Originally posted on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 12/6/12
In Pursuit of Playoffs Road woes no mo’? The Seattle Seahawks are coming back to Century Link field after their most impressive victory of the season thus far. The team that was seemingly allergic to victories on the road traveled to Chicago to take on the 8-3 Bears. The Bears have been considered one of the top teams in the NFC, and even the NFL. Their defense was impenetrable, their running attack was bruising, and the Cutler-Marshall connection was unstoppable. Or so they said. The Cutler-Marshall connection proved noteworthy with a season-high 165 yards on 10 receptions for the receiver out of Central Florida – including that painful 56 yard completion in the closing seconds of the 4th quarter that set up the game-tying field goal. Other than that, Matt Forte was held to 66 yards on 21 carries and Russell Wilson led TWO game-winning drives of 97 and 80 yards consecutively on the so-called impenetrable defense. But enough dwelling in the past, we still have four games to win. And up next is the Arizona Cardinals. What to watch. Clockwork The theoretical formula for success against the Bears was to pressure Cutler into making mistakes. The Seahawks came up with a different strategy: don’t let Cutler get the ball. From the beginning of their 4th quarter touchdown drive, the Seahawks held the ball for 10:43. The Bears had the ball for 24 seconds in between those drives. Dominance in time of possession was due to great play-calling from Darrell Bevell This dominance in time of possession was due to great play-calling from Darrell Bevell – the read option between Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson accounted for the majority of the yards in the second half and set up the game-winning touchdown pass. Along with the play-calling, the execution from Wilson and Lynch proved incredibly viable. Wilson made the correct reads, refrained from turning the ball over against the NFL-leading defense in takeaways, and used his legs to extend drives. Meanwhile, Lynch adapted his wrecking-ball running style into the shotgun formation and did so with great success, gaining 87 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown. The Seahawks will face another great defense this week in the Cardinals, and if they can continue to trump these difficult defensive teams, they will continue to be a very dangerous team. Browner-less in Seattle The media has been buzzing about the allegations of Seattle cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner for use of performance-enhancing substances. The two originally agreed to appeal the suspension, but as of recent Browner has elected to drop the appeal and serve his suspension. I believe this is a strategic move by both the players and the coaching staff. The reason being is that these two players are both pro-bowl caliber players, and two of the cornerstones of this defense. If the Hawks were to lose both players for a four-game stint, the repercussions could prove to be disastrous. Seattle needs these next four games in order to be playoff eligible, and they will need their star players if and when they do make the playoffs. So instead of losing both, they decided to lose one at a time. This way, Sherman will remain in Browner’s absence and keep some solidity in the defensive secondary. Furthermore, if Sherman’s appeal fails, Browner will be there to pick up the slack. While the passing attack is not much of a worry when playing the Arizona Cardinals – due to their lack of ability at quarterback – they still have this man named Larry Fitzgerald. Larry is a very dangerous receiving threat and can outplay even the best defender, so having Sherman manning him will pay huge dividends. Under the Radar No More All season long the debate for Rookie of the Year has been between the Colts’ Andrew Luck and the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III. Hardly ever has Russell Wilson been mentioned in the same breath as these two, and after last week’s performance the issue has risen to the surface. Russell Wilson has had an astonishing rookie year in the NFL to date, and his numbers have been off the charts. - Wilson has thrown a game-winning touchdown pass in the final two minutes of regulation or OT three times this season, the most by any rookie QB since the 1970 merger. - With 11 tds and 0 interceptions in Seattle, Wilson has the NFL’s highest passer rating (122.0) at home on the season. - He is on pace for the third-best single-season passer rating at home in NFL history, which would put him behind Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees – and ahead of Peyton Manning, John Elway, Steve Young and Kurt Warner in the record books. Some above average quarterbacks, you could say. These accomplishments earned the award of NFC Offensive Player of the Week. An honor that hasn’t been given to a Seahawk since Shaun Alexander in 2005. With his final outstanding performance coming in the Windy City against one of the NFL’s top defenses, there is an extreme case of optimism for this young QB. Look out Arizona. Kick ‘em While They’re Down The Cardinals began their season with a very impressive 4-0 start. Their defense was playing at an elite level, their quarterbacks were managing the games, and they were winning the close ones – including the season opener against Seattle. However, since their 4-0 start, the Cardinals have dropped 8 in a row! An unfathomable landslide of defeat. Well, unfathomable if you haven’t seen their roster. The Cardinals quarterback situation has been a mess all season. In the past three weeks, Ryan Lindley has been getting the starts. The rookie out of San Diego State completed 50 of his 103 attempts for 448 yards and 5 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 40.4. Pass rushers licking their chops? I’d bet on it. Golden Tate has proven to be a better passer than Lindley, and his lack of production has once again brought another quarterback into the ring. The Cardinals are turning, once again, to John Skelton as their QB this Sunday. Skelton has two touchdowns on the season – as opposed to 5 interceptions – and will be facing the league’s 5th ranked pass defense in Seattle. Look for Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin to lick their chops as they shred the pitiful Cardinals’ offensive line and demolish ol’ Skelly all afternoon. Room for Improvement In good position to make a run for the playoffs, the Seahawks have come on strong at the right time. Despite a sorry defeat to Miami in week 12, Seattle has been the best team on the field in their past four weeks. Offensively, their rushing attack has been on point all season, Russell is providing evidence of a future franchise QB, and the combination of Golden Tate and Sidney Rice has been coming on very strong in the second half of the season. Then there is the defense. This has been the strength of their team, and the numbers show. Seattle is ranked 4th in total defense (314 yards per game).  They are 5th in pass defense (203.4 yards per game) and 12th in rush defense (110.6 yards per game). While the rush defense as dropped a bit, their overall production has been outstanding. Besides one frustrating category. Seattle cannot seem to stop teams on third down. Including last week, the Hawks defense continues to stop the opposing offense on first and second downs. They set up numerous third-and-longs, only to give them up without a fight. It seems that when the deep pass is expected, they allow it. Much like Marshall’s 56-yard grab last week. When you know it is coming, how do you allow it? It is a mind-boggling statistic that shouldn’t be occurring with such a great defense. Nevertheless, it is an area that needs vast improvement in order for this team to continue its success. They should be able to improve their efficiency this week against the porous Arizona offense. Go Hawks! CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE SEAHAWKS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE AT NWSB!
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