SEATTLE – Olindo Mare has made his last 30 field goal attempts, dating back 13 months.
Or is that 33 straight?
Whatever the math, the Seattle Seahawks placekicker got plenty of practice in Sunday’s 22-10 victory over NFC West rival Arizona at Qwest Field – and his teammates, despite ascending to sole possession of first place, proved they needed more.
This rightly should have been a romp of four or five touchdowns except that the red zone was a virtual minefield for the Seahawks, who stalled five times inside the Cardinals 15-yard line and settled for Mare field goals of 20, 24, 26, 31 and 51 yards.
Now that’s advanced algebra. Leading 13-0, the Seahawks had sputtered again after Kennard Cox had fallen on a kickoff that Arizona’s Jason Wright actually kicked back to them, trying to field the ball off his shoetops. Mare lined up to kick a routine 31-yarder and sent it through the uprights, only to have tight end Cameron Morrah flagged for holding.
Mare did it again from 41 yards – and Morrah held once again. So Mare stepped back 10 more yards and nailed another kick. Up went a third flag – only this time, it was guard Mike Gibson being nailed for unnecessary roughness after the play.
Mare also had to re-do his final field goal after a delay of game penalty, and got a do-over when Arizona was offsides blocking his first one.
“Actually, it’s just like the way we practice – hitting one and moving back,” Mare said of the third-quarter sequence. “The good thing for us is you keep getting reps on that hash (mark), so you can kind of get in a groove.”
At 4-2, you’d think the Seahawks would be approaching something of a groove, as well. But with the exception of an outstanding defensive performance – Seattle held Arizona to 227 yards and badgered rookie quarterback Max Hall into a 4-of-16 passing day – this win looked nothing like the strong effort over Chicago last weekend.
Nonetheless, it ended a four-game losing streak against the Cardinals, who fell to 3-3.
“What an interesting football game,” mused Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “We left so much on the field today in terms of points. It’s great to get the win and we had a lot of fun in the locker room about it, but we have so much room for improvement.”
That didn’t appear to be the case at the start. Behind the running of recently acquired Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks drove 79 yards to the Arizona 1 but twice flamed out there and took away just three points from a 7 1-2 minute drive.
And for a time, it looked like that might hold up. Arizona was helpless behind Hall, who had a fumble and interception as two of the Cardinals’ five turnovers. Seattle wasn’t much better until Raymond Lewis fell on a muffed punt midway through the second quarter and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck found Mike Williams with a 2-yard touchdown pass and a 10-0 lead.
Hasselbeck threw – erratically sometimes – for 192 yards, but was never intercepted. After catching nine balls last week, Williams pulled in 11 for 87 yards, with the touchdown his first since the 2006 season. And though Lynch had 89 yards rushing, he had 39 more called back on a pair of Sean Locklear holding penalties.
Two more Arizona turnovers – Hall’s fumble on a hit by Chris Clemons that knocked the rookie out of the game, and a muffed kickoff return – led to two more Mare field goals. Arizona finally put together a drive behind backup quarterback Derek Anderson, Beanie Wells capping it with a 2-yard run.
But that was the only real lapse by the Seahawks defense, which came up especially big in limiting standout receiver Larry Fitzgerald to just three inconsequential catches.
“We weren’t as effective on the run as we wanted to be,” said Carroll, “but the coverage guys did a good job. I thought they really finished well – not letting them get downfield in the last couple of sequences.”
The rain and wind played havoc with both teams’ passing games on occasion, and Seattle may have been further hampered by another injury to rookie tackle Russell Okung, who left on that first drive with an ankle sprain – not the one that he injured earlier this season.