Photoblog: Seahawks vs Arizona

The Seahawks returned home to Qwest Field after a four-week absence to face the division rival Arizona Cardinals.

Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant fired up his teammates on the field in pregame warmups, then inspired them in the locker room right before kickoff.

The Seahawks special teams were introduced during pregame, and kick return specialist Leon Washington emerged from the tunnel waving the 12th Man flag.

Seattle's special teams set the tone early, with Jordan Babineaux and Matt McCoy taking down Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling.

Jordan Babineaux celebrates after a big hit on special teams.

Seattle free safety Earl Thomas returns an interception off of Arizona quarterback Max Hall, the first of five takeaways for the Seahawks.

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Game at a glance

A recap of the Seahawks’ 22-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Qwest Field on Sunday:

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Olindo Mare. So many Seahawks did so many things well in the win that lifted the Seahawks into sole possession of first place in the NFC West – the first time they’ve been in that position this late in the season since 2007.

But no one did more than the veteran kicker.

Mare converted five field goals that counted – from 20, 31, 51, 24 and 26 yards – to run his club-record streak to 30 in a row. But he actually kicked nine field goals. In the third quarter, he hit from 31 and 41 yards, but holding penalties on Cameron Morrah nullified them, so Mare nailed the 51-yarder. Later in the quarter, he hit from 46 yards, but an offside penalty on the Cardinals gave the Seahawks a first down. He eventually ended that drive with a 24-yarder. In the fourth quarter, he kicked a 21-yarder, but a delay-of-game penalty erased it. That’s when he kicked the 26-yarder.

Mare actually gave himself credit for 10 field goals, counting a 22-yarder that was blocked in the first quarter by the Cardinals’ Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – who was offside on the play. Mare then kicked his 20-yarder.

“It was one of the most impressive kicking things I’ve ever seen, to be honest,” holder and punter Jon Ryan said. “The way the wind was howling around.

“Honestly, if those uprights were two feet apart, he would have hit all nine of those. Every single kick was dead down the middle.” Read more »


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Fourth quarter

Peephole perspective: The scoring in this one ended as it started – and very fittingly – with an Olindo Mare field goal. Seahawks 22-10, and in sole possession of first place in the NFC West.

Player of the quarter: Mike Williams. After his career-best 10-catch, 123-yard performance against the Bears last week, Williams added his first TD catch since 2006 in this game – as part of an 11-catch, 87 yard afternoon. In the fourth quarter, he had 8- and 16-yard catches on third downs in the drive to Mare’s final field goal.

Play of the quarter: On Williams’ 16-yarder, he twisted his body and reached back to grab the pass, giving the Seahawks a first down at the Cardinals’ 12.

Number of the quarter: 4, as in the number of victories the Seahawks have – one less than all of last season and equaling their total from 2008.

The bigger picture: The Cardinals cut the Seahawks lead to 19-10 as Jay Feely kicked a 24-yard field goal on the third play of the quarter. The Cardinals got great field position as LaRod Stephens-Howling returned the kickoff after Mare’s third field goal in the third quarter for 71 yards to the Seahawks’ 33.

The Seahawks came right back with a grind-it-out, 12-play, 57-yard drive that consumed almost 7½ minutes. It ended with – what else – a Mare field goal, this one a 26-yarder. On the drive, Hasselbeck passed 8 yards to Mike Williams on third-and-2 and 16 yards to Williams on third-and-1. By the end of the drive, Williams had 10 catches for 80 yards in the game.

The defense then held on downs, as Raheem Brocks pressured Anderson into an incompletion on fourth-and-6 from the Seahawks’ 37. The offense then drove to the Cardinals’ 13 before electing to run time off the clocker rather than going for another Mare field goal.


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Third quarter

Peephole perspective: The Cardinals got on the board, while the Seahawks got three more field goals from Olindo Mare. Seahawks 19-7.

Player of the quarter: Mare. He actually kicked six field goals in the quarter, but only three counted. Two were erased by holding penalties against Cameron Morrah. The Seahawks “threw back” a 46-yarder because an offsides penalty on the Cardinals gave them a first down. But Mare did kick keepers from 31, 51 and 24 yards.

Play of the quarter: On the third play of the quarter, DE Chris Clemons rocked Cardinals QB Max Hall on a blind-side sack. The play ended the Cardinals’ possession, and Hall’s day – as he left with a head injury and did not return.

Number of the quarter: 29. That’s what Mare’s club-record consecutive streak is up to with his trio of three-pointers in the quarter.

The bigger picture: The defense came up with a big play to set the table for the offense to start the second half, as DE Chris Clemons rocked QB Max Hall with a blind-side sack and DE Raheem Brock recovered the fumble at the Cardinals’ 11-yard line. Mare cashed in with a 31-yard field, his club-record 27th in a row.

Clemons’ jarring sack also knocked Hall out of the game with a head injury, so Derek Anderson took over the Cardinals. The Seahawks also lost another player, as fullback and special teams standout Michael Robinson left with a knee injury and ruled out for the rest of the game.

The opposing special teams then combined to give the Seahawks another score. Jason Wright muffed the kickoff that followed Mare’s kickoff and Kennard Cox recovered the Cardinals’ 16. But after the offense stalled and Cameron Morrah was penalized for holding twice on Mare field goals, the veteran kicker split the upright from 51 yards – and it counted this time.

In his first drive, Anderson – the pride of Scappoose, Ore. – led the Cardinals on an eight-play, 70-yard TD drive that ended when Beanie Wells rammed into the end zone from the 2. While Anderson was 3 of 3 for 45 yards, including a 29-yarder to Early Doucet to the Seahawks’ 16; Wells carried five times for 28 yards.

The Seahawks then drove 78 yards in 14 plays to another Mare field goal – this time a 24-yarder. Hasselbeck big some big passes during the drive, including a 26-yarder to Deon Butler, a 21-yarder to Justin Forsett on third-and-6 and a 15-yarder to Mike Williams to the Cardinals’ 8.


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Second quarter

Peephole perspective: Again, the Seahawks scored the only points of the quarter – this time on a special teams-assisted TD pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Mike Williams. Seahawks 10-0 at halftime.

Player of the quarter: Jon Ryan. The punter? The punter. He kicked the Cardinals into a hole with a 60-yarder and then supplied the punt that put the Seahawks on the Cardinals’ goal line as …

Play of the quarter: Another sack had ended another Seahawks’ series. But when Andre Roberts muffed Ryan’s punt, Michael Robinson then slapped the ball from his grasp and Roy Lewis recovered the ball at the Cardinals’ 2-yard line – setting up the only touchdown of the first half.

Numbers of the quarter: 28 and 23. Those are the numbers of rookie Walter Thurmond (28) and veteran Marcus Trufant (23). The Seahawks’ starting corners deserve a nod because Cardinals’ All-World wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald didn’t catch his first pass – his only reception of the half – until there were 5½ left in the half. Thurmond also broke up two passes in the first half, while Trufant had a fumble-forcing/fumble-recovering play to end the Cardinals’ best drive of the half.

The bigger picture: The Seahawks stalled on their first drive of the quarter, but Jon Ryan punted the Cardinals into a hole with a 60-yarder. The Cardinals had two big plays on the ensuing series, a 13-yard screen pass to LaRod Stephens-Howling on third-and-3 and then Tim Hightower’s 24-yard run to the Seahawks’ 41. But on the next play, Trufant forced Hightower to fumble and recovered the loose ball.

The Seahawks stalled again, however, as Hasselbeck was sacked on third down – again by DT Alan Branch. But Roberts muffed Ryan’s punt, Robinson slapped the ball from Roberts and Lewis recovered at the Cardinals’ 2. Two plays later, Williams made a nice catch of a pass from Hasselbeck in the end zone for the TD – not only his first of the season, but first since 2006.

The Cardinals moved from 20 to the 43 on the ensuing series, but the drive stalled when DE Raheem Brock got to Max Hall for a 9-yard sack on second down.


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First quarter

Peephole perspective: A game-opening 14-play, 78-yard drive got the Seahawks the only points of the quarter – Olindo Mare’s 20-yard field goal.

Player of the quarter: Marshawn Lynch provided 55 of the Seahawks’ 83 yards on eight carries.

Play of the quarter: On the fourth play of the Seahawks’ opening drive, Lynch started to go off right guard. Seeing no gap, he cut to his left and rambled for 39 yards – the Seahawks’ longest run of the season.

Number of the quarter: 26. That’s what Mare’s field goal was, his 26th in a row to extend his club record.

The bigger picture: The Seahawks got the ball first, as the Cardinals’ Darnell Dockett called heads on the coin toss and it was tails. Matt Hasselbeck and Lynch went to work, as the Seahawks drove 78 yards in a 14-play drive that consumed 7½ minutes. Hasselbeck was 3 of 5 for 32 yards, including a 16-yarder to Brandon Stokley on thid-and-11. Lynch carried six times for 47 yards, including a 39-yarder to the Cardinals’ 30. When the drive stalled, Mare kicked a 20-yard field goal – running his club record to 26 in a row.

But the Seahawks lost first-round draft choice on the drive when the rookie left tackle injured his left ankle. He had missed 5½ weeks with a sprained right ankle. Tyler Polumbus replaced him.

On the Cardinals’ first possession, rookie free safety intercepted Max Hall’s third pass and returned it 13 yards to the Seahawks’ 48. But on the Seahawks’ third play, DT Alan Branch beat RT Sean Locklear for a fumble-forcing sack of Hasselbeck and Dockett recovered at the Seahawks’ 45.

The Seahawks’ defense, however, forced a three-and-out and a 7-yard punt by Ben Graham gave the Seahawks the ball at their 37. But the Seahawks went three-and-out, and Hasselbeck was sacked again on third down – this time by LB Daryl Washington.


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Breaston inactive for Cardinals

The following players are inactive for the Cardinals today:

  • WR Stephen Williams
  • WR Steven Breaston
  • SS Hamza Abdullah
  • CB Trumaine McBride
  • C Ben Claxton
  • LB Alex Hall
  • DT Gabe Watson
  • 3rd QB: John Skelton

The surprise is Breaston being inactive. He was expected to return after missing the past two games with a sore knee. With Breaston out, Andre Roberts will start opposite Larry Fitzgerald.


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Mebane, Jennings inactive for Seahawks

The following players are inactive for the Seahawks today:

  • CB Kelly Jennings
  • DB Mike Ness
  • DE Dexter Davis
  • OL Allen Barbre
  • OL Chester Pitts
  • TE Anthony McCoy
  • DT Brandon Mebane
  • DE E.J. Wilson

With Jennings out because of a strained hamstring, rookie Walter Thurmond gets his first start at right cornerback. Thurmond stepped in for Jennings after he aggravated the injury in the first quarter of last week’s game against the Bears.

With Mebane out because of a strained calf, Kentwan Balmer will start at defensive tackle – just as he did against the Bears.

RB Chris Henry, who was signed off the practice squad on Saturday, is active.


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Lookie, lookie at their rookie QB

Thanks to friend and ESPN.com blogger extraordinaire Mike Sando for this nugget: Four rookie quarterbacks have made starts at Qwest Field and they’re 1-3.

It’s pertinent, of course, because the Cardinals play at Qwest today and their QB is Max Hall, a 25-year-old rookie free agent who is making his road start in the NFL.

The others to precede Hall: The Buccaneers’ Josh Freeman (2009), Lions’ Matthew Stafford (2009), Ravens’ Troy Smith (2007) and 49ers’ Alex Smith (2005). They combined for a 57.5 passer rating, and Freeman picked up the lone victory last season.


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Countdown to kickoff

Greetings from a rainy, windy Qwest Field, where some of the Seahawks already are out in the elements preparing for today’s showdown between the co-leaders in the NFC West.

Most of the players and coaches have spent the week saying that this game isn’t that much bigger just because both the Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals are 3-2 and the winner will move into sole possession of first place. Every game every week is important because it’s the game you’re playing that week, they said. It’s more about momentum and putting together back-to-back wins than holding the division lead this early in the season, they offered.

But the rest of us don’t have to approach it with that one-game-at-a-time mindset. We can get as geeked as possible over the possibility of the Seahawks leading the division with a 4-2 record, and what the afternoon might be like for Cardinals rookie QB Max Hall making his first road start in the noise factory that is Qwest on every given Sunday.

What to expect today? The unexpected. That has been the norm for these rivals to this point.

The Seahawks have upset two opponents at home – the 49ers and Chargers – only to then go on the road the following weeks and play poorly in losing to the Broncos and Rams. But last week, they beat the Bears in Chicago – the first time the Seahawks have beaten a team with a winning record on the road in a 10 a.m. start since 2004.

The Cardinals also have been on that win-one/lose-one merry-go-round – most strikingly in the last two games before their bye. They were thumped by the Chargers in San Diego 41-10 – one of two games in which they have yielded 41 points – and then beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints 30-20 at home.

Asked this week to evaluate his defense, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt offered, “Well, I think inconsistent would be a word I would use.”

That assessment could describe just about every unit on each team in today’s game.

The exceptions have been the Seahawks’ run defense and their kickoff coverage and return units. The Seahawks rank second in the league in average rushing yards allowed (70.4) and average yards per carry (2.9). They led the league in opponents’ average starting position on kickoff returns (20.6-yard line), as well as starting position on kickoff returns (33.7). Not surprisingly, Leon Washington has the best kickoff return average in the league (37.0).

But the Cardinals are committed to running the ball with the tandem of Tim Hightower (5,2-yard average) and Beanie Wells (129 yards on 39 carries), even though they rank 29th in the league in rushing offense (87.4 yards per game).

The biggest problem for the Seahawks’ defense will be Larry Fitzgerald, who has 26 receptions and also has made a habit of having big games against the Seahawks. He could be facing a unit today that will start rookie Walter Thurmond at right cornerback because Kelly Jennings has a strained hamstring. That matchup definitely will be worth watching, especially to see of the Cardinals motion Fitzgerald to create coverage situations for a rookie making his first NFL start.

One way to combat that, of course, is to put pressure on Hall. The Cardinals have allowed 13 sacks in their past two games, and the Seahawks are coming off a season-best six-sack performance against the Bears. The Seahawks also have forced seven of their eight turnovers in the two games at Qwest.

Offensively, fans will get their first in-the-pads look at “Beast Mode” running back Marshawn Lynch, who was acquired in a bye-week trade with the Bills and had more of an impact on the upset of the Bears that his stat would indicate (44 yards on 17 carries). His physical style has given the offense that needed element.

“Marshawn showed us all of the toughness that we really wanted to see on our team coming out of that spot,” coach Pete Carroll said this week – not just against the Bears, but from the first day he stepped on the practice field.

Each team is coming off its best performance in their inconsistent seasons. These two teams have combined to win the past six NFC West titles. The Cardinals have won four in row in the series, and six of the past seven. It should be fun.

We’ll be back later with the inactives …


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