The Seattle Seahawks found their form on defense and slowly choked the life out of the Arizona Cardinals in a decisive 19-3 victory Sunday. The Cardinals dropped just their second game of the season while the Seahawks improve to 7-4, staying in the thick of the playoff race.
Despite Seattle's continued struggles on offense, the defense showed up in a big way in front of its hometown crowd. Three first-half field goals were the only points the Seahawks managed, but they held the Cardinals to just 116 total yards in the first 30 minutes. The Cardinals settled for a field goal of their own after Jaron Brown had a brutal drop in the end zone. Seattle went into the locker room leading, 9-3.
The play of the game happened early in the third quarter. The Seahawks blocked a punt, but Rob Housler ended up recovering the ball. He then coughed it up when Cooper Helfet performed a wrestling move that would make Randy Orton proud.
Helfet made his presence felt again in the third quarter when he made a 20-yard catch-and-run for the first and only touchdown of the game. The score capped off a nine-play, 75-yard drive as the Seahawks finally broke through Arizona's stout defense.
The Cardinals were unable to sustain any drives to get back into the game with the Seahawks defense pinning its ears back. Drew Stanton got knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, sealing Arizona's fate.
1. No offense allowed
The Seahawks drove down the field with success early on, but they had problems finding the end zone, settling for three field goals from Steven Hauschka in the first half. The Cardinals' pass rushers terrorized Seattle's offensive line, sacking Russell Wilson seven times, with three of them coming from Calais Campbell. Marshawn Lynch was held to 39 yards on 15 carries and the Seahawks went into halftime with only 115 total yards. It wasn't until the second half that the Sehawks found a rhythm on offense to put the game away.
But the real story was Seattle's dominant defense that shut down the Cardinals. Stanton was scattershot through most of the game and he clearly missed Larry Fitzgerald, who was inactive with an MCL sprain. He later left the game with an ankle injury and head coach Bruce Arians chose to wave the white flag. Andre Ellington had another ineffective game, rushing for just 24 yards on 10 carries.
2. The NFC West is still up for grabs
A loss would've dropped the Seahawks to 6-5 and effectively ended their chances of winning the division. Now at 7-4 and just two games behind the Cardinals with a win in hand, they are right back in the division hunt. Their Week 16 rematch in Arizona could end up deciding the NFC West, particularly if Washington holds on to beat the San Francisco 49ers.
3. Welcome back, Bobby Wagner
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner missed the past five games with a toe injury and the defense has suffered without its premier middle linebacker. K.J. Wright was forced to move to the inside while Malcolm Smith took a big step backwards from his Super Bowl MVP campaign. Wagner's return was a huge boost to the Seahawks defense, which shut down the running game, harassed Stanton all day and finally started looking like the feared Legion of Boom from last year. Wagner racked up eight tackles and a quarterback hit, and didn't appear to suffer any setbacks to the toe. His return will be crucial for the stretch run.