Countdown to kickoff

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Greetings from University of Phoenix Stadium, where the Seahawks are preparing to take on the Arizona Cardinals today in what coach Pete Carroll is labeling a “championship game.”

These teams have won six NFC West titles in a row – the Cardinals the past two seasons, the Seahawks the previous four seasons. But they’re also 1-5 the past three weeks, with the only win the Seahawks’ field goal-fueled 22-10 victory at Qwest Field three weeks ago.

Since then, the Cardinals have dropped a pair of three-point decisions to the Buccaneers and Vikings (in overtime); and the Seahawks have surrendered 1,032 yards in losing to a couple of red-hot teams – the Raiders and Giants – by a combined score of 74-10.

While the defense was having trouble stopping the Raiders and Giants, 20 of the 25 possessions by the Seahawks’ offense ended quickly (11 three-and-outs, two four-and-outs) or poorly (three interceptions, two missed field goals, one on downs, another on a fumble kickoff return).

The Seahawks can’t continue to play that way in the second half of the season, because they obviously can’t win playing that way.

Offered quarterback Matt Hasselbeck: “Some games we’re pretty good, some games we’re not good at all. … So we just have to keep plugging away, keep improving and we’ll be OK. We have got to do that, though. We’ve got to improve. We can’t take steps backward.”

Said defensive coordinator Gus Bradley: “We just have to tighten some things up. Obviously we’re aware we’ve given up too many yards and points. We play best when we have fun and we feel confident in what we’re doing. We’ve just got to get back that that. ”

That, in 85 words or less, is what this game boils down to.

The Seahawks must be able to generate some consistency on offense, with Hasselbeck returning after sitting out last week because of a concussion. The defense must get back to playing aggressively against the run and then pressure the quarterback – in this case, former Oregon State passer Derek Anderson – into making mistakes. The special teams need to set the table for the offense, and even score, against a Cardinals’ team that already has eight touchdowns off returns.

At 4-4, the Seahawks share the division lead with the Rams, who play the 49ers in San Francisco today. The Cardinals are a game back at 3-5 and the 49ers another game back at 2-6.

“It’s really like starting all over again and we need to play better in all phases and not give away opportunities and give our opponents chances,” said Carroll, who has lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2002 when he was in his second season at USC.

“We have to play very, very close to the best in terms of our mistakes and issues. We have not been able to overcome those.”

We’ll be back later with the inactives, which again will be dictated by injures for the Seahawks …

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