Well that could have gone better for the Arizona Cardinals. On Sunday Night Football, the Cards got shellacked by the Seahawks 35-6. It was not pretty. Ryan Lindley was firing balls into the stands like he was a damn t-shirt launcher gun. But at least nobody on the sidelines fought over recovering Lindley’s incomplete passes. Some Jags fans went absolutely at it for a free t-shirt on Thursday night.
But the game was not a lost cause from the beginning. Yes, Lindley was less accurate than a faulty graduated cylinder, but the Cards were only down 14-6 after three quarters. From the perspective of someone not watching the game, Arizona was in prime striking position.
But the eight-point deficit was just a mirage. If it weren’t for Steven Hauschka missing three field goals, the game would have been over already. Seattle dominated Arizona, totaling 596 yards to the Cards’ 216. In what may have been the best post-game quote, Patrick Peterson said he “almost passed out” after finding out that Seattle gained almost 600 yards of total offense.
There were not many surprises in the first quarter. On Seattle’s second drive of the game, the Seahawks had a 1st-and-10 at the Cardinals 40-yard line. In this situation, most teams would be happy to hold their opponent to a field goal. But when opponents get into Arizona territory, the Cards want to back them up or force a turnover.
Todd Bowles loves to bring the pressure on third down. His blitzes are a big reason Arizona is 3rd in the NFC in percentage of opponent third downs converted (37.4 %).
So unsurprisingly, the Seahawks ended up punting on 4th-and-17 after heavy defensive pressure and a false start penalty squashed the threat. Alex Okafor and Frostee Rucker, who have both played great in recent weeks, forced a pair of Russell Wilson throwaways.
“Look Away, I’m Hideous”
But just like Kramer’s face in that “Seinfeld“ episode, things got ugly quick for the Bird Gang. In the second quarter, Luke Willson, yes Owen Wilson’s brother (the actor), snuck behind the defense for an 80-yard touchdown.
It was a botched man-to-man coverage by safety Rashad Johnson. Call it an “Old School” (ha-ha, get it?) style touchdown by the tight end who just so happens to be a famous actor in his spare time.
Logan Thomas, who will be starting next week at San Francisco, then actually came into the game only to throw a very, very inaccurate pass. Combine that with Lindley’s passes, nay “heaves,” and you have a grand total of 27 incomplete passes.
Like I said, the score was somehow only 14-6 when the fourth quarter started. After Okafor sacked Wilson for a 10-yard loss (the Cards only sack of the night), it felt like Arizona could somehow squeeze out a victory.
In my preview, I mentioned that the Cards’ secondary should have an advantage over the Seahawks’ receivers. But it was the connections to the tight end Wilson (3 receptions for 139 yards) that killed Arizona.
Further dooming the Birds was their inability to stop the run. Giving up 267 total rush yards, Arizona’s opponent rush yards per game jumped from 90.4 to 102.2.
Other Game Notes
-Seattle got tagged with 11 penalties while Arizona only got called for one.
-It seemed like Arizona did a decent job of flipping field position early on but the Cards really just benefitted from Seahawk penalties. Two offensive holding calls and a 36-yard pass interference backed up Seattle in the first quarter.
–Russell Wilson ripped off some long runs up the middle. His 55-yard scramble flipped field position back at the end of the first quarter only to see Stevan Hauschka miss a field goal and give the advantage right back.
-The Cards were incapable of capitalizing on short fields. Hauschka’s field goals set the Cards up at their own 42-yard line, 40-yard line and 37-yard line. Lindley didn’t exactly need to drive down the whole field but the Birds totaled only six points on those three drives.
-On 3rd-and-goal from the Seahawks 9-yard line, Lindley threw a pass to John Brown that almost got picked off but I actually liked the idea. There was an opening for a Brown completion, but Lindley just couldn’t get the ball over the defender.
-Bruce Arians conceded that his team should’ve ran the ball more. With 15 carries, the Cards gained only 29 total rushing yards.
So here’s the situation. The Cards need a win at San Francisco and a Seattle loss home against St. Louis to get a first-round bye.
A Cards’ loss or a Seattle win gives Arizona the five-seed for sure. That is unless Green Bay and Detroit tie. A Green Bay/Detroit tie combined with an Arizona loss moves the Cards to the six-seed.
Let’s assume the most likely scenario: the Cards get the five-seed. Arizona will play at Carolina or at Atlanta in the wild-card round of the playoffs. The Birds match-up way better against Carolina- the Panthers play a similar brand of football to the Cards- while the Falcons defeated the Cards in week 13.
The Cards have built up expectations with their 11 wins. But unfortunately, this is a team that may be falling apart. Like a House of Cards.
But, hey, look on the bright side. The third season of the Netflix original series “House of Cards” will be released this offseason. And so will Ryan Lindley!