GLENDALE, Ariz. – Everything the Seahawks weren’t the previous Sunday in a surprising home loss to the New Orleans Saints, they were on Sunday in beating the Arizona Cardinals, 27-10.
A week after falling behind 7-0 before most people had even turned on the TV, the Seahawks for once started fast – leading at the end of the first quarter and halftime for the first time this season in building a 20-3 lead at the break.
A week after basically giving the Saints two touchdowns, the Seahawks were efficient – no turnovers for the game and no penalties during a first half in which they took control.
And a week after gaining 515 yards but having little to show for it, they were opportunistic, with a pick-six by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the first quarter giving the Seahawks an early cushion they would never relinquish, then scoring offensively on all four drives that got inside the Arizona 20.
When it was over, head coach Pete Carroll said the Seahawks had laid the template for the kind of team they can be this season – and will need to be in order to have the kind of season they want.
“I felt this was really a complete game for us,” Carroll said after Seattle improved to 3-1 with its first victory this season by more than two points and that didn’t come down to the final series.
What Carroll liked as much as anything was a 15-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 8:08 in the fourth quarter – Seattle’s longest drive this year in both plays and time – that gave the Seahawks a final touchdown with 2:13 left after Arizona had scored its only touchdown of the day.
“The last drive was an extraordinary statement,” Carroll said.
A key play on the drive came when quarterback Russell Wilson evaded pressure on a third-and-two play to toss it to Luke Willson, the popular tight end from 2013-17 who returned last week to replace the traded Nick Vannett.
Willson fought through an illegal contact penalty from Arizona’s Jordan Hicks (which would have given Seattle a first down regardless) to make a diving grab for a 17-yard gain and move the ball to the Arizona 37.
“A phenomenal throw and catch,” said Carroll.
Willson, one of four players remaining from the team that won the Super Bowl following the 2013 season, said: “That whole drive, for me personally, I felt like, ‘Man, this feels so familiar.’ ”
The kind of game Seattle got from Chris Carson, who lost fumbles in each of the first three games. He rushed for 104 yards on 22 carries – without dropping the ball once.
Carson got 91 of those yards after the first quarter, and after Seattle had used the pass to take a 17-3 lead, the Seahawks – as they so often have during their glory years – used the run to finish off a satisfying victory.
A little unfamiliar, but just as successful, was going with the pass early – Wilson threw it on 12 of Seattle’s first 16 plays. That led to scoring drives of 52 and 75 yards the first two times the Seahawks had the ball, and a 17-3 lead.
“We wanted to be able to mix it up,” Wilson said of the Seahawks’ early pass-first strategy. Wilson completed 22 of 28 passes for 240 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
It added up to an easy victory in a building in which things have rarely gone smoothly for the Seahawks.
A year ago, Seattle won here on a Sebastian Janikowski field goal on the last play in a game most fans remember for Earl Thomas playing his last snap as a Seahawk and then, well, delivering a rather unfavorable gesture toward Carroll.
Also a year ago, tight end Will Dissly suffered a patellar tendon injury that ended his season.
Dissly, who already in this season has announced he is all the way back from that injury, made it even more clear Sunday by catching seven passes for 57 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter that put the Seahawks ahead 17-3.
“I love the way he is playing,” Carroll said.
He also loved seeing Clowney make the kind of game-changing play the Seahawks envisioned when they made the aggressive move to trade for him a week before the season.
On Arizona’s second possession, Clowney sniffed out a screen pass to David Johnson and reached up with his left hand – and, as he reminded media members later, he’s left-handed – to snare the ball and then control it and race down the sideline for a 27-yard touchdown.
Clowney said the minute he saw Johnson leak outside he figured the ball was going his way.
“I just tried to get my hands up and tip the ball,” Clowney said, “and anytime I get my hands on the ball I’m trying to get a turnover.”
Sandwiched between Arizona’s Zane Gonzalez missing two makeable field goals – the kind of self-inflicted wounds Seattle suffered a week ago but didn’t this game – the play turned the game Seattle’s direction for good.
“It ignited the whole team,” said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who marveled that Clowney “looked like (he was) 7 feet on that play.”
The Seahawks made such quick work of the Cardinals they were able to watch the end of the Rams-Tampa Bay game on televisions in the locker room as they did interviews.
When the Bucs sewed up the game on Ndamukong Suh’s fumble return – which assured that the Rams and Seahawks will each be 3-1 when the two play Thursday at CenturyLink Field – the locker room erupted.
And a week after the Seahawks wondered where things were headed, they could suddenly look happily toward a battle with major NFC West implications – a most familiar feeling, indeed.
“We did a lot of hard work this week just to make sure that we were precise throughout the whole week and come game day,” Wilson said of how the team rebounded from the defeat against the Saints. “We took that challenge on and we were ready to roll.”
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