Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks eye playoffs in season finale vs. Cardinals
One more to go.
The Arizona Cardinals won’t be making the postseason, but they have a chance at keeping their division rival Seattle Seahawks out of the playoffs. That’s enough motivation for them heading into the 2017 finale Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Coming off a 23-0 home win against the New York Giants, Arizona can finish 8-8 with a victory over Seattle. The Seahawks, meanwhile, stayed alive with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday — now they need a win and an Atlanta Falcons loss to secure a Wild Card berth.
With that, the Cardinals should expect quite the motivated opponent. So what’s happening in Seahawks land?
It’s Behind Enemy Lines.
Saturday, December 30
Even if it’s a place he’s never been before, Bobby Wagner views the more-than-a-little uncomfortable position the Seahawks find themselves entering the final weekend of the NFL season as nothing all that unusual.
The defensive game plan for the Seahawks seems pretty basic in this one — contain an Arizona running attack that already appears very containable and make perennial backup quarterback Drew Stanton have to make some plays to beat them. As bad as you may think Seattle’s running game is, Arizona’s is worse, especially with David Johnson and Adrian Peterson out for the season.
With Shaquill, the Seahawks’ third-round pick, locking down the starting right-cornerback job in Seattle, and Shaquem coming off the best and final season of his college career, both Griffin brothers are thriving despite being apart from each other for the first time in their lives.
“I would love to play my whole career here. I have thought about it,” the 27-year-old, two-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker told me Friday, following practice for Sunday’s regular-season finale against Arizona.
“You see guys like Ray Lewis (a seven-time All-Pro who played his entire career with Baltimore) and Brian Urlacher (a former four-time All-Pro middle linebacker who played only for one team, Chicago), guys who spent a long time with one team. You hope that it happens.
• Seahawks need Russell Wilson to finish historic regular season on strong note (ESPN NFL Nation)
It’s been an historic season for Russell Wilson.
He’s set to become only the fifth quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to lead his team in rushing, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and it won’t be close. Wilson has 550 rushing yards while no teammate has more than 210.
Pro Bowl middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and starting left guard Luke Joeckel are listed as questionable but are both expected to play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox), according to coach Pete Carroll.
Friday, December 29
• Seahawks’ HC Pete Carroll gives injury updates, talks Earl Thomas ahead of Cards (MyNorthwest.com)
The team enters Week 17 with a playoff spot on the line – the first time in seven years they’ve entered the final game without a playoff berth. But it remains within reach; a win by Seattle, and a Panthers win over the Falcons, will give the Seahawks the sixth Wild Card spot.
• Moore Predicts: Cardinals outmatched by Seahawks at CenturyLink (MyNorthwest.com)
In my mind, there aren’t many scenarios in which Arizona wins, but Bruce Arians’ team has won the last three meetings in Seattle so I guess there’s precedence for it to happen again. If it does, it will be in a low-scoring game with Arizona’s sixth-ranked defense shutting down a sputtering Seahawks’ offense.
• Seahawks are going to take care of their end of things (MyNorthwest.com)
The Seahawks are going to match their win total from each of the past two seasons.
They’re facing an Arizona team that has a good defense, but a backup quarterback and a blowhard’s confidence. That would be Bruce Arians, the coach caught on camera referring to Seattle as his team’s home field after the Cardinals victory last week.
• Sunday could be Seattle finale for Jimmy Graham, Michael Bennett and others (ESPN NFL Nation)
Several Seahawks might be nearing the end of their shelf life in Seattle as age, salary, injury, contract status and/or performance — the usual suspects — could work against their return to the team in 2018.
Thursday, December 28
• Clayton: The Seahawks figure out their secondary issues at a critical time (MyNorthwest.com)
With Richard Sherman out for the season and DeShawn Shead coming back from an ACL injury, the Seahawks had to completely re-do the cornerback position. To a certain degree, they had to re-do the entire secondary when you add Kam Chancellor’s season-ending injury to the mix. This may not be the Legion of Boom, but the defensive backs are pretty good.
One day, Rocky Seto, then the team’s assistant defensive backs coach who had figured out this was a desire of Maxwell’s, showed him some video of veteran cornerback Charles “Peanut’’ Tillman, who played 13 years in the NFL and forced 44 fumbles with what became known as the “Peanut Punch.’’
“We illustrated another guy in the league (Tillman) that was great at it and tried to get all of our guys to imitate him and copy him and he just picked up on it,’’ said Seattle coach Pete Carroll “It just became something that he was really good at and so it’s been a specialty of his.”
• Thomas Rawls, the Seahawks’ Santa, could be in line for more carries (ESPN NFL Nation)
Coach Pete Carroll said he liked how Rawls attacked the line of scrimmage on his five carries. He ripped off a 15-yard run to begin a fourth-quarter drive that ended in Seattle’s third and final touchdown. That was his second-longest run of a season in which little has gone according to plan, neither for Rawls nor Seattle’s running game.
• Will Seahawks get boost in running game in must-win game vs Cardinals? (MyNorthwest.com)
There is something that might help the Seahawks in Sunday’s must-win game against the Cardinals, however – the return of fullback Tre Madden, who was activated from Injured Reserve on Wednesday after recovering from a calf injury.
“But like I always say, you can’t mess with your health. The brain is something serious, and no football game is (more) important than your future and your well-being. So, I believe the NFL should really look into it – because a week is really, really fast to come back from a traumatized brain.”
Wednesday, December 27
• Bruce Arians is right: Cardinals have had Seahawks’ number in Seattle (ESPN NFL Nation)
The Cardinals are 3-1 at CenturyLink Field since Arians became the head coach in 2013. They won 17-10 there that season, despite four interceptions by Carson Palmer. They won a 39-32 shootout on Sunday night in 2015, preceding Seattle’s 6-7 finish to the regular season.
Arizona won another high-scoring game last year — 34-31 on Christmas Eve — handing the Seahawks a loss that ultimately cost them the No. 2 seed and the first-round bye that would have come with it. Seattle’s lone home victory during that stretch, 19-3 in 2014, came against backup quarterback Drew Stanton.
Coleman said Sherman, the All-Pro cornerback currently on injured reserve with Christmas lights wrapped around his walking boot and repaired Achilles tendon, is the reason why he jumped into a giant Salvation Army kettle behind the end zone Sunday in Arlington, Texas, to celebrate his game-turning interception return for a touchdown.
• Seahawks Spotlight: Justin Coleman (MyNorthwest.com)
“Basically I just told my teammates, ‘If I catch a pick-six in this end zone right here then I’m gonna just run and jump in that kettle,’” Coleman said.
Who saw that coming? I’ll fess up – not me. After the 42-7 catastrophe against the Rams, I bought into the notion Seattle’s season was all done but the formalities. And let’s be real here. Enough of you expressed the same sentiment in harsh enough terms that Richard Sherman felt compelled, after the Seahawks’ rebound victory over Dallas on Sunday, to reprimand the fans who “have turned on players and coaches – you should be ashamed of yourself.”
• ‘We’re battle-tested’ says Bobby Wagner after win over Cowboys (MyNorthwest.com)
Due to a lingering hamstring injury, Wagner said it’s been about six weeks since he’s been able to practice fully. “It’s alright. It’s very, very sore right now,” he said.
The Seahawks, who knocked the Cowboys out of the playoff hunt, can clinch a wild-card spot with a win over the Cardinals and a Falcons loss to the Panthers next week.
Tuesday, December 26
I love the guy for saying what’s on his mind and being as candid as he is. But in this instance, he needs work on his timing. His team just won a big game and he’s going into the opposing locker room saying he thinks his team is going to eventually “kick him to the curb.”
Defense is what gave the Seahawks a chance. The Cowboys’ offense gave Seattle some help with three different turnovers. Throw in a pair of pass-interference penalties that set up Seattle touchdown passes, and the Seahawks left Dallas with a 21-12 victory that was as improbable as it was important.
“I sat with Earl afterwards and he was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He didn’t think he did anything wrong at all, he didn’t know,” Carroll said. “He was just having fun and he was really excited about the game, he was, you know, rubbing it in a little bit and having a good time with it. And then he just said something into the future. When you read it, it comes across bad.”
Staying alive was hardly automatic, even with Seattle’s gritty Week 16 effort against the Dallas Cowboys. The Seahawks (9-6) needed help even before playing what amounted to an elimination game against Dallas. But they got an early Christmas present when the New Orleans Saints upended the Falcons, who could have clinched that precious berth with a victory.
The Seahawks’ 136 offensive yards were a season-low, and the lowest since 2013. Russell Wilson’s 93 passing yards were the lowest of his career, and the Seahawks also averaged 2.8 yards per rush, and managed only four of 11 third down conversions.