win next week and get some help in the way of losses by Atlanta and Detroit.
Next Up: The Seahawks will close out the regular season with a trip to San Francisco, for a matchup with the 49ers on New Year’s Day.