GLENDALE, Ariz. — At this point, following a decisive 31-21 win Sunday at Arizona against the Cardinals for their fourth straight win by 10 points or more, maybe the Seahawks are a lot better than everyone thought.
And the schedule indicates there’s little reason anything has to change anytime soon.
Consider what’s ahead for the Seahawks — a game next Sunday in Munich against a Tampa Bay team that gutted out a win over the Rams on Sunday but doesn’t seem to be anything close to its Super Bowl-winning stature of two years ago; at home against a Raiders team that is one of the bigger disappointments in the NFL; at the Rams against another team that is one of the bigger disappointments in the league; and then home to Carolina before a game Dec. 15 against the 49ers that suddenly looks like it could decide the NFC West.
Who’da thunk that?
And on that happy note, on to some grades.
Geno Smith had one big mistake with the throw for the pick six by Zaven Collins that for a brief second appeared as if it might swing the game. To be fair to Smith, that was a really good play by Collins. And Smith was sort of lucky another pass in the end zone wasn’t picked off by former Husky Byron Murphy. Otherwise, this was the MVP-style Geno Smith that Seattle has come to embrace this year. His rebound from that interception to lead three straight TD drives of 75 yards or more — including seven straight third-down conversions — might well be a defining moment of this season.
Kenneth Walker III has proved a lot already this season. But Sunday might have been as impressive as any game he’s had as he finished with 109 yards on 26 carries, gutting out a tough 78 on 17 carries in the second half after he had just 31 on nine in the first half, when the Arizona defense seemed to have Seattle’s running game figured out. Walker now has seven rushing touchdowns in Seattle’s last five games and is more than halfway to a 1,000-yard season with 570 yards on 111 carries, 5.1 per carry. Who says running backs don’t matter?
OK, so Tyler Lockett came up a couple of yards short of a first down on a third-and-15 pass in the second quarter. And DK Metcalf was held to just 37 yards on five receptions, with no longer than 9. But when it counted, Seattle’s two premier receivers made the plays that were needed to win the game — Metcalf tiptoeing in the back of the end zone to catch a 4-yard TD in the first quarter and Lockett a 9-yarder in the third quarter. Each came on third downs. Seattle got nothing else out of its receivers as Dee Eskridge had no catches, and Marquise Goodwin sat out with a groin injury. But on this day, two was enough.
This was a good game for the tight ends as Seattle’s power tight end trio combined for 10 catches for 126 yards, led by Noah Fant’s 96 yards on five catches — highlighted by his 51-yard catch-and-run to set up Seattle’s final TD in the fourth quarter after Arizona cut the score to 24-21. Credit offensive coordinator Shane Waldron for the perfect play call there, as well. Colby Parkinson again showed his vastly improved blocking skills throughout the game, notably helping pave the way for Walker’s final TD.
The running game was a slog for a while. But then you look up and see Seattle rushed for 158 yards, its third-highest rushing total of the season. While Smith got hit a few times, he was sacked only twice — on consecutive plays in the third quarter — he had the time when he needed it. Arizona had eight QB hits, but none was from JJ Watt, who had three tackles but didn’t seem to make a big impact on the game. The Seahawks again went with a rotation at right guard with Gabe Jackson getting the start but Phil Haynes coming in on the third series and Seattle using each throughout.
Job one for the Seahawks is always to make an opponent’s running attack irrelevant. And the Seahawks pretty much did that Sunday, despite the return for Arizona of starting running back James Conner, who missed the first game against Seattle with injury. Conner had 45 yards on seven carries, but the Cardinals had just 59 yards out of their running backs on 12 carries as Seattle’s defensive tackles again played well. And for the second straight week Shelby Harris showed why the Seahawks made him a target of the Russell Wilson trade as he had three tackles and a sack.
Seattle’s outside backers had another really good day, led by Uchenna Nwosu getting two sacks — and now with what is already a career-high seven — and Bruce Irving notching his first sack since 2019 in his first game as a full-fledged member of the 53-man roster. Rookie Joshua Onujiogu also had two tackles in his first NFL game. As for the inside backers, Jordyn Brooks led Seattle with 12 tackles and Cody Barton had three tackles, with Seattle doing a nice job bottling up Arizona’s running game. But someone blew something to allow Arizona’s TD in the first quarter on Kyler Murray’s 22-yard TD pass to DeAndre Hopkins.
Not to just keep handing out compliments, but it was another good day for the secondary, as well. Safety Ryan Neal turned in one of the key plays of the game with his forced fumble of Kyler Murray in the second quarter to keep the Seahawks’ 10-7 lead before halftime. And rookie Tariq Woolen had a nice game when matched up against Hopkins — none of Hopkins’ four catches came against Woolen. And holding a supposedly explosive offense like Arizona’s to nothing longer than 14 yards in the second half speaks to how well the secondary is handling its assignments and not missing tackles.
Rookie receiver Dareke Young had two nice plays in a game with a tackle in the first quarter and then helping down a punt at the 3-yard line in the second quarter. And DeeJay Dallas, who appears to be taking over the punt return duties for good, had a 19-yarder while Jason Myers had a 49-yard field goal in the first half.