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Seattle Seahawks

Analysis: Seahawks receive mixed grades in win over Cardinals

Seattle’s Bobby Wagner, left, and Jamal Adams tackle Arizona’s Joshua Dobbs earlier this season in Seattle.  (Getty Images)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

It was the offense that carried the Seahawks through their first two wins of the season, scoring 37 points in each.

It’s been the defense that carried them through their next two wins, allowing a combined 13 points against the Giants (24-3 win) and Sunday against Arizona (20-10).

Someday, the 2023 Seahawks will figure out how to put it all together.

Sunday obviously wasn’t that day as Seattle’s offense stumbled and bumbled its way through much of the game, losing three turnovers and unable to score a touchdown on a first-and-goal from the 1 in a surprisingly tense victory over the Cardinals.

But when they do?

Then maybe it will attain what safety Jamal Adams said Sunday is the potential of the defense.

“The sky’s the limit,” Adams said.

For now, the Seahawks are still reaching. But room to grow from a 4-2 foundation is a heck of a lot better than where a lot of other NFL teams are right now.

On to a mixed bag of grades.

Quarterback

Give credit again to Geno Smith for not sidestepping any blame after another spotty performance. Smith said he feels he still hasn’t played his best this season and accepted blame for the two second-half turnovers that went a long way toward keeping Arizona within striking distance until the final two minutes. But while there will be understandable attention on those turnovers – and that Smith also threw what could have been a pick-six in the second quarter that was dropped – things weren’t all bad.

Smith hit on 18 of 24 passes and threw two touchdowns on perfectly placed balls. And he showed some nifty mobility when he scrambled to convert a third-and-5 by leaping for the pylon and flipping and landing on running back Kenneth Walker III.

Smith is right when he says eliminating those few bad plays will make a big difference. But against better teams than Arizona, those will also be the difference in winning and losing.

Grade: C

Running back

Without Zach Charbonnet, Walker got all the work at running back with 26 carries for 105 yards. The running game was a slog at times, such as the failure from the 1 when two Walker runs netted minus-1 yard. But that didn’t feel like Walker’s fault. And Seattle needed every bit of his durability Sunday.

Grade: B-plus

Receiver

In the first game without DK Metcalf since 2018, it was tempting to wonder what we’d see from Seattle’s receiving corps. It was also tempting to think maybe Tyler Lockett would have to carry more of the load. Instead, it was the two rookies – Jaxon Smith-Njigba (4 catches, 63 yards) and Jake Bobo (4, 61) – who did most of the heavy lifting, each scoring a TD in the first half. Lockett had 38 yards on four catches, but one was a big one – a 15-yarder on a third-and-10 that kept alive the drive that ended in the TD to Bobo. He also had an 8-yarder on third-and-5 before the play to Bobo.

Grade: A-minus

Tight end

The tight ends didn’t do quite as much as might have been thought without Metcalf – a combined three receptions for 51 yards. But two came on back-to-back plays in the third quarter (27 yards to Colby Parkinson, 25 yards to Noah Fant) that helped get the ball to the 1 on the first series of the third quarter.

Grade: B

Offensive line

Injuries meant Seattle had to go with its fifth different starting alignment in six games this year – the Seahawks had just four all of last year. On Sunday, that included center Olu Oluwatimi getting his first career start. As coach Pete Carroll said, that’s made it a challenge to get a lot of continuity up front. But the play of the line seemed steadier than in the loss to the Bengals, giving Smith the time he needed on the TD throws and also allowing Seattle to at least grind out just enough tough yards on the final drive that put the game away.

Grade: C-plus

Defensive line

Statistically, it can look like Arizona did a little damage in the running game – 127 yards on 25 carries, the most Seattle has allowed this season. But little of that seemed the fault of the interior defensive line, with Arizona doing most of its damage on the edges, and scrambles by quarterback Joshua Dobbs. And Seattle put the clamps down in the second half when Arizona got just 23 yards rushing on eight carries and just 88 yards overall on 27 plays, never getting more than 22 on any drive. Nose tackle Jarran Reed continued his strong season with the fourth-down sack of Dobbs that ended things for good.

Grade: A-minus

Linebackers

The inside backers – Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks – were as good as ever. Especially Brooks, who played with complete abandon in the second half when he made seven of his nine tackles, including two for a loss, and also had a QB hit, a pass defense and half a sack.

The outside backers were a little spottier. Darrell Taylor lost the edge on Dobbs’ 25-yard TD run, for instance. And Boye Mafe got called for the penalty on the play before that negated a Devon Witherspoon interception. But both redeemed themselves later as Taylor had 1.5 sacks – his first of the season – and Mafe one sack and a pass defense. That was much needed with Uchenna Nwosu sitting out the second half with a pec strain.

Grade: B-plus

Secondary

There were a few missed tackles in the run game early on – both Riq Woolen and Quandre Diggs, for instance, missed attempts on Dobbs’ TD. But in general, it was a strong day from this group as Arizona receivers had just 150 yards on 20 receptions. Witherspoon again appeared a revelation with as hard a hit as has been seen here in a while on a Rondale Moore reception in the third quarter, and the interception and a sack each negated by penalties away from the ball. Jamal Adams was a force in the running game and had six tackles overall.

Seattle seems to be finding a rhythm with its nickel and dime defenses, able to get the run defense it needs from the secondary as well as the flexibility to not have too many mismatches in coverage.

Grade: A-minus

Special teams

A really spotty day here as DeeJay Dallas lost a fumble on a punt return that resulted in an Arizona field goal, Jason Myers booted the opening kickoff out of bounds, and there was a hold on the first punt. But Myers came back to hit two field goals and Dallas had a 32-yard punt return.

Arizona got nothing on its returns.

Grade: C-plus

Coaching

This was a sloppy and uneven affair, to be sure. But it felt hard to blame the game plan much, especially with the continually shifting offensive line. Carroll made smart challenges, and as always, Seattle seemed to adapt well at halftime to the few things that the Cardinals were doing well offensively. And in the big picture, only three teams in the NFC have better records than does Seattle, one of whom the Seahawks have beaten – Detroit.

Grade: A-minus