Countdown to kickoff

Greetings from a sunny — at the monent — CenturyLink Field, where some of the Seahawks already are on the field preparing for this afternoon’s home opener game against the Arizona Cardinals – with kickoff set for 1:15 p.m. on Alumni Day and also “Back to 12” day and TV coverage on Fox (Channel 13 in the greater Seattle area).

The Seahawks are 0-2 after road losses at San Francisco and Pittsburgh to open the season and desperately need a win. As coach Pete Carroll put it this week, “There is a real sense of urgency.”

Today’s opponent will have a familiar look, for the obvious reason and the not-so-obvious. First, it’s the Cardinals, the Seahawks’ NFC West rival. One of these two teams has won the division over the past seven seasons – the Seahawks last season, as well as from 2004-07; the Cardinals in 2008 and 2009.

But the Cardinals also are playing a variation of the defensive scheme the Seahawks saw last week in Pittsburgh, where they were blanked by the Steelers 24-0. That’s because Ray Horton, the new coordinator, came from Pittsburgh – as well as the University of Washington and Tacoma’s Mount Tahoma High School.

As with the Seahawks’ offense in this year where there was no offseason to help digest the newness, there have been growing pains for the Cardinals’ defense, which is allowing an average of 466 yards per game. As free safety Kerry Rhodes said, “It’s a tough system to learn. Coming into a new season with it, it’s been a little frustrating.”

Added coach Ken Whisenhunt, ““When we’re on the same page, when guys are understanding what we’re doing, we’re a pretty good defense. But when we make our bad plays, they’re really bad. Drops in coverage, not hitting the right gaps, we’re not stepping the right way when we’re blitzing. We are not where we want to be.”

The Seahawks’ offense will have a couple of new wrinkles today, with Paul McQuistan stepping in for Robert Gallery at left guard and wide receiver Sidney Rice stepping into the huddle for the first time as a Seahawk in a regular-season game.

You can read more about McQuistan taking over for Gallery here, as Gallery is expected to miss at least a month with a groin injury that required surgery. You can read more about Rice’s return from sitting out with a damaged shoulder here.

The big question with Rice is how he’ll react when he takes a hit for the first time since the third preseason game. But he doesn’t sound all that concerned about the situation.

“I’m not worried about it,” said Rice, who was signed in free agency after playing the past four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. “Whatever happens happens. I should be able to tolerate whatever it is and I’ll have no problem out there.”

The defense also will have a new look, with rookie K.J. Wright stepping in at strongside linebacker for Aaron Curry. Wright earned the shot because of how he played at middle linebacker while subbing for David Hawthorne in the opener; and Curry had a disappointing performance in last week’s loss at Pittsburgh. You can read more about that situation here.

We’ll back later with the list of inactive players for today’s game.


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