Capping off a challenging campaign in the winner's circle, the Seahawks took the fight to the Cardinals on the road and held off several rallies by their division rivals to secure a 38-30 victory in their season finale.
Eclipsing 30 points for the fourth time in six games and coming up with key defensive stops when the team needed them, several players starred in Seattle's upset special at State Farm Stadium. In my final report card for the 2021 season, here's a look at my top five grades and other notable performances from Week 18.
Overall Grade: 93.0 (Rushing 97, Pass Blocking 85*)
*Weighted for three pass blocking reps
Putting an exclamation point on a fantastic final month, Penny ran through and around the Cardinals to the tune of a career-high 190 rushing yards on 23 carries, becoming only the second back in Seahawks franchise history to rush for 130 or more yards four times in a single season. In the first half, Arizona did a decent job bottling him up, holding him to 59 yards on 11 carries with most of that yardage coming on a 20-yard carry. But in the second half, the 235-pound back reaffirmed his place as one of the NFL's premier home run hitters out of the backfield, first ripping off a 29-yard run to set up a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Freddie Swain. Then, after the Cardinals trimmed the Seahawks lead to 31-27 midway through the fourth quarter, Penny put the game on ice when he shot through a crease created by a combo block from tackle Jake Curhan and guard Phil Haynes and went the distance for a phenomenal 62-yard touchdown run. Once again displaying a rare blend of size, speed, and physicality, the fourth-year back produced four runs of 10 yards or more and forced five missed tackles in the process, making himself more money heading towards free agency.
Overall Grade: 92.0 (Receiving 95, Rushing 70*)
*Weighted for one rush attempt
For whatever reason, Lockett always seems to shine when the Seahawks play at State Farm Stadium and that trend continued in the season finale. The veteran wideout became just the seventh receiver in franchise history to eclipse 1,100 yards in a single season while going off in the first half, catching a pair of touchdown passes from Wilson to help his team build a 17-10 halftime advantage. Moments after Arizona captured a quick lead on a Zach Allen fumble return for a touchdown, Lockett drew his team even when he split a pair of defenders downfield on a corner route and Wilson dropped a perfect deep ball into the bucket for six points. Later in the half, he made yet another end zone house call, coming open on a five-yard pivot route and snagging Wilson's pass inside the pylon to give Seattle its first lead at 14-10. While he only caught one pass after halftime, he wrapped up another outstanding season with career-highs in receiving yards and yards per reception after a five-catch, 98-yard outing in the desert. In his last three games playing in Glendale, he has 32 receptions for 388 yards and a ridiculous seven touchdowns.
Overall Grade: 89.0 (Run Defense 86, Tackling 90, Pass Rush 92)
While Ford has remained stout defending the run, the fourth-year defensive tackle didn't contribute as much to Seattle's pass rush as anticipated most of the season. But in Sunday's game against Arizona, he came to life rushing from the interior, producing a season-high six pressures on quarterback Kyler Murray and finishing second on the team with 1.5 sacks on the afternoon. Late in the first half, he teamed up with Darrell Taylor for a partial sack on Murray, knocking the Cardinals back to their own 17-yard line. Immediately after Wilson's touchdown pass to Swain knotted the game at 24 apiece with two minutes to go in the third quarter, he found his way to Murray again, bulldozing right guard Josh Jones into the backfield and spinning off the block to bring down the quarterback for an 11-yard loss. The sack helped set up a Cardinals punt attempt from their own end zone that culminated in disaster with receiver Cody Thompson recovering a fumble by punter Andy Lee. On top of his half-dozen pressures, Ford chipped in a pair of tackles to help hold starting running back James Conner to 3.5 yards per carry on the day.
Overall Grade: 87.0 (Run Defense 80, Tackling 88, Pass Rush 94)
Logging 44 defensive snaps, his second-largest workload of the entire season, Dunlap put a bow on the best month of his illustrious career and put on a somersault clinic at State Farm Stadium. Overwhelming Cardinals tackles D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum with powerful bull rushes all afternoon long, he generated five quarterback pressures on 28 pass rush attempts, recording a pair of sacks, three quarterback hits, and a swatted pass at the line of scrimmage. Dunlap's first sack of the contest came on the final play of the first half when he put Humphries on skates and bullied him into Murray's lap, disengaging from the block to wrap up the elusive quarterback by his ankles for a 12-yard loss. Early in the fourth quarter, he struck again, this time tossing Humphries outside like a rag doll and collapsing in on Murray in the pocket for a 10-yard sack. Dunlap close out his first full season as a Seahawk with 7.0 sacks in the team's final four games, the most he has produced in a four-game span in 12 NFL seasons.
Overall Grade: 86.0 (Run Defense 86, Tackling 90, Coverage 82)
Elevated from the practice squad as a replacement for Ryan Neal, who landed on the COVID-19 list last week, Jones made the most of his opportunity to start for the Seahawks. Murray wasted little time attacking the former second-round pick out of North Carolina State, testing him in coverage working against receiver A.J. Green out of the slot on Arizona's first offensive possession. Green ran a slot fade and Jones swung his hips open and ran with the veteran wideout stride for stride, allowing the defender to get a hand on the football and knock the third down pass away to force a punt. Targeted four times by Murray on the afternoon, Jones allowed just two receptions for 21 yards and did a quality job when tasked with covering tight end Zach Ertz. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Jones also held his own as a run defender, racking up eight total tackles, including teaming up with linebacker Cody Barton for a key 2nd and 1 run stop on James Conner midway through the third quarter. Two plays later, the Cardinals punted and the Seahawks promptly tied the game on Wilson's touchdown to Swain.
Other Notable Performances
Closing out his 14th season with another quality outing, tackle Duane Brown allowed just one pressure on 29 pass blocking reps and enjoyed one of his best games as a run blocker, earning an 84.0 grade. Several other linemen earned high marks as well, including right guard Phil Haynes (81.0) and right tackle Jake Curhan (80.0), who allowed a combined three pressures in pass protection and mauled in the run game. If not for two dreadful turnovers that resulted in 14 points for Arizona, Wilson likely would have earned a top-five grade after throwing three touchdowns and running for a fourth in a vintage performance. Instead, he finished with a respectable 78.0 mark. Tight end Colby Parkinson missed a prime opportunity to catch his first career touchdown, but made amends to an extent by making a first down grab on the next play and doing an adequate job as a run blocker for a 74.0 grade. Dropping a gimme touchdown from Wilson in the second quarter, Gerald Everett received one of his lowest marks of the year with a 63.0 grade.
In the secondary, both D.J. Reed (85.0) and Sidney Jones (83.5) narrowly missed out on top five scores, holding their own in coverage against Arizona's receivers. Reed allowed just two catches for two yards on four targets, while Jones gave up three receptions for 15 yards and registered a pass breakup. Before exiting with an injury, Quandre Diggs was in the midst of another good game in coverage, though a missed tackle on a touchdown catch by Conner lowered his overall grade to 78.0. Jordyn Brooks deserves kudos for amassing a team-record 20 tackles against Arizona, but he did miss a trio of tackles and allowed 11 receptions in coverage, receiving a 72.0 grade. Alongside him, Cody Barton finished with 11 tackles but also missed a pair of tackles and surrendered 81 yards in coverage, receiving a 70.0 grade overall. Up front, Darrell Taylor generated four pressures rushing Murray, but two missed tackles hurt his overall grade (74.0), while Kerry Hyder earned a 77.0 after notching a sack and two pressures.