GLENDALE, Ariz. — There was plenty of talk about the opportunity that laid ahead of the Arizona Cardinals Thursday night.
Their game against the Seattle Seahawks represented a chance. A chance for the Cards to announce themselves as real players in the NFC West. A chance to continue their home dominance over their division rivals from the Emerald City. A chance to rinse the bad taste over last week’s loss to San Francisco out of their mouths.
That taste is still present as the Seahawks jumped on the Cardinals early, building a 14-0 lead en route to a 34-22 win in front of 61,200 fans at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Here are six things that stood out from Thursday’s game:
1. I know there is an issue at quarterback…again – Without having taken a snap this season (or for the last three years, for that matter), Drew Stanton is the most popular guy in town right now. That’s because the fans’ frustration with starting QB Carson Palmer has reached Skeltonian levels.
Palmer threw two more picks Thursday night, although the first one was probably a penalty and was definitely an unbelievable play by Seattle safety Earl Thomas. That brings his season total to 13 in seven games — a pace for just about 30 picks on the season! Nobody’s thrown that many since Vinny Testaverde threw 35 in 1988 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I’m far from impressed with what Palmer has done in Cardinal Red this season, but I can assure you, he’s the best option for the team at this point. Consider this: Stanton is a favorite of head coach Bruce Arians, as the two spent the 2012 season together in Indianapolis. Yet, Arians said he didn’t consider making a move Thursday despite the Cardinals’ sputtering offense.
Stanton didn’t do much to instill confidence in training camp either, as interceptions were a common occurrence in the team’s daily workouts.
2. The offensive line – Seattle racked up seven sacks in a game that conjured up nightmarish memories from 2012, when the Cardinals’ offensive line couldn’t block anything on passing downs.
But when you look deeper, you see A) the Cardinals fell behind early and B) they couldn’t run the ball to save their lives. Arizona gained 30 yards on 18 carries. During the first half, Rashard Mendenhall had a seven-carry stretch in which he netted zero yards.
While I think this year’s line is better than the 2012 version (and I know that isn’t saying much), if the formula of digging early holes and failure to run the ball continues, it’ll be a long season for the guys up front.
3. Can’t absolve the defense – I know the Cardinals’ defense is light years ahead of the offense, but they didn’t play a great game against Seattle.
I shared this opinion on Twitter during the game and several responded with something along the lines of “Well, you can’t expect the defense to do anything when they’re out on the field the whole game!” That is certainly true, generally speaking — but it was far from the case Thursday night.
The Cardinals actually had a 4:40 advantage in time of possession for the game!
The defense’s biggest problem was not getting off the field on third down, allowing Seattle to convert 58 percent (7-of-12) of their conversion opportunities.
4. John Abraham’s play – The Cardinals picked up the NFL’s active sack leader right before the start of camp to boost their pass rush, but that hadn’t happened in the first six weeks of the season. Actually dating back to last season, the veteran had gone nine straight games without a sack.
That changed Thursday as Abraham sacked Russell Wilson twice for 18 yards and forced two fumbles on the night.
The 35-year-old was undoubtedly the Cardinals’ best defensive player — with apologies to defensive end Calais Campbell, who had a game-high eight tackles and recovered a fumble that led to a score just five days after being carted off the field in San Francisco.
5. Back to the running game – With Mendenhall’s growing ineffectiveness (2.5 yards per carry over last five games) I don’t understand why the Cardinals won’t at least give Ryan Williams a shot to run the football.
I’m not at practice on a regular basis, but Coach Arians told Dan Bickley and myself Monday that Williams is “busting his tail” every day. The third-year player hasn’t even dressed for a game this season — isn’t time to see if the kid can play in the league?
The common refrain is that Williams doesn’t play special teams. Neither does Mendenhall, by the way.
6. Russell Wilson….SMH – Due to the fact that they play in the same division and that they’re both dual-threat, read-option quarterbacks, there are constant comparisons between Wilson and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick.
Having seen Kaepernick a week ago and Wilson on Thursday, there is no doubt in my mind who I’d rather have quarterbacking my team…and it’s the guy wearing the neon green of the Seahawks.
Wilson didn’t put up gaudy numbers (he rarely does), completing 18-of-29 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns against Arizona. But his command on the football field is astounding for a third-round pick who is only in his second year.
Not to mention, he’s one of the best on-the-run passers to come into the league in quite some time. Facing a third-and-eight from his own 49-yard line, Wilson rolled right to escape pressure and threw an absolute laser beam to Sidney Rice, who made the catch for a 16-yard gain, extending a drive that ended in a Steven Hauschka field goal in the closing seconds.
Wilson is the real deal, and unfortunately for Cardinals fans, he resides in the NFC West.