Carlos Dunlap, Late Safety Propel Seahawks to Critical Win Over Cardinals
Getting redemption for their first loss of the season and snapping a two-game losing streak, the Seahawks turned in their best defensive performance of the season to turn away the Cardinals in a 28-21 victory on Thursday Night Football at Lumen Field.
Rebounding from one of the worst stretches of his career, Russell Wilson threw a pair of touchdown passes to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in the first half and running back Carlos Hyde powered through cornerback Patrick Peterson for a touchdown to pace Seattle. On defense, Carlos Dunlap enjoyed his strongest game with his new team, sacking Kyler Murray twice, including bringing down the elusive quarterback on fourth down to all but seal the win.
Back in the driver's seat in the NFC West, here are five takeaways from Seattle's pivotal seventh win of the season.
1. The impact of the return of Carlos Hyde for Seattle’s offense was undeniable.
During their two-game losing streak, there wasn’t one particular issue that could put pointed out for the team’s recent woes. But on offense, the absence of Hyde and Chris Carson created a ripple effect, as the offense badly missed their physical play and opponents didn’t respect the replacements who stepped in for them. As a result, coordinators were sending the kitchen sink at Wilson and he struggled to handle the constant duress. After preaching balance all week long, coach Pete Carroll couldn’t have possibly asked for more from Hyde in his return, as he ran through and around the Cardinals defense for 79 yards on just 14 carries, providing the punch Seattle has lacked on the ground for the past three weeks. Prior to exiting with a hamstring injury in the final quarter, Bo Scarbrough also ran effectively, adding 31 yards on six carries as Seahawks running backs combined to chew up the Cardinals’ defense for 123 yards.
2. With less pressure on his throwing arm, Wilson delivered a signature performance.
After throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, Wilson had lost seven turnovers over the past two weeks and badly needed a bounce-back performance. Helped tremendously by the ground game coming through with 165 total yards, he turned in a stellar, if not spectacular, showing by completing 82 percent of his passes for 197 yards and a pair of scores. Even taking snaps from Damien Lewis, who had never played center before at any level, he navigated the pocket masterfully to extend plays and added 42 rushing yards of his own. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the football over once and did an excellent job of hitting his hot reads when the Cardinals decided to bring extra pressure. Becoming the third quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 or more touchdowns in four straight seasons, it was a banner evening for the star signal caller.
3. While their play tapered off in second half, the defensive line disrupted Murray most of the night.
Thanks to lengthy drives after halftime, the Seahawks’ defense as a whole got gassed and only produced three quarterback hits on Murray in the final two quarters. But that shouldn’t dismiss the impressive effort by the front line for most of the game and the unit came through in the clutch as the Cardinals tried to tie late in regulation. Dunlap led the charge with three quarterback hits and his two monumental sacks, including the game-ending sack on Arizona’s final drive. L.J. Collier also stopped the shifty quarterback from climbing up the pocket for his second sack of the season and then forced the safety by drawing a hold on guard J.R. Sweezy after beating the blocker inside. The group also played a key role in limiting the Cardinals to 57 yards on 18 carries for 3.2 yards per carry, including holding Murray to just 15 rushing yards on the night.
4. Untimely penalties muddied what otherwise was Seattle’s best defensive outing of the season.
As part of a dominant first half effort, Seattle held Arizona to 107 total yards and produced three three-and-outs in the opening two quarters. Coming out of the break, Ken Norton Jr.’s unit looked primed to do it again, as a third down pass by Murray to DeAndre Hopkins sailed behind the receiver. Unfortunately, safety Quandre Diggs made contact with Hopkins around his helmet and was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver, extending the drive. Moments later, another critical horse collar penalty on linebacker Bobby Wagner gave the Cardinals another fresh set of downs. The extra plays wore the Seahawks down and the Murray was able to engineer back-to-back touchdown drives to cut the deficit down to 23-21, setting the visitors up to steal another win late. But with the game on the line, the defense came through when the team needed them to with Dunlap’s game-clinching sack and overcame those penalties that took a bit of the wind out of the group’s sails in the final 30 minutes.
5. The Seahawks should be grateful a trio of mistakes didn’t come back to bite them.
While Seattle survived for a seven-point win, Carroll’s squad should be thanking their lucky stars a trio of critical miscues didn’t wind up costing them on Thursday night. First, kicker Jason Myers missed an extra point after Seattle’s second touchdown from Wilson to Lockett. Then late in the second quarter after being gifted possession at the Arizona nine-yard line on a defensive pass interference penalty against Patrick Peterson, a perfect throw from Wilson hit off of Metcalf’s face mask in the end zone for an incomplete pass. With only five seconds left, Seattle had to settle for a Myers field goal before the half instead what should have been a touchdown, taking a total of five points off the scoreboard. Last but not least, while melting away clock on their ensuing possession after the safety, a pitch from Wilson to Hyde bounced off the back’s hands and he had to dive to the turf to recover the fumble while competing against Arizona defenders. A turnover there would have allowed the Cardinals a chance to go down the field with more than two minutes remaining and three timeouts and win the game. Luckily, that fateful bounce fell in the Seahawks favor and a field goal by Myers eventually secured the victory.