Contrary to most of the rest of the country, the inhabitants of Arizona did not set their clocks back Sunday morning.
It is not necessary to save daylight in the desert, they must assume, because it is something already in abundant supply.
The Seattle Seahawks might have turned the clock to the future, however, on a day when their 20-14 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals “featured” extremely solid play by young offensive players.
Because standout starting running back Chris Warren was knocked dingy early in the game and needed rest in the 82-degree heat, second-year tailback Lamar Smith got some rare playing time.
And because veteran fullback Steve Smith dropped a couple passes, second-year fullback Mack Strong played in the second half.
Both responded to the challenge as Smith gained 85 yards on just three rushes and Strong scored the Hawks’ two touchdowns on catches from John Friesz.
Before Sunday, Smith had carried only seven times this season and Strong had only two receptions to his credit.
Smith, in fact, established a team record with a 68-yard run in the fourth quarter, breaking a mark of 67 yards set by Sherman Smith at Chicago in 1978 and matched by Al Hunter in 1979.
“Wow, wow,” Smith said when apprised of the record.
Up until now, Smith has been better recognized as the Seahawk who will face postseason trial on vehicular assault charges as the driver in the wreck that paralyzed teammate Mike Frier last December.
What has been keeping him going, he said, is the support of Warren and back-up tailback Steve Broussard.
“Chris and Steve have been doing such a good job that I’ve had to concentrate on just doing well on special teams,” Smith said. “They tell me to wait and my time will come. So when I get the chance, I try to go in and pick up where they leave off.”
Strong, meanwhile, was the blocking back for Cardinal Garrison Hearst when both attended Georgia.
Hearst averaged only 2.6 yards per carry Sunday, while Strong caught touchdown passes of 17 and 2 yards.
“They were concentrating on stopping the run, bringing nine or 10 men up to the line of scrimmage, and they weren’t expecting the fullback to be coming out for passes,” Strong explained.
On the game’s final play, though, Strong deflected a pass that was intercepted by Cardinal Lorenzo Lynch and returned 72 yards for the score that ended overtime.
“I feel horrible about the loss,” Strong said. “I take responsibility for it. I felt I was having success and the team was having success, but we didn’t quite put it all together at the end. That’s the most disappointing part of it.”
Friesz bounces back
Having earned the starting quarterback job for the Seahawks, John Friesz relinquished the position with great reluctance on Sunday.
He suffered an apparent sprain of the left shoulder when he was flattened by Cardinal Eric Swann on the second pass play of the game.
After a fumble on a handoff convinced him he needed medical assistance, Friesz was taken to the locker room and Rick Mirer took his place.
“I was really down in the dumps in the locker room because here’s an opportunity to play and do the things I want to do, and just a few plays into the game I’m back in the locker room,” he said.
Ironically, Friesz had suffered the only severe injury of his career - the tearing of two knee ligaments in 1992 - on the same field.
“But I’ve been real fortunate - other than the knee injury, I’ve never injured a shoulder,” he said. “I was asking people on the sidelines, what can I expect? Can I play again? Do I need surgery?”
Friesz was able to return quickly, though, as Mirer threw a pair of interceptions. And after shaking off the rust of being largely inactive for the first seven games, Friesz connected on 13 of 18 passes in the second half for 165 yards.
In overtimes, Seattle now has a 4-9 record. Arizona is 6-6-2. The Cardinals remain the only nonexpansion team that the Seahawks have never defeated, now having lost all five games against them.
This was the second straight Seahawk loss to a team with a losing record. The next four Seattle opponents have losing records.
Friesz’s shoulder was likely the most important of several injuries the Seahawks suffered Sunday.
Also, safety Rafeal Robinson (hip pointer), Warren (sprained ankle), receiver Brian Blades (hand/wrist contusion), defensive end Michael McCrary (left knee sprain), safety Jay Bellamy (quad contusion) and safety Eugene Robinson (groin sprain) were injured.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo Graphic: Cardinals 20, Hawks 14