NFL 2022, Week 9: Winners and Losers from Seahawks 31, Cardinals 21

Many expected the Seattle Seahawks (6-3) to win no more than six games the entire season. They have six wins already and are 1.5 games ahead of the San Francisco 49ers and 2.5 games clear of the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West. What an unbelievable first half of the season this has turned out to be, and I don’t think the Seahawks have even played their best football yet!

It’s time for Winners and Losers after the team’s 31-21 win and season sweep over the Arizona Cardinals (3-6).


Winners

Geno Smith

If Geno could’ve had five touchdowns last week, he could’ve had three interceptions this week. What happened is what happened and we got to see Smith showcase his tremendous mental resolve after a pick-6 that was both well read by Zaven Collins and badly thrown. Seattle’s offense was struggling and Smith had just made his worst game-changing mistake of the season. He responded by finishing the game 11/13 for 174 yards and a touchdown.

There have been a lot of qualifiers for Geno and what would happen if things weren’t going smoothly; would he fold under pressure or after a bad play? Today he did not, and his calmness after the interception was on full display when he led the team to three straight TDs.

Noah Fant

Finally, Noah Fant as the YAC monster has arrived. He was tied for the team lead in receptions (5) and racked up 96 yards. For context, Fant had 176 yards the whole season before turning in the type of performance that made the Seahawks acquire him as part of the Russell Wilson trade. Four of Fant’s five receptions were for first downs and that 51-yarder on the bootleg was essentially a dagger to Arizona’s chances of a comeback win.

I’ve not been wowed by Fant this season but in a system where every tight end feasts, Fant had himself an early Thanksgiving meal.

Kenneth Walker III

Not the best of starts for Walker given the Seahawks offensive line’s difficulties creating running lanes, but in the 4th quarter it was time for K9 to maul a tiring Arizona defense. By my count he rushed for 62 yards and a pair of touchdowns, giving him a half-dozen 4th quarter TDs on the season! Walker finished with 109 yards on 26 carries, as well as 3 catches for 20 receiving yards.

DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett

Metcalf wasn’t flashy but he was effective and caught a difficult touchdown in which he had to get both feet down with not a lot of room to spare. It’s the type of TD that you’d expect from a top-level receiver and he managed it. Lockett was going to be a Loser for giving himself up two yards short of a first down on 3rd and 15, but he responded with a critical 3rd and 12 grab (while getting blasted by Zaven Collins) and caught a touchdown that put Seattle up for good. Did he get away with insanely obvious pass interference on Budda Baker? Yes. Would I be mad if we saw Seattle get jobbed that way? Yes. But since it benefited the Seahawks then wheeeeeeeeeeee!

Pass Protection

Geno Smith was sacked five times and harassed many more times in the first meeting against Arizona. In the rematch Smith was sacked just twice — both on the first series of the 3rd quarter — and while there were eight QB hits in total it seldom felt like he was under siege. Lest you think this was a quick pass-centric performance from Geno, it was not.

Uchenna Nwosu

Signing of the season. Two more sacks to bring his total up to seven. You may notice that the Seahawks are getting a lot of their sacks without blitzing, which is so huge compared to previous seasons where it felt like they had to send extra men on the rush to get after the quarterback.

BRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE

He just turned 35 years old and might as well be 25. Irvin recorded his first sack since 2019 and his first with the Seahawks since leaving the team in 2015. He’s been a spark as a situational pass rusher and it is awesome that this reunion has worked out a lot better than his injury-shortened one in 2020.

Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton

Yes, Cody Barton is playing well. Brooks has been really impressive over the past few weeks but Barton is the one I want to focus in on. He has been quick to the ball and not missing as many tackles or getting himself out of position as we’d seen at the start of the season. The run defense continues to be sturdy after a leaky opening five games, and they’ve both been factors in that department. Everything is clicking right now for this Seahawks defense.

Tariq Woolen and Mike Jackson

Woolen did get beaten for a touchdown by Zach Ertz, but he also had a pass defensed on a intended throw for DeAndre Hopkins and recorded a tackle for loss on a screen. Jackson’s also held down his starting job opposite Woolen and both were instrumental in limiting Hopkins to just 3 catches for 14 yards after that busted coverage touchdown on Arizona’s opening possession.

Ryan Neal

Biggest defensive play of the game by far was Neal for forcing Kyler Murray to fumble, turning a likely minimum of 3 points into zilch before halftime. Seattle now has 16 forced fumbles on the season and Neal joins the party of stripping the ball out.

Josh Jones?!!!

Yes, Josh Jones. He was on the spot for the fumble recovery and made a couple of solid tackles in run defense, which is a massive improvement from the horror shows that were his starts.

Losers

Seahawks Screen Passes

What has this team done in practice for the better part of a decade that makes them wholly unable to execute a screen? When they’re not getting penalized or losing yards they’re getting pick-6’d. This is absurd! The next one that actually takes off for a big gain will be cause to hang a banner at Lumen Field. They try and try and try and regardless of the QBs or the OL or the OC or the receiving threats it just doesn’t work.

Coby Bryant

Not that he played poorly… but he had a mixture of bad luck and some rookie moments. Bryant’s open field tackling really needs some work as he was culpable on a couple of 3rd down conversions that should’ve otherwise been stopped short. He also had an interception wiped out due to a Quandre Diggs penalty and a forced fumble on Rondale Moore reversed to an incomplete pass. His day could’ve looked better but in the end it was a frustrating day at the office for the rook.

Punt Returning

I’d almost rather no one is back there at this point. DeeJay Dallas was lucky not to lose a fumble on a muffed fair catch, which would’ve been the fourth lost fumble by the Seahawks punt return this season. To my amazement, Dallas still had a 19-yard return on one of his three returns so it wasn’t all bad, but I hold my breath whenever the Seahawks have to field a punt.

Dee Eskridge

That Marquise Goodwin didn’t play and Eskridge still had no catches on two targets and no rushing attempts sums up how uninvolved he is on a weekly basis. Can he block well? Yes, Is he a kick returner? I guess. But nothing’s clicking with him on offense, which is what the Seahawks drafted him for.

Final Notes

  • Shane Waldron seemed to call the game really close to the vest as if he had no confidence in the offensive line to hold up. After the pick-6 the playcalling (particularly getting the running game more involved) totally changed and we saw less of the cutesy line of scrimage passing attack that Arizona kept sniffing out. The shovel pass to Colby Parkinson backfired after a similar play the previous week worked.
  • Seven straight third down conversions for the Seahawks on their final three possessions. What is it like to have such a great third down offense? We’ve rarely experienced this, and it’s a major part of why the Seahawks are finishing teams off in the 4th quarter by sustaining drives and delivering knockout punches.
  • Only one injury of note to Cullen Gillaspia, otherwise the haunted house status of that stadium didn’t materialize!
  • Arizona’s poorly coached and disjointed, so I would’ve been pissed if the Seahawks had lost this game. I don’t see any way for their season to turn itself around. Kliff Kingsbury is someone whose genius tag was far too premature.
  • On the flip side, Pete Carroll’s got this team humming. This offense is enjoyable to watch because it is not reliant on magic and explosive plays to the nth degree. That’s not to say there weren’t years of typically enjoying high-end offenses under Wilson, but the way this year’s offense operates just doesn’t feel possible with this at least the more recent versions of Wilson. It turns out Carroll is indeed still one hell of a coach and that he can still adapt and succeed in this league. The apology queue is going to be a very long one.
  • Bring on the Bucs, who did us a solid by beating the Rams, but now it’s time to hand Tom Brady an overseas L in Germany. The 2022 Seahawks have defied the critics and are performing like one of the best teams in the NFL, let alone the NFC. Ain’t this a lot more fun than tanking?

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