For the Seahawks, this game was simple—-win this home game as 9 point favorites over the Cardinals and win next week at home versus the 49ers—-and they clinch the NFC West title and the #1 seed in the NFC.
For the Cardinals, this game was a measuring stick to see just how far the team has come since getting dominated at home by the Seahawks 27-10 in Week 4.
To start the game, the Cardinals’ offense looked shaky and surrendered a quick 3 and out. The Cardinals’ usually reliable punter Andy Lee shanked a punt. Russell Wilson marched the Seahawks’ offense right down the field throwing to wide open TEs (here we go again) and RBs—-and scored on a pass to an open FB out of the backfield.
As quick as that it was 7-0 Seahawks and the 12th men and women in Seattle were basking in their neon. And were feeling even better what a big kickoff return by Pharoh Cooper was nullified by a holding call on Zeke Turner.
And then something happened.
The Cardinals offensive line and RB Kenyan Drake happened.
A perfectly blocked off-tackle play to the right happened and Drake looked like he was shot out of the Seattle clouds like an 80 yard bolt of lightning.
From that point forward the Arizona Cardinals put an all-out licking on their rivals to the northwest and pressed the mute button on the usually deafening 12th man throng.
Suddenly Ruseel Wilson found himself in the thick of shark infested waters—-as the Cardinals’ pass rush was in all-out attack mode—-and by the time the choppy waters had calmed, the Cardinals great white shark, Chandler Jones, had chomped on Wilson to the tune of 4 sacks and 2 strip fumbles. Cassius Marsh added a 5th sack and speedy edge newcomer to the rush, Hasson Reddick, added pressures and contains on the elusive Wilson.
On the back end, the Cardinals were feasting on the Seahawks RBs like barracudas—-arriving on the ball with great speed and force—-and then rendering the Seahawks’ top 2 RBs to the sidelines with game ending wounds. And on the rare times that Russell Wilson had the chance to two downfield his top targets were blanketed by schools of striped bass.
When it became clear that the Seahawks’ offense was drowning in a giant, Charybdis-like maelstrom, the deflated Seahawks team must have felt sorry for Wilson like Tom Hanks did for his Wilson in “Cast Away:”
Even a portentous momentum changer like the Seahawks’ blocked field goal, which typically the Seahawks team takes full advantage of—-would ultimately not reverse the tide—-thanks to yet another big stop by the Cardinals’ defense.
On the offensive side of the ball—-it was sheer “maul ball” for the Cardinals. The Cardinals offensive line—-still intact and surprisingly healthy on Week 16 of the season—-was coming off the ball in unison like a crash of rhinos—-and for those persistent Cardinals’ fans who continue to insist the “OL still sucks”—-how did any part of the Cardinals’ offense out-gaining the Seahawks’ offense 412 yards to 224 suck? How did rushing for 253 yards at 6.3 yards per carry versus the #1 NFC seed going into the week in their stadium in front of their rabid fans suck?
How did it suck that the offense still moved the ball with Kyler Murray out of the game?
The only thing that sucked was Darrell Daniels and Christian Kirk dropping two of Brett Hundley’s dimes right in their hards.
The apologists will say—-yeah but the Seahawks were banged up.
Bah freaking humbug.
Plays of the Game:
Check out the pull and block from LG Justin Pugh and the kick out block from A.Q. Shipley.
DRAKE QUAKE— PFF (@PFF) December 22, 2019
80 YARD TOUCHDOWN!
Check out the quick inside swim move by DE Cassius Marsh which leads to Jones’ sack.
Another one. @chanjones55 now has 17.0 sacks, tying his own franchise record for sacks in a season. pic.twitter.com/roe2eZEuiw— Arizona Cardinals ⋈ (@AZCardinals) December 22, 2019
Check out how Fitz’s lowers the boom on the Seahawks’ safety and then how he stretches the ball over the plane of the end zone.
We have no words. pic.twitter.com/pizrpiYTXt— Arizona Cardinals ⋈ (@AZCardinals) December 22, 2019
What a magician with his feet!
A reminder that all of your Kyler Murray comparisons are wrong.pic.twitter.com/ru7krIVnY3— RJ Young (@RJ_Young) December 22, 2019
Check out the innovation of this dazzle dazzle gem!
.@AZCardinals @K1 & @KliffKingsbury are changing the way football is being played not only in the desert but in the @NFL. These play designs just keep coming; and the innovation is sorely needed. Who isn’t a #Cardinal fan? #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/j249UzoyNQ— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 23, 2019
Bringing the pop and fun back to the Cardinals’ defense—-lowering the boom on Seattle!
Don't mess with @JordanHicks. pic.twitter.com/IFjmSACihn— Arizona Cardinals ⋈ (@AZCardinals) December 22, 2019
Brett Hundley was fabulous—-so well coached and ready to carpe the diem!
The play that set up the score.— Arizona Cardinals ⋈ (@AZCardinals) December 23, 2019
Such a well deserved celebration—-so cool too that Kliff Kingsbury re-arranged the schedule for the players to come in Tuesday so that they could spend all of Christmas Day Wednesday with their families.
This one means a lot pic.twitter.com/VvBojlzhXF— Arizona Cardinals ⋈ (@AZCardinals) December 23, 2019
- Signature win
- No quit
- The purging of players “stealing” from Cardinals making huge and immediate (Suggs) difference the last two games
- Kyler Murray’s poise and confidence growing
- Kenyan Drake has been a godsend
- Cardinals’ OL making case for best OL in decades and is making a convincing case for 2020 contunuity
- Chandler Jones is the Cardinals’ best trade and best contract extension of the modern era
- Jordan Hicks is the best 2019 free agent acquisition—-J.R. Sweezy and Maxx Williams is the best 2019 free agent acquisitions on offense
- Justin Murray is the best 2019 waiver wire acquisition on offense
- Budda Baker is a flat-out baller, leader and catalyst
- Zane Gonzalez is money
- Players genuinely like and respect Kliff Kingsbury and the coaches
- This is a team that is learning and growing in unison
Some Thoughts to Chew On:
In watching Kliff Kingsbury’s offense evolve this season, a few things are becoming crystal clear:
- The QB, Kyler Murray, is the point guard and catalyst of the offense
- The #1 RB , Kenyan Drake, is the feature, high volume player in the offense other than the QB
- The feature receiver is the “Y” receiver (TE)—-Larry Fitzgerald
- The WRs are used like RAC RBs
- In essence, this offense is very much in the mold of the Patriots’ offense
- This offense is not WR centric
- But, the one thing it hasn’t developed yet is a dynamic slot WR
Could it be that the Cardinals already have pretty much all of the offensive pieces in place for 2020, assuming they re-sign RB Kenyan Drake, Y Larry Fitzgerald, LT D.J. Humphries, C A.Q. Shipley and WR/KR/PR Pharoh Cooper?
What are fair market values for the Cardinals own free agents on offense? In my opinion:
- RB Kenyan Drake: $5M (plus performance incentives) a year on a 3-4 year deal.
- Y Larry Fitzgerald: $10M a year on a 2 year deal.
- LT D.J. Humphries: $11M (plus game incentives) a year on a 3-4 year deal.
- C A.Q. Shipley: $3M on a 1 year deal.
- WR Pharoh Cooper: $3M a year on a 2 year deal.
- Total: $32M (leaves $41M of cap space for defense)
Could there be a potentially dynamic slot WR already on the roster?
- David Johnson—-has all of the tools necessary, especially if he sheds a little weight in order to get quicker and faster. he has superb hands and RAC ability in the open field.
- Andy Isabella—-with his desire and work ethic, he could become a faster version of Julian Edelman—-could well be the biggest surprise of 2020.
- Pharoh Cooper—-what a clutch catch he made in this game on that 4th down conversion—-you have to love the way he commands the football and has good RAC ability when he gets a step on his defender.
- Trent Sherfield—-he could develop into a Nelson Agholor type of slot receiver.
What I Am Starting to Think:
- If Larry Fitzgerald re-signs (and I have a hunch this time it will be for 2 years @ $20M), I think the Cardinals already have more than enough talent at WR. The key, of course, is getting good, strong development from Kirk, Isabella, Cooper, D. Johnson, Byrd, Butler, K. Johnson and Sherfield. In my opinion, Cardinals’ fans are under-estimating the young talent and depth of this group. There are some potential stars here.
- If Drake and Humphries want more than $5M and $11M (with incentives) a year respectively, then the Cardinals should strongly consider shifting the focus of the draft on selecting a LT in Round 1 and a RB in round 2.
- Round 1 Ts: (Mel Kiper’s T rankings) 1. Andrew Thomas, 6-5, 320, Georgia; 2. Tristan Wirfs, 6-5, 322; 3. Alex Underwood, 6-6, 310; 6. Jedrick Wills, Jr., 6-5, 320, Alabama; (will be writing an analysis of these 4—-at least two of them should be available when the Cardinals pick).
- Round 2 RBs (Mel Kiper’s Top 5): 1. *D’Andre Swift, Georgia 2. *Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin 3. *J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State 4. *Travis Etienne, Clemson 5. *Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State.
- Homework challenge—-watch the tapes of these 5 RBs—-and determine which one of them reminds you the most of Kenyan Drake? Let’s see which ROTB member if the first to notice.