It's been said that a game ending in a tie feels "kinda like kissing your sister," but since I'm from Alabama I've never really understood what that's supposed to mean. However, I have been on a team once when a game ended in a tie and I do have to say that it was definitely ... weird afterwards.
It actually felt more like we lost than anything else because we were actually winning right up until the very last play of the game. And then they converted a two-point play and it was like you could hear a pin drop. Interestingly enough the team we were facing that day didn't seem to know whether they should be celebrating or not, either.
Like I said, weird.
I imagine that neither the Cardinals nor Seahawks were in much of a jubilant mood after their game ended in a tie on Sunday. Especially after both teams kicked field goals on their first possessions, then both teams proceeded to miss easy field goals on their next possessions.
Considering the fact that both defenses held their opposition to just six points, the defensive players in particular had to be sick as hell after putting in that kind of effort only to have those final seconds tick off the clock and still not be winners.
Hell, I read on Twitter that the Seahawks broke some kind of record for fewest points surrendered for the amount of time they were on the field, ever. And that still wasn't enough to get them the dub. I'd have a Pepto IV right now, I'd be so sick.
When you play well enough to produce that kind of a stat on defense you can just about bet your ass that several guys had big games. Sunday night was no different.
Normally when talking about Seattle's defensive line the focus tends to turn to Michael Bennett, who does so many different things for them up front and is pretty damn good at just about all of them. On Sunday night, however, it was his somewhat unsung partner in crime, Cliff Avril, who was their big time play maker up front.
Avril just jumped off the screen to me when I went back to watch the tape because he was just all over Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer all night long. On a day when Bennett was a little banged up and not nearly as productive as we are used to seeing, the Seahawks needed for someone else to stand up and make plays. Avril absolutely delivered.
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In his ninth season Avril has already amassed 68 career sacks, even though he has only reached double digits in sacks in one of his previous eight seasons. He may not be a superstar, but he is nobody's slouch, either. And what he has always been able to do is come around the edge as a speed rusher and get heat on the quarterback, whether in Detroit where he started his career or since he's been in Seattle for the last four years.
Speed rushing isn't the only thing he is good at, but it is definitely his bread and butter as a pass rusher. It's not just that he is fast or that he has really good technique with his hands, though both of those things are indisputably true. It's also that Avril is great at doing that Michael Jackson in "Remember The Time" video lean when he comes around the corner which allows him the ability to sack the quarterback even on plays where he has gone a tad bit deeper than you would like when coming around the edge.
That's exactly what he did over and over and over again against the Cardinals to get relentless pressure on Palmer all night long.
Now, he didn't always end up with a sack. Hell, a few times Palmer was even able to complete the pass, but he got there so often that Palmer rarely was able to feel comfortable in the pocket at all. That kind of constant pressure can have a cumulative effect and really throw a quarterback off his game.
For instance, early in the first quarter the Cardinals were facing a third-and-10 from their own 42-yard line and Avril zoomed right past Arizona right tackle D.J. Humphries with a dip-and-rip move that took him just a little deeper than Palmer's dropback depth.
Avril was able to lean so hard that he ended up having to put a hand on the ground to stay upright and then dive at Palmer's legs just as he was releasing the football. Palmer completed that pass to Michael Floyd, but it only went for eight yards and the Cardinals had to punt.
It wasn't technically a hurry since the pass was completed, but I do believe Palmer sped up his decision to throw the ball shorter than the sticks because he could feel Avril coming for him around the corner.
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Later on with just over three minutes left in the third quarter, the Cardinals were faced with a third-and-7 from the Seattle 47-yard line. This time Arizona tried to get cute and block Avril with tight end Jermaine Gresham while also sending Humphries to help out late.
Cool story, bro.
Avril blew right by Gresham with a speed rip-and-run move and was on Palmer almost before he was able to finish his drop back. The official scorekeeper only credited Avril with a half a sack on that play, but he actually got to Palmer first just before Frank Clark joined him. It was Palmer stepping up to try to avoid Avril that helped Clark, who was coming up the middle, get to Palmer that quickly in the first place.
I get why they might keep that at half a sack for each guy, but to me Avril earned the whole thing, tbh.
Early in the second quarter, Avril got to Palmer again on third-and-11 after he beat Humphries again with a speed rush, this time a swat-to-rip move, but Palmer was fortunate to get the ball out of his hand before he went down for the sack. Had Avril not gotten that pressure and affected that throw, Palmer likely would have completed that pass to No. 38 who was wiiiide open on a crossing route not only for the first down, but maybe even a house call.
Instead, because of Avril's pressure Arizona was forced to try a field goal. You know, the one that ended up getting blocked by Bobby Wagner ...
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Aye, remember that interception that Seahawks safety Earl Thomas caught near the end of the first half? You know, the one that got called back because of the bogus holding call on Richard Sherman? Did you happen to notice who it was that harassed Palmer into throwing that would be interception?
Yep, that was Avril again!
It didn't get much attention during the game because the interception didn't count, but that time Avril actually switched it up and went with a quick inside move on No. 74 who had started bailing out after getting beaten so badly around the edge.
Avril took two steps up the field and then crossed Humphries over inside to the B gap while also swatting his hands away. It didn't count, but that was a really nice move and almost changed the complexion of the game. I told you he wasn't a one trick pony!
And you can't tell me that all that previous pressure on Palmer wasn't a factor in him serving that ball up to Thomas once he saw Avril in his face, bogus penalty be damned.
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After halftime Avril was right back at it. With 10:14 left in the third quarter, he actually lined up on the right side for a change as a standup linebacker. The Seahawks had lined up with 3-4 alignments and ended up blitzing Wagner up the middle.
That pressure forced the Cardinals offensive line to leave Avril unblocked and he absolutely blasted Palmer from the blindside. Once again Palmer got the ball out just before he would've been sacked, but I can guarantee you he felt that lick the rest of the game.
OK, now as much as I talk about Avril's pass rushing prowess, I do admit that he isn't usually known for being a great run defender. That makes sense when you think about the fact that Avril is only 6'3, 260 pounds. But I tell you what, while his heat on Palmer all night was what caught my eye initially, Avril's most impressive play on Sunday night might have been against the run.
It was that fourth-and-1 play with 4:34 left in the third quarter and the Cardinals already at the Seattle 18-yard line.
We can debate the wisdom (or lack thereof) of Arizona's head coach Bruce Arians not taking the points there, but hey, when you have David Johnson in the backfield, fourth-and-1 probably seems like a gimme most of the time.
On this play, the undersized Avril lined up a shade inside of Gresham. At the snap of the football, he exploded upfield in the C gap between the tight end and right tackle. He ended up on the ground, but the force of his get-off knocked Gresham who was trying to block him in the backfield and smack dab in Johnson's path which forced Johnson to hesitate.
That little bit of hesitation was just enough to allow K.J. Wright time to attempt to tackle Johnson in the backfield and for Bennett, who had been on the ground also, to recover enough to clean him up and stop Johnson from gaining any yardage.
Avril won't get any credit for that play on the stat sheet, but he damn sure was a huge factor in the Cardinals turning the ball over on downs.
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Of course the fourth quarter is when big time players make big time plays, and as good as Avril played the first three quarters, he was saving his best for the end of the game.
With 6:06 to play, Arizona had a second-and-26 at their own 33-yard line. They decided to let Humphries try to block Avril one-on-one again. That was predictably horrible for Humphries, yet again.
That time Avril switched it up on Humphries a bit and gave him a stutter-step to freeze him in his tracks. Then, he proceeded to swat his hands down again and bend the corner on him again. He beat Humphries so fast that right guard Earl Watford, who was looking to help out, couldn't even get a hand on him.
Palmer went down hard yet again, and this time he was still holding on to the football so it went down as another sack.
A couple of plays later, Arizona got a punt blocked which led to Seattle kicking a field goal to tie the game at 3-3, by the way.
Avril still wasn't done.
With 3:13 to go in the game and the Cardinals facing a second-and-5 from their own 30-yard line -- stop me if you've heard this before -- Avril beat Humphries again around the edge with a swipe-to-rip move.
This time he reached out like he was trying to swipe the ball away from Palmer, but the force of the blow ended up looking more like he used an old wrasslin' clothesline move on the quarterback. I have no idea how Palmer was able to keep possession of that football. But he did and it went down for a loss of 10 yards.
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Add up all that pressure Avril put on Palmer, then add in a pass breakup and two other tackles and what you end up with is one ridiculously productive day.
Seattle may not have won Sunday night, but on the bright side they didn't lose either (damn, it felt weird to even type that) thanks in large part to Cliff Avril playing out of his friggin' mind. That's why he was an easy choice for my Hoss Of The Week for Week 7.