Touchdowns from the defense and special teams added to the offensive whirlwind as Seattle crushed the team that beat the them 20-16 in the season’s opening week.
Even if the Seahawks hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown Sunday, they still would have flattened Arizona 23-0. But since they had five, three from Marshawn Lynch, they pancaked the Cardinals 58-0, the most points and the most lopsided shutout in franchise annals — one that finally allowed Matt Flynn, a non-entity since Russell Wilson burst on the scene, to get in on the rout.
The sixth triumph at home without a loss and the first within the NFC West this season improved Seattle’s record to 8-5 and maintained control of an NFC Wild Card slot. Division leader leader San Francisco (9-3-1) also won Sunday, defeating Miami, 27-13.
The Seahawks scored five different ways against the Cardinals, who dropped their ninth consecutive game, including one pass (Russell Wilson to Zach Miller), four runs (three by Lynch, one by Leon Washington), an interception return (Richard Sherman), a fumbled punt return (Malcolm Smith) and three field goals by Steven Houschka.
“This game was beneficial for everybody,” bubbled head coach Pete Carroll. “It was a huge win and a big boost for everybody. We are taking this as a reward for a lot of hard work. We also got out of the game healthy.”
The Seahawks rolled up a 38-0 lead by halftime — most points in a half since 45 vs. Minnesota in 2002 — largely on the basis of six takeaways, a franchise record for the first two quarters. By early in the third period, when Seattle had a 45-0 lead, Carroll saw no further need for Wilson, who had tossed just 13 passes, and inserted Flynn, who received his first game action of the year.
“We were thrilled to get Matt some significant playing time,” said Carroll after Flynn completed five of nine passes for 68 yards and narrowly missed throwing a touchdown pass.
Seattle broke the single-game scoring mark set against the Buffalo Bills Oct. 30, 1977 in a 56-17 victory. The Seahawks’ 58 points in a shutout broke the old mark of 45 against the Kansas City Chiefs Nov. 4, 1984.
Seattle’s eight takeaways, including four interceptions and four fumble recoveries, were not a single-game record (10 vs. Cleveland Dec. 20, 1981, three interceptions, seven fumble recoveries), but they were the most by Seattle since the Seahawks recorded eight against San Diego Dec. 13, 1998.
The Seahawks barely needed phenom rookie Wilson, who completed seven of 13 passes for 148 yards, one TD (his 20th) and his first CenturyLink interception — on a tipped ball.
In fact, Seattle got more than it needed from Arizona quarterback John Skelton, a disaster who threw four interceptions, lost a fumble and finished the game — early in the second half — with a passer rating of 18.2, hardly a Mensa number.
Skelton and his replacement, Ryan Lindley (56.2 passer rating), were so ineffective/inane that future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught just one pass for two yards, and that didn’t happen until the fourth quarter.
Lynch and Sherman played starring roles. Lynch ran for 128 yards and scored three times on 11 carries. Cornerback Sherman, who is appealing a four-game suspension for a using a performance-enhancing drug, intercepted two passes, scored a touchdown, recovered a fumble and was the main man responsible for Fitzgerald snagging just one pass.
“The game was special for the whole team,” said Sherman. “We scored a touchdown in every phase and our guys just played a tremendous ball game. Also give credit to the 12th Man. It was 50-0 and they were still cheering.”
Lynch and Sherman weren’t the only game breakers. Rookie RB Robert Turbin had 20 carries for 108 yards, giving the Seahawks two 100-yard rushers for the first time since Oct. 16, 2005, when Shaun Alexander (141) and Maurice Morris (104) did it in a 42-10 win over the Houston Texans.
TE Anthony McCoy caught three passes for 105 yards, giving the Seahawks their first 100-yard receiver since Ben Obomanu against Cincinnati Oct. 30, 2011.
The Seahawks started their domination early. Following a Bobby Wagner interception return on Arizona’s first drive, Wilson guided the Seahawks to the Cardinals’ six-yard line, but a sack on third-and-two forced Seattle to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Hauschka and a 3-0 lead.
Near the end of the first quarter, the Seahawks had another sustained drive (85 yards). When they reached the Arizona 20, Lynch burst 15 yards to the Arizona five-yard line, but another idiotic penalty on Breno Giacomini put the ball back on the 20. To compensate, and for one of the few times this season, Lynch bounced outside to his left and ran 20 yards for a TD, giving Seattle a 10-0 lead.
After Wilson and McCoy hooked up on a 67-yard play-action pass that gave Seattle a first down on the Arizona four-yard line, Lynch ran for his second TD and eighth of the season, boosting the lead to 17-0.
Not two minutes later, Sherman picked off a Skelton pass intended for Fitzgerald and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown and a 24-0 lead. The interception was Sherman’s fifth of the season.
Following that touchdown, the Seahawks forced Arizona to punt, but Patrick Peterson muffed the catch, the ball bounced around and Malcolm Smith plucked it out of the air and crossed the goal line for a 31-0 lead, a season high for points.
Peterson also fumbled it the next time Seattle punted and Byron Maxwell stripped him, giving the Seahawks a first down at the Arizona 24-yard line. Two plays later, Wilson threw Miller to go up 38-0.
Lynch made it 45-0 on Seattle’s opening possession of the second half when he ran 33 yards for a touchdown, his ninth of the year. The run also gave Lynch his seventh 100-yard day and enabled him to match his career high with three touchdowns set against Carolina Dec. 5, 2010.
After Wagner recorded Seattle’s fourth interception of Skelton (and his second of the game) on Arizona’s next series, Flynn came on and led a short drive that ended with Hauschka’s second field goal. A fumble by Lindley, who had replaced Skelton, set up Haushka’s third field goal, which gave the Seahawks a 51-0 lead.
Washington scored Seattle’s final touchdown on a three-yard run, concluding a six-play, 62-yard drive orchestrated by Flynn.
The Seahawks are not only on the road next Sunday, they will be in Toronto to face the Buffalo Bills. Seattle returns to CenturyLink Field Dec. 23 to face NFC West leader San Francisco.