Bruce Arians could not have scripted up the first segment of the game any better. For the first time in 5 years, upon winning the coin toss, he elected to defer, which gave the Seahawks the ball first. The Cardinals' defense came out swarming---Karlos Dansby, not typically known for storming up gaps, blew up a running play and put a crunch on RB Thomas Rawls, and it was game on. Seattle was forced to punt, the Cardinals got premier field position near the 50 yard line and on the first play from scrimmage, versus a loaded box, the upright running Adrian Peterson fumbled and Seattle recovered. Unreal. If you are a Cardinals' fan, you almost have to laugh at this just to stop yourself from screaming or tearing your hair out.
This was the first of TWO 1 play offensive drives for the Cardinals in a game that one would think was going to be close. The second one play drive proved even more costly, when inexplicably, PR Kerwynn Williams, in a 7-7 game, fielded a punt on the 2 yard line and thanks to one of two holding calls on once a 3 time Pro Bowl STs player, Justin Bethel, the Cardinals began that series on the 1 1/2 yard line...and after a late developing snap and a swarm of neon yellow, Peterson was tackled in the end zone for the first safety of his career.
Going back to Peterson's fumble, in my opinion, it's gaffes like this, coming off what to that point was a perfectly coached game, that throws not only the players a little out of whack, but the coaches as well.
The rest of the game for the Cardinals was yet another expose on how and why they lose every other week---through self-inflicted errors, untimely mistakes and questionable coaching decisions.After the game, Arians lauded his players and said that there "played their asses off." Yes, the Cardinals played hard. But, again, playing hard is one thing, but, playing smart and with precision is another.
When the Seahawks loaded the box versus the run, there is really only one choice to make and that is to pass the ball. There is no way a coach with a less athletic and strong offensive line, could look at what the Seahawks have up front, plus with them shifting Kam "the refrigerator (per Fitz)" Chancellor down in the box and conclude that it's a good thing to pound the ball anyway, unless you have a stout FB and a lower the shoulder, smashmouth RB. Put it this way---without a FB and a smashmouth, lower-the-shoulder and make-you-pay RB, even when the Cardinals' offensive line managed to hold off the Seahawks' studs on the defensive line---it basically set up a 6 foot wide cone drill between RB Adrian Peterson and LB Bobby Wagner, a matchup (because of styles) that Wagner will win 19 out of 20 times. As upright as Peterson runs and as low and quick as Wagner hits, Peterson has no chance. The only chance Peterson would have it to line Wagner up, lower his shoulder, initiate the contact himself, churn his legs and try to break his will.
Even after losing D.J. Humphries to a possibly season ending ACL injury, the Cardinals' pass protection for Drew Stanton was pretty dang good. Plus, BA dialed up a number of pass plays that were wide open...but Stanton, who did play his arse off, no question, is way too erratic. And last night, even when he made completable passes, several of them were dropped, maybe the most costly of which was the one by Andre Ellington who was wide open and all he had to do is catch the ball to convert the third down and the Cardinals are driving for a score before half-time.
Interesting too what the national perception of Drew Stanton is when Tirico, after a Cardinals' penalty, said that "Drew Stanton is not the type of QB who can make up for being 1st and 15."On the next play on 4th and 8 from the Seahawks' 38 yard line, a classic BA "no risk it, no biscuit" call is made to try to hit J.J. Nelson for a home run up the left sideline. Even Tirico and Colllinsworth predicted it. Stanton threw one of his better passes of the night, but the pass went right through Nelson's hands---which gave Russell Wilson the ball back and he right away hit Paul Richardson on a deep crossing pattern and suddenly a 12-7 game is precariously getting away from the Cardinals. Fortunately, the defense held the Seahawks to a FG and the score was 15-7 at half-time when it could have been and likely should have been 12-10.
In the second half, the Cardinals cut the deficit to 15-10, thanks to some outstanding catches by Larry Fitzgerald...and the Cardinals' defense was playing well thanks in good part to a couple good, quick edge plays by Haason Reddick, a sack by Chandler Jones, a sack and a number of athletic plays by DT Olsen Pierre and some strong RCB play by Tramon Williams...but then, things began to unravel when a flushed Wilson flashed his uncanny Fran Tarkenton moves with Barry Sanders' type body control and with Tyrann Mathieu and Chandler Jones in hot pursuit, winged to ball up the left sideline only to have FS Antoine Bethea, who was having a very good game to that point, totally misjudge the ball, while WR Doug Baldwin jumped in front of him to snag the ball and take all the way down inside the Cardinals' 10 yard line---which set up Wilson's second TD pass of the night to a closely guarded TE Jimmy Graham, who out-leveraged Bethea the same way he did with the Cardinals' (first half of the season defensive MVP) Tyvon Branch, whose knee buckled on the landing and forced him to head for the locker room.
That made the score 22-10...and what happened next was more than mind boggling. With the clock clearly the main enemy at this point, BA and Drew Stanton elected to shun the two minute drill and in doing so wasted valuable time huddling up between each play. By the time the Cardinals finally managed to score, there were under 30 seconds left on the clock. With the score 22-16, the extra point was blocked---which the Seahawks seem to do every year in Arizona---which was meaningless score-wise, but discouraging none the less, especially in light of Phil Dawson's previously missed 6 FGs this season, and yet another game of repeated STs gaffes by the Cardinals. Let's face it, those STs gaffes are not good for the team's morale.So, now it comes down to an on-side kick. Just when it looked as if Dawson had attempted a traditional bouncer on-side kick, Pete Carroll had called timeout in the nick of time and now he knew which side of the field Dawson was going to kick to.
So, with a timeout and the on-side kick team over on the sidelines, with chance to get every player on the same page, BA is nowhere in sight. His coaching crony STs coordinator Amos Jones has the unit right in front of him, but he doesn't even call them into an organized huddle, instead he gives directions to Dawson and the couple of players standing next to Dawson while the rest of the players were 6-10 feet away and not huddled up.
The on-side attempt was a rarely if ever recovered pooch which was kicked too far downfield---which was basically an easy gift wrapping of the win for the Seahawks. The play was never in doubt. To make matters even worse, even if the on-side kick was a hit bouncer which it should have been, the Cardinals were flagged for being off-sides. This is what you get when you can't even get your unit in a huddle.On the bright side, the Cardinals got some encouraging performances from WR Larry Fitzgerald (another great game under the lights---man, how well he has treated us for all these years), LT John Wetzel (who got surprised on a bull rush badly one play by Dion Jordan, but did a very good job on Dwight Freeney), RT Jared Veldheer (save his and Gresham's off-side flags on 2 of the only 3 -4 hard counts Stanton tried all night), DT Olsen Pierre, DT Frostee Rucker, OLB Haason Reddick, OLB Chandler Jones, S Budda Baker, CB Tramon Williams and P Andy Lee.
Sad to see all the injuries in this game on both sides. Branch was having his best year as a pro in a contract year (in which he took a paycut), Humphries looked like a stud in this game before he got rolled from behind. Momah, that poor guy suffers yet another season ending injury. But, if you saw and heard Frostee Rucker after the game, he said about Thursday night games that as long as they are on the schedule and every team knows it in advance, "there are no excuses." He said, "they (Seahawks) had to travel to us and they won in our building"---once again---and that's the reality. Rucker looked extremely pissed. Which is why he is a winner.
BA said a couple of weeks ago that the players are "good front-runners" and not good at handling adversity.
Well, that can be said in spades about himself and his coaching staff. The coaching in the 4th quarter of this game was regrettably poor. All the wasted seconds off the clock, the STs gaffes and general disorganization, misuse of timeouts, etc. This was not how professional coaches operate and not how they prepare their teams for situational football, especially late in games.