It is time for our game preview question exchange with Field Gulls. Danny Kelly, who runs the site over there, and I exchanged some questions to give our sites a different perspective. What does he have to say about his Seattle Seahawks as they face our Arizona Cardinals Sunday night?
Looking at how the season has gone for the Seahawks so far, it appears to be a tale of defense playing well and then not, as they have allowed at least 27 points in each of their losses. What has been the issue with the defensive consistency this season?
Yeah, consistency has definitely been an issue, particularly in the fourth quarter of games. The Seahawks gave up leads against the Bengals and Panthers in games they really should've closed out (though they didn't get a lot of help from the offense in those fourth quarters either) and also surrendered leads in the Packers and Rams losses at the beginning of the season. So, in all four of Seattle's losses, the defense couldn't hold on to leads when they were given them — and there's no one culprit for why that is.
I think it's been an issue with a lack of communication, which may have been related to Kam Chancellor's holdout and the fact that Earl Thomas missed much of training camp and the preseason. It was due partly to new personnel on defense, particularly Cary Williams, who has replaced Byron Maxwell. It's partly just due to the fact that they've played some really good teams. And, it's probably partly due to the fact that the Seahawks lost their defensive coordinator over the offseason and a key emotional leader in linebackers coach Ken Norton, who went to the Raiders to be their defensive coordinator. I think all these variables have contributed to some breakdowns that the Seahawks have had on defense, and was a big part of the reason they were giving up a lot of big plays early on in the year.
The good news for Seattle is that they seemed to have ironed some of those issues out. In the past two fourth quarters combined, the Seahawks have surrendered a grand total of 7 yards. So, that's going in the right direction. This week presents a huge challenge though, because the Cardinals can move the ball with just about anyone in the league right now.
Seattle has given up 31 sacks so far this season. How much can you put on the offensive line and how much can you put on Russell Wilson? How do you expect the line to perform against an aggressive Cardinals defense?
Seahawks' offensive line coach Tom Cable recently said that about 80-percent of the sacks have been on the offensive line, and I think that's probably about right. Russell Wilson holds on to the ball too long at times and steps up into pressure every once in a while, but there have been way too many free rushers and complete breakdowns by the offensive line this season, and it's been a huge issue for the Hawks' offense.
I think the Seahawks are going to have a really tough challenge this week because of the way that Arizona blitzes. Wilson hasn't been great against the blitz this season and he'll need to show an ability to hit hot routes and dumpoffs in the face of pressure, because it's going to come and it's going to come often. Cable said on the radio this week that they're preparing as if the Cardinals will blitz on every snap.
I don't have high hopes that it will be a clean game from the offensive line this week. Arizona's blitz packages are going to get home, and Wilson will probably take some sacks. The question will be whether they can weather that storm and still put points on the board. Running the ball will be pretty key.
What matchups appear to be most favorable for the Hawks? Which one/s most favor Arizona?
I think the Seahawks run defense will be a pretty key thing in this game, and I think that on paper they match up well with the Cardinals' rushing attack. If Seattle can slow down Chris Johnson and make it a one-dimensional attack for Arizona, that allows them to pin their ears back a little bit and try to rush the passer more while playing tight defense in the back end. The Cardinals pass the ball deep as well as anyone, but the Seahawks also defend the deep ball really well going back the last few years, and Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril have been great at getting the passer off his spot quickly this year. That should help in holding Carson Palmer's deep passes at bay, in theory. On paper, the Seahawks should match up okay there (but matching up in the slot with Larry Fitz or John Brown is one potential weak spot for the Seahawks).
On the other side, I think that Arizona's ball hawking secondary matches up really well with the Seahawks relatively basic passing attack. That's why I think that running the ball will be so key for Seattle — I'm not expecting that Russell Wilson will be able to pass the ball with a ton of effectiveness this week because the quality and talent in the Cardinals' secondary (and their awesome, exotic scheming).
If the Seahawks get the win, how will it happen? If they lose, why will it happen?
This is a cliche, but I think Seattle can win if they do a good job of controlling the football and taking care of it. They cannot turn the ball over and hope to beat such a quality, dangerous opponent like the Cardinals. I think if the Seahawks are unable to stifle the Cardinals' deep passing attack this week, then they'll be in trouble. This figures to be a great strength-on-strength matchup between two similar teams.
Just how big is this game for the fans and what is the confidence level coming in?
It's huge. The Cardinals-Seahawks rivalry is really growing and I think everyone here in Seattle recognizes just how good Arizona is. They're deep, athletic, physical, and play with a chip on their shoulder. In a way, I think Arizona plays a lot like Seattle has over the last few years, so it's going to be a great game. If Seattle loses though, they could be in some real trouble this year with regards to making it back to the playoffs, so this is a big, big game. It has the potential to really make things interesting in the NFC West too.
In general, I think there's confidence that the Seahawks will compete in this one, but with the inconsistency and issues that the team has had this year, anything is possible. I doubt there's many out there that would think this will be anything but a close, grind-it-out slugfest.