Closing Thoughts: Dismal Second Half Performance Dooms Seahawks in Loss to Cardinals
Despite approaching 600 yards of total offense on Sunday night, the Seahawks dropped their first game of the season in overtime, losing a 37-34 heart breaker to the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.
Ultimately, while Russell Wilson took the blame after throwing three interceptions, Seattle will look back at this devastating loss and realize its second half collapse was a team effort. After leading by 10 points at halftime, critical mistakes were made in all phases in the final two quarters and overtime, allowing Arizona to climb back into the game and eventually steal the victory.
Defensively, Seattle allowed 20 points and over 300 yards of total offense in the final three periods. Meanwhile, after scoring 27 points in the first two quarters, the offense went cold after intermission, scoring on just one of six possessions in the second half. That's the recipe for choking away a two-score lead and unfortunately, they followed it step-for-step.
After rewatching the game, here are some closing thoughts from the Seahawks' first defeat of the 2020 season.
- Wilson rarely makes questionable decisions with the football, but as coach Pete Carroll pointed out afterward, all three of his interceptions on Sunday were ill-advised and shouldn't have been thrown. He obviously didn't see Budda Baker on his first pick, lofting a pass into the flats and allowing the safety to jump the route. His second interception wiped out a potential Jason Myers field goal, as the Seahawks were at the Cardinals 30-yard line when he inexplicably threw up a jump ball to the end zone while scrambling to his right, "punting" it to cornerback Patrick Peterson. The final decisive interception in overtime again boiled down to Wilson simply not noticing Isaiah Simmons in coverage, believing he could fit the pass into a window that ultimately was slammed shut by the rookie. This was a forgettable performance for the star quarterback in many ways, but he still finished with 388 passing yards and three scores, so it was far from his worst game. That title still belongs to his five-interception effort against the Packers in 2016.
- From a running back attrition standpoint, Sunday's game mirrored Seattle's Week 16 defeat to Arizona last December. After getting off to a hot start with 34 yards on five carries, Chris Carson exited in the second quarter with a foot sprain and did not return. Carlos Hyde took over and ran hard, rushing 15 times for 68 yards and a touchdown in his absence. Then in the second half, reserve Travis Homer suffered a knee contusion, which ended up being a far bigger deal than expected. His injury forced rookie DeeJay Dallas into the lineup as the Seahawks tried to orchestrate a game-winning drive inside two minutes to play in overtime. The fourth-round pick appeared to miss a blocking assignment in pass protection against blitzing linebacker Tanner Vallejo, allowing Wilson to get pummeled shortly after taking the snap. If there's a silver lining, neither Carson nor Homer look to have serious injuries.
- Most NFL receivers would be happy to produce 200 receiving yards in a month, or even a season. Tyler Lockett managed to do it in one night on 15 receptions. The numbers by themselves are insane, but they are even more remarkable when considering the degree of difficulty for several of the receptions he reeled in from Wilson. On the first play of the game, with Peterson draped all over him, he made a sensational one-handed grab for a 34-yard gain. On his second touchdown, with two defenders on him in coverage, he slipped past them and made a difficult catch for a 47-yard score. Then, in similar fashion to a touchdown catch he made against the Rams last season, Lockett seemed to defy physics on his last touchdown grab, somehow managing to get both feet down inbounds while holding on to a beautiful fourth down throw from Wilson to extend the lead back to 10 points in the fourth quarter. Fans should soak this performance up, as it was one of the best individual efforts you'll ever see from a receiver.
- Overall, Seattle's offensive line played well once again on Sunday night. Away from a few blitzes getting home in the fourth quarter and overtime, the group kept Wilson upright and he wasn't sacked until the extra period. Duane Brown deserves a ton of credit for his All-Pro worthy performance, as he won one-on-ones all night protecting Wilson's blind side and also showed off his ridiculous athleticism getting out in front on a toss sweep to provide the key block on Hyde's 24-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. As far as criticisms go, Brandon Shell's false start penalty on Seattle's opening possession in overtime proved to be a critical mistake. Instead of 3rd and 6, the infraction set up 3rd and 11 instead and cornerback Byron Murphy came untouched on the blitz off the edge to sack Wilson.
- The Seahawks inability to rush opposing quarterbacks has been a chronic issue for two years, but Sunday's outing may have been a new low for Carroll's defense in this regard. Yes, Kyler Murray is extremely difficult to bring down due to his quickness and elusiveness escaping the pocket. But it takes a special kind of dysfunction to go four quarters and a full overtime without making a single quarterback hit and that's exactly what Seattle did on Sunday night. There were certainly opportunities to bring Murray down, as Bobby Wagner got a hand on him coming on a blitz and Jarran Reed had him dead to right after collapsing the pocket. But in both instances, the quarterback slipped away and for most of the night, the pass rush was completely non-existent.
- For most of the game, Seattle did a good job bottling up Arizona's rushing attack. Kenyan Drake, who exited with an ankle injury in the second half, was limited to 34 yards on 14 carries. Murray had just 20 yards on six carries in the first half, but he made several clutch plays as a runner late in regulation and in overtime. With the Seahawks gassed on defense, the run game found traction late with Chase Edmonds, who exploded outside past Wagner for a 32-yard gain on the Cardinals first possession of overtime. This again comes back to getting off the field and allowing prolonged drives, something Seattle continues to struggle with defensively. Giving Arizona three first downs by penalty, including Benson Mayowa's critical unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter, exacerbated the issue.
- Right now, there isn't a Seahawks defender playing better than K.J. Wright. He's been the one constant for Carroll's defense and finished the game with seven tackles, a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery. His best play came in the third quarter, as he shot past two stacked tight ends to blow up a bubble screen to DeAndre Hopkins for a four-yard loss in the third quarter, drawing the ire of Murray on the sidelines. Jordyn Brooks also deserves praise after finishing with a new career-high seven tackles, including chasing down Murray for a tackle for loss on Seattle's epic goal line stand following Wilson's interception to Baker. The rookie played fast and flew all over the field, which should bode well for him sticking in the lineup moving forward.
- While Mayowa's bone-headed penalty loomed large as the Cardinals mounted their comeback, there may not have been a bigger play than the inexcusable unnecessary roughness penalty called against Bobby Wagner midway through the third quarter. The veteran linebacker smashed tight end Dan Arnold, believing he had caught the third down pass. It was an egregious error by the officials, as Wagner made a clean hit and couldn't have known Murray's pass sailed behind the intended receiver. Instead of punting, however, Arizona picked up an automatic first down and eventually Murray dove into the end zone from five yards out to cut Seattle's lead to three points.
- At this juncture, the Seahawks have no choice but to start considering other reserve options at outside cornerback away from Tre Flowers. The third-year cornerback has been startlingly poor when pressed into action replacing Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar during the first six games and Murray wasted little time going after him once he checked in for Griffin in the second half. On his first defensive snap, Seattle lucked out that Murray overthrew Hopkins, who was wide open behind Flowers and likely would've scored his second touchdown of the game. Given the durability concerns for Seattle's two starters, they should consider moving Ryan Neal back to cornerback when Jamal Adams returns to the lineup next week and they would be wise to scan the free agent market for depth as well.