In a week in which two NFC West teams (the Rams and 49ers) were on bye, the Seahawks and Cardinals went in opposite directions. Seattle bounced back from a two-game losing streak with a 30-20 victory that appeared to get them back into the NFC playoff hunt, and the Cardinals dropped their fifth in a row, 31-17 at Green Bay, with no apparent end in sight to their recent misfortune.
What follows is our weekly team-by-team take on the state of the NFC West:
What we learned: Shoddy first-half defense lowlighted by lousy tackling and too many dropped passes, among other continued offensive shortcomings, continued to plague the reeling Cardinals, losers of five in a row after a 31-17 thumping by the Packers. It became clear right away this season that the Cardinals would only go as far as their defense could take them. But in the past two games, Ray Horton’s stop unit has allowed opponents to grab big leads in the first 30 minutes that have been too difficult to overcome — although the offense, to its credit, did show some grit in the third quarter, narrowing the gap before a 72-yard TD catch by Packers TE Tom Crabtree on a busted coverage on the final play of the third quarter proved to be a killer blow. We also learned that it’s very likely youngsters like WR Michael Floyd, who displayed some first-round flashes (5-80 receiving), and OT Nate Potter are likely to be getting a lot more playing time at the expense of Early Doucet (two bad drops Sunday) and D’Anthony Batiste, respectively.
What’s in store next: The Cardinals will practice Tuesday and Wednesday and then be off for a few days before beginning preparations early next week for their Nov. 18 road trip to Atlanta to play the undefeated Falcons. While five consecutive losses have turned up the heat in the desert, it’s doubtful the team will make any drastic changes during their bye week, short of beginning to throw rookies like Floyd and Potter more into the fire with extended practice time. While many in Cardinals Nation would love to see sixth-round rookie QB Ryan Lindley also get more of a shot, there are no indications of that happening anytime soon.
What the heck? We already mentioned Crabtree’s back-breaking TD. Equally irritating were the missed tackle by veteran S Adrian Wilson on Packers WR Randall Cobb’s first of two TD catches; two fumbled punts (one lost) by the increasingly disappointing Patrick Peterson; two almost-predictable failures in 3rd-and-1 situations by the diminutive LaRod Stephens-Howling; and head coach Ken Whisenhunt’s decision not to challenge a first down by Packers WR Donald Driver at the Arizona 21-yard line that looked to be a foot short.
What we learned: Overcoming a gargantuan performance by Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, who ripped off a 74-yard run on his second carry of the game on the way to an 182-yard rushing performance, the Seahawks got the second half of their season off on the right foot with a 30-20 victory featuring the team’s best offensive performance of the season. Rookie Russell Wilson directed a mistake-free, beautifully balanced attack (190 yards passing, 195 yards rushing) and rifled three TD passes in the first half, including a pair to WR Golden Tate, who continues have a hand in most of the team’s victories. The defense registered four sacks (at least one in every game this season) and turned things around impressively in the second half, allowing the Vikings only 59 total yards. Sitting at 5-4, with four games remaining at home, where they have performed quite well overall, the Seahawks appear to have growing potential for the NFC’s sixth playoff spot.
What’s in store next: The Seahawks will be getting a visit this Sunday at CenturyLink Field from a 3-5 Jets team coming off its bye. Before the bye, the Jets looked terrible in a mistake-filled 30-9 loss to Miami, but Rex Ryan continued to pledge his allegiance to beleaguered QB Mark Sanchez. Ryan also has indicated, however, that he plans to get Tim Tebow more involved in the offense. After having all kinds of problems tackling Peterson in Week Nine, the Seahawks’ defense could have similar problems bringing down well-rested Jets RB Shonn Greene, especially if they are without their second-leading tackler, SLB K.J. Wright, who left the Vikings game early with a concussion (check status).
What the heck? The defense was initially very hard to stomach in Week Nine, coming off a shaky effort in Detroit the previous week, but it managed to get its act to together in the second half. After making a great play forcing and recovering a fumble that led to the Seahawks’ first score on Sunday, veteran CB Marcus Trufant’s ill-timed pass interference penalty set up Peterson’s second TD of the game. There were also two not-so-special moments: Steven Hauschka’s blocked PAT that snapped a streak of 249 straight conversions, and a time clock that clearly had expired before rookie Blair Walsh bombed a 55-yard three-pointer for the Vikings.