Fueled by eight Arizona turnovers, the Seahawks delivered one of the greatest routs in NFL history Sunday to set themselves up well for a big finish.
How bad was it? The Arizona Cardinals’ petition for admission was rejected by the Big East Conference.
The Cardinals were taken back to Phoenix in FEMA trailers.
Matt Flynn played.
Then there’s how good it was from a Seattle perspective: The Seahawks may be Team December. No joke.
“When you do it in December,” said Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant, “that’s when you become special.”
The Seahawks have done it so far, beating a good team, Chicago, on the road and beating a bad team, Arizona, at home Sunday in a way that almost never happens in the NFL, and usually only in a prison exercise yard.
“Ass-kicking — that’s the only thing you can say,” said Arizona quarterback John Skelton. “For them to come out and dominate the way they did, in every phase of the game, is embarrassing.”
Actually, embarrassing is a little too light a descriptor. A 58-0 defeat is Foghorn Leghorn is losing all his feathers, and failing to number them for just such an emergency.
“To be able to win the way we did,” said apprentice Jedi Russell Wilson,”is a hard thing to do in the National Football League.”
In fact, it was a point shy of the largest margin of victory in NFL history.
And it was over a team that beat the Seahawks in the season’s first week, 20-16. Reconciling these two outcomes will be the subject of doctoral theses of physicists not yet born.
The rest of us, meanwhile, may simply stare slackjawed for up to a week.
“I have never been involved in anything where the ball falls your way every . . . single . . . time,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, a participant who was as amazed and delighted as the 67,685 who devoured the Clinik at the Clink. Besides his fifth and sixth interceptions that put him second in picks in the NFL, Sherman recovered a fumble that defied his imagination: “The ball just kept bouncing around and I was like, ‘There is no way this ball is going to bounce right to me,’ and it did.
“Everything that could go right, went right.”
On offense, defense and special teams, it was as close to perfection as a collection of 53 players and a coaching staff can get in the NFL, abetted miserably by the Cardinals, who after four wins to begin the season, have lost nine in a row and may burn up on re-entry before they get a chance to fire head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
True to coaching form as the victim of a three-hour pratfall, he groveled.
“I want to start by saying, I want to apologize to our fans and everybody associated with our organization,” he said. “That was embarrassing today. We owe it to them, our fans, our supporters, to give them a better product.”
The Seahawks, meanwhile, scored 28 points more than their season high, led 38-0 after a first half in which they had a club record six turnovers (eight for the game, most in in 31 years), and played subs for nearly all the second half.
The last two games are the sorts of triumphs that cause emotions to suggest that running the table over the final three games — Buffalo (5-8) in Toronto Sunday, and San Francisco (9-3-1) and St. Louis (6-6-1) at home — is plausible, and feeds into the irresistible force of optimism from Wilson, the team’s leader.
“I think we have a very, very strong team — offensively, defensively, special teams,” he said. “The coaches do a tremendous job of getting us prepared. We have a lot of energy.
“At the same time, you can’t get too high. That’s the fear we all have.”
A proper apprehension after such euphoria. But the one undeniable fact was provided Sunday by the opponent, the Cardinals, who barely beat the Seahawks in Phoenix in September when Seattle stalled out in the red zone on its final possession. Since then . . . well, let Wilson tell it.
“When I was watching the film (of the first game) this week, I thought, ‘Man, I’ve improved a lot,'” he said, drawing chuckles. “Our football team has improved a lot. That’s the exciting part.”
For Seahawks fans, that is the exciting part — growth led by Wilson that has spread throughout the lineup. Overshadowed by the quarterback’s improvement has been another rookie, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. Like Sherman, he had two picks (Arizona’s premier wideout, Larry Fitzgerald, had one catch for two yards) and led the team with eight tackles and two passes defensed.
He is in command of the defense in the same way Wilson runs the offense. To have two rookies in the pivot positions leading a 58-0 triumph inthe NFL stretches credulity. It is a major salute to GM John Schneider to have identified these talents and a major salute to coach Pete Carroll to have the guts to go so young when more experienced players could have been put in charge.
“It’s a reward for all the hard work,” Carroll said of having a blowout after so many taut, final-possession outcomes. “You work so hard and so often, the games don’t (often) afford you the opportunity. For everybody to play, for everybody to contribute — so many guys can get on the stat sheets — it’s really very positive.”
The sort of comprehensive clobbering the Seahawks administered Sunday has an energizing effect in the late season when injuries and fatigue are so draining. Rarely is there a moment in an NFL season when so many elements come together so resolutely. It’s a powerful thing.
“You could kinda tell,” another Seahawks rookie, first-round pick Bruce Irvin said of the dissolute Cardinals. “They didn’t want to be out there for the second half.”
Lessons learned in close losses paid off astonishingly Sunday. It won’t be hard to remember them in the few weeks that remain.
NOTES –The points broke the franchise record of 56 set against Buffalo Oct. 30, 1977 . . . The previous biggest shutout victory as 45-0 against Kansas City Nov. 4, 1984 . . . The record of 10 takeaways was against Cleveland Dec. 20, 1981. The Seahawks had eight in three other games . . . The 284 rushing yards was fourth best in club history (record 320, vs. Houston Oct. 16, 2005) . . . Marshawn Lynch’s 128 yards gave him a career-best 1,266 yards, and set a club record for highest yards per carry average: 11.64. The old mark: Sherman Smith, 8.86 vs. Atlanta, Nov. 7, 1976 . . . Wilson’s 20 TD passes tie him with Andy Dalton and Dan Marino for third most by a rookie (Peyton Manning had 26) . . . Anthony McCoy’s 105 yards receiving was the fourth most by a tight end in club history.