BY Art Thiel 07:47PM 12/17/2014

Thiel: Seahawks’ offense may get only one shot

A third-string QB leaves Arizona’s offense vulnerable, but Seahawks have their own offensive worries. Or did you forget the Cardinals’ seven sack of Wilson last month?

Pete Carroll and Bruce Arians  have to try to squeeze a little something out of their bedraggled offenses. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

As much giggling as is going on among the 12s imagining what might await Arizona’s third-string QB, Ryan Lindley, against the NFL’s best defense Sunday in Glendale, AZ., Cardinals fans may indulge a snicker or several themselves about the Seahawks attempting to protect Russell Wilson behind a beat-up offensive line that gave up seven sacks when the teams met in November.

The decisive match between teams featuring hellacious defenses will come down to which faltering offense is a little bit stronger.

At Wednesday’s practice, several of Wilson’s principal protectors sat out: LT Russell Okung  (bruised lung), RG J.R. Sweezy (ankle), C Max Unger (ankle/knee) and TE Tony Moeaki (shoulder). And RT Justin Britt is, ahem, still a rookie.

Hard to know who will heal by Sunday, but Alvin Bailey took snaps in place of Okung. At center was third-string Patrick Lewis, because the second-stringer, Lemuel Jeanpierre, moved over from starting center to guard to replace Sweezy.

The shuffling may be temporary for the week. But even when healthy last month for the season’s first meeting, Seattle’s O-line was bewildered by Arizona’s blitz-heavy defense.

“They are different than anyone in football,” said line coach Tom Cable. “You’ll always see their favorite (blitzes), but they’ll always have a (fresh) package for you. They do a great job of changing up from week to week.”

To hear Arizona coach Bruce Arians tell it, the Cardinals defense should have squished QB Russell Wilson, who Nov. 23 escaped often enough to throw a touchdown pass and lead drives to four field goals in the 19-3 win at the Clink.

“We had seven sacks, but it should have been 11,” he said on a teleconference with reporters. “We let Russell get out of the pocket and make some plays that led to field goals . . .  it wasn’t like they thrashed us.”

The counter-punch to the blitz is, of course, a deep ball or three.

“When you blitz, you’re susceptible to (the big play),” Cable said. “I think we’ve done it a number of times to them. What we have to do is find (a weakness), find (our) guy, be in the right protection and get the ball to him.”

They had a big one Nov. 23, when Wilson found WR Ricardo Lockette on a 48-yard pass play to set up a field goal. In Sunday’s game, one big play may be all the Seahawks get, given the conditions of the road and the O-line.

“They’re probably more willing than anyone else that we’ve played to be aggressive and go after you,” said coach Pete Carroll. “They pressure in situations where some teams wouldn’t do it. They’re very bold. (Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles) does a great job of getting after it.

“Their attitude is part of their style. You can see it in their players and the chances that they take. They’ve given problems all year long. Later in the game, the more aggressive they get. They’ve had great success in the fourth quarter.”

The Seahawks are eager to repeat something from the win Sunday over San Francisco — a quick vertical pass. Ahead 10-7 in the fourth quarter at the 49ers 10-yard line, Wilson took a two-step drop and drilled WR Paul Richardson on a slant at the goal line for the game-breaking touchdown.

“Guys have come together, as of late,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “Russell is really been on it. He’s understanding the issues we might be having. We’re also changing things up with some more balls down the field, the quick ones.”

The opportunities to go short or long are predicated on RB Marshawn Lynch’s ability to run. As well as anyone has this season, the Cardinals muffled Lynch in the first meeting — 39 yards on 15 carries. But he did leak out for three catches and 43 yards, which is another way to burn the blitz.

“The better you run, the more styles of passes you can mix in,” Bevell said. “If we have to drop back all day, then we’re in trouble.”

Despite some recent struggling, the Seahawks, at 361 yards a game, are 11th in the NFL in offensive yardage. Arizona, on its third quarterback, is 24th at 322 yards. Given the short-handedness along the O-line, pulling off even a single big play on offense likely will be decisive.

The tooth-pull festival that is the NFC West would not allow otherwise.


  • Diamond Mask

    Loved the “tooth-pull festival.” I have that combined feeling of anticipation and fear going into these next two games. Arians is not only a bold talker but a bold play caller so I hope we go into that game well prepared for any nonsense. The kind of nonsense that beat us in St, Louis.

    • art thiel

      I like Arians a lot. Good match for Carroil.

  • PokeyPuffy

    another December doozey, wow Art what did we do to deserve this kind of sports relevance? Its like being in a dream, and i fear i will wake up sunday, flip on the tele and Rick Mirer will be playing in the Kingdome.
    Also intriguing to think: God forbid if we lose there is potential to be coming back to Arizona in January to settle the score as a road team in the conf finals. Another shot at advancing ,in the Super Bowl venue no less.
    For some reason i’m not nervous about this game, but maybe i should be. Arizona likes prime time as much as our crew….and could rise to the occassion

    • art thiel

      AZ’s D is formidable enough to do all the stopping and scoring the team needs.

  • Matt712

    I think the biggest potential game breakers for this one will be the turnover battle and special teams. The good John Ryan needs to show up with stickum on his fingers. And beware of Ted Ginn Jr. …That that guy scares the bejesus outa me.

    • art thiel

      Special teams will decide it.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Richardson had his first NFL TD last sunday….could it be? Walters fields it and takes it to the house for the first time this season and Seattle wins 10~7? Now that might be the special teams play of the season….

  • ollie swensen

    With both offenses challenged in critical areas, if the outcome is decided by a field goal in the end, those may be the only points scored by either team all day.
    Also taking into account the strength of both defenses, a broken play on offense may be the deciding factor in the game.
    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Jon Ryan, game MVP.

      • Schaefdawg

        Or maybe ML in the second half if we keep their D on the field all day and wear them down. I’m gonna pray for another Beast Mode day. I know they shut him down last time, I think the brain trust is gonna work to not let that happen again, or if they put all their effort there, then burn them elsewhere….. here’s hoping!

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Yes, one thing about most of these guys?They learn and get better…that fumble Jon had against the eagles might actually have been beneficial in the I can never do that again departmental (thinking)….I think he will have a stellar day and we are going to need that in what might be a scrum for Football normality.

  • jafabian

    Predicting the Hawks will throw their own blitz package at Lindley to get him rattled early. LOB should score a TD in this game. If the Hawks do go deep to counter the Cardinals blitzing we could see a great game by Paul Richardson. Jermaine Kearse could also see a TD pass as well.

    • art thiel

      Richardson has a sore hammy as of Thursday.

      Seahawks won’t get much out of their base defense until the second half. Besides, Arizona isn’t going to go beyond s three-step drop.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    It certainly could play out exactly the way Art has opined.
    Tough D and just enough offense to win maybe a 13~7 game….I would take it.

    I have mentioned that 2000 Ravens squad that had Dilfer as QB…their offense did just enough to get them to the big stage …their mesmerizing and dominating D held the day for them more often than not… in fact ironically they met AZ in week 16 that year in Phoenix and won 13~7…to improve to 11~4. Strange parallel indeed.

    During that season…Along the way they had 12~0 and 10~3 games…6~9 games too en route to a 12~4 record which was only good enough that year for a wild card. They won it all with that modest offense.
    Will history repeat itself with this version of the Hawks?We are going to find out soon enough.

    • art thiel

      The Dilfer Ravens are the poster children for every contender with a lame offense. He wasn’t the first and won’t be the last sub-average QB to win an SB.

  • ll9956

    Art, your description of Arizona’s fearsome D gives me the jitters. With our ailing O-line, we could be in for some tough sledding. A quick release style of passing by RW seems to be called for. Perhaps some Rivers-type short, quick release throws will prove successful and pave the way for Beast Mode to shine. I hope so.

    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Seahawks are hip enough for 1 TD.

  • Schaefdawg

    This really should be interesting, two really problematic defenses making life hard on two suspect O-lines, and then there’s the QBs, BIG difference there in skill. But one good shoulder separating tackle could change it all. Not wishing that at all, Just being realistic about the risks here. I like the way this punch line says it all….”The tooth-pull festival that is the NFC West would not allow otherwise.”

    Another good one Art.

  • Marcus

    Just because football likes to make fools of us…I’m going to go a different route. I don’t think Arizona’s D is going to stop the Seahawks. I don’t think it will come down to field goals. I expect an early commitment to the run and for quick passes to eventually carry the Seahawks over 20 points. There might be contribution from our D in there. I’ll give the coaching staff some credit that they will plan on Wilson NOT having much time this game (for whatever reason, that was not the case the last time we played the Cardinals). They will plan accordingly and make the Cardinals pay for the blitz.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      I mentioned to Danny O’neil now would be a good time to channel their inner late 2012 season when they were beating the likes of Buffalo 55~17 (in Toronto) and as you alluded to just when you think you have it figured out the Rams hold Denver to a mere TD in a 22~7 win in week 11…so who knows how this game will pan out?
      It would seem with all of the trouble AZ has given us in beating us at home last year and leading the division all year it might be a 13~10 game(pick your team). After all the SB is in their stadium this year~what more motivation do you need?
      But IM TOTALLY with you~amazing game plan…ferocious D protecting their NFC West crown as if it were a lion pack protecting a newly killed gazelle?
      In the End it might be the Seahawks who make the statement…Sherman has 3 picks and even the nose tackle Williams has 2 of the 10 sacks they wrack up against the bedeviled AZ QB…in reaching your 20 point total.
      We just dont know. But it will be fun to watch sunday night. Go Hawks.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Inner late 2012 Season…. they Beat Buffalo and a few more teams by a slew of points

  • cowfarmerJoe

    First downs, pound them with The Beast, and a lot of chasing Russell should have their D huffin’ and puffin’ by the 4th.