When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m. PST, Louisiana Superdome
Record: 6-3 and second in the NFC South coming out of their bye week
Where they rank: No. 7 on offense (25th rushing, 5th passing); No. 3 on defense (17th rushing, 1st passing)
Series: Tied 5-5. The Saints won the last meeting – 28-17 at Qwest Field in 2007 – to snap the Seahawks’ three-game winning streak.
Star power: Drew Brees. If being the only Super Bowl MVP in franchise history isn’t enough to warrant this recognition, there is the plethora of TV and print ads that have followed Brees’ performance in the Saints’ run last season. This year, he leads the NFL in completions (261) and completion percentage (.698). His passer rating is down (91.7, from 109.6 last season) because he has thrown more interceptions (12) than any QB in the league besides the Giants’ Eli Manning (13). But Brees also has 18 TD passes, and only Manning and the Chargers’ Philip Rivers have thrown more (19). When Brees settles into a groove he’s, well, it’s like Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on Monday, “The best quarterback you can imagine.”
Unsung hero: Julius Jones. Yes, that Julius Jones, the Seahawks leading rusher the past two seasons. The Saints signed Jones after he was released by the Seahawks in October because Reggie Bush has missed the past seven games with a broken bone in his right leg and Pierre Thomas the past six with a sprained ankle. Jones got his first start in the Saints’ pre-bye 34-3 rout of the Panthers and responded with 68 rushing yards on six carries, including a 54-yarder – his most yards since going for 98 against the Bears in Week 3 last season and his longest run since scoring on a 62-yarder in the 2009 opener against the Rams. Jones also had an 11-yard gain on a swing pass the week before, when he made Steelers’ All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu miss in the open field. Bush is expected back this week, and Thomas might be able to return, so it remains to be seen how many touches Jones will get against the team he played for the past two seasons and the first four games this season.
On the spot: Jabari Greer. The shutdown ability of the Saints’ 5-foot-11 cornerback is a big reason why New Orleans leads the NFL in pass defense, allowing an average of 166.3 yards. But with coordinator Gregg Williams’ fondness for blitzing against the run as well as the pass, Greer is left in single coverage a lot. This week, that will be against the Seahawks’ 6-5 Mike Williams, who is coming off an 11-catch game against the Cardinals and has three double-digit reception games in the past five weeks. When Greer has had problems, it’s been against big, physical receivers.
Burning question: Who dat? As in, “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” The Falcons and Browns didn’t just say it; they did it this season, and at the Superdome. The Cardinals also beat the Saints, but that was in Arizona. That’s as many losses as the Saints had all of last season. The obvious follow-up question: Will the Seahawks be able to make it a who-dat trio at the Superdome?
Familiar faces: In addition to Jones, FB Heath Evans (2001-04) and snapper Jason Kyle (1995-98) also played for the Seahawks. Then there’s the Seahawks South flavor to the Saints’ front office. Executive VP/general manager Mickey Loomis was with the Seahawks for 15 years (1983-98), while assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt (1982-91), director of operations James Nagaoka (1980-2002), director of college scouting Rick Reiprish (1984-94) and area scout Mike Baugh (1992-99) also worked for the Seahawks. Area coach Terry Wooden was a second-round draft choice by the Seahawks in 1990 and started at linebacker for seven seasons.
GLENDALE, Ariz. – A recap of the Seahawks’ 36-18 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Matt Hasselbeck. How sharp was the Seahawks’ quarterback in his return from missing last week’s game against the New York Giants because of a concussion? Hasselbeck passed for a season-high 273 yards – in the first half.
And that was before he went to the locker room for X-rays that detected a cracked bone in his left wrist, and returned to complete his 333-yard passing performance – his highest since going for 337 in Week 11 of 2007 against the Chicago Bears.
“Matt played a great game today,” coach Pete Carroll said.
And that might be understating it, considering everything he was dealing with.
But Hasselbeck completed 22 of 34 passes, including 11 to Mike Williams – who fractured the pinkie on his right hand in practice on Thursday. But the real key to this day was Hasselbeck involving his other receivers, as well. Deon Butler caught four passes for 66 yards, most of it on a 63-yard touchdown. Ben Obomanu, who got more snaps because slot receiver Brandon Stokley (strained calf) was inactive, had four catches for 60 yards. Tight end Chris Baker had a 44-yard catch. Read more »
Players of the quarter: Olindo Mare and Mike Williams. And not just this quarter, but their eight quarters of work against the Cardinals this season. Mare kicked five field goals today, to go with the five he had in the Week 7 win at Qwest Field. Williams had 11 catches today, to go with the 11 he had against the Cardinals in Week 7.
Play of the quarter: On a fourth-and-10 play from their own 20, the Cardinals needed a play. They didn’t get it, because DE Chris Clemons drove 324-pound OT Levi Brown into the backfield and then dropped QB Derek Anderson for a 10-yard sack. That snuffed the Cardinals’ comeback hopes, and set up Justin Forsett’s 4-yard TD run.
Number of the quarter: 5. As in the number of wins the Seahawks now have – matching their victory total from all of last season.
The bigger picture: The Seahawks got a first-and-goal at the Cardinals’ 1 following Leon Washington’s big punt return at the end of the third quarter, but the Cardinals denied Marshawn Lynch on three runs to the left side of the line. So Mare came on to kick his fifth field goal of the game – a 19-yarder that made it 29-10. Mare tied the club record with that fifth kick, after also tying in the Week 7 win over Arizona at Qwest Field.
The Cardinals then got their offense going, driving 79 yards in 12 plays to Anderson’s 2-yard TD pass to Early Doucet, and he also tacked on the two-point conversion with a pass to Larry Fitzgerald to make it 29018 with 7:52 left in the game. Anderson was 8 of 11 on the drive – which could have been snuffed of FS Earl Thomas has been able to pickoff Anderson’s overthrown to Steve Breaston on one of his incompletions.
The Cardinals went for the onside kick, but they were penalized for illegally touching the ball before it has traveled 10 yards.
The Seahawks missed a scoring opportunity when Mare hit the upright on a 29-yard field goal attempt, but got a late score anyway on Forsett’s TD run.
The Cardinals’ last-gasp drive ended with four incompletions.
Peephole perspective: While the defense was pitching a shutout, Olindo Mare kicked three field goals to make it 26-10.
Player of the quarter: Chris Clemons. The Seahawks’ defensive end recovered a fumble that was forced on a sack by LB Aaron Curry and later got a sack of his own. His performance was indicative of the way the defense turned up the heat on QB Derek Anderson in the quarter.
Play of the quarter: On a first-down play, nickel back Jordan Babineaux tipped an Anderson pass and CB Kelly Jennings made the interception to set up second field of the quarter.
Number of the quarter: 10. The number of points the Seahawks had scored in their previous two games, combined. They got nine in the quarter, on Mare’s trio of kicks.
The bigger picture: The Seahawks got the ball first, and Charlie Whitehurst was at QB for Matt Hasselbeck. Whitehurst moved the Seahawks to the Cardinals’ 22, but his pass to WR Ben Obomanu was intercepted by CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and returned 26 yards to the Arizona 44.
But the defense held, as DE Chris Clemons deflected Derek Anderson’s pass on second down and CB Kelly Jennings was all over WR Larry Fitzgerald on a third-down incompletion.
The Seahawks then drove 64 yards in 10 plays to a 34-yard field goal by Olindo Mare to make it 20-10 with 7:05 left in the quarter. The drive started with a 13-yard run by Obomanu on an end around and a 17-yard run by Justin Forsett. Whitehurst also hit Mike Williams with a 16-yard pass.
In the middle of the drive, Hasselbeck returned to the field with his left wrist wrapped and got ready to take over on the next possession.
The Seahawks got the ball right back as Jordan Babineaux tipped Anderson’s first-down pass and CB Kely Jennings made the interception at the Cardinals’ 32.
Hasselbeck returned and hit his first pass – a 13-yarder to Forsett. He then went to Forsett for 9 yards to the 1. But a third-down pass to Williams went for no gain and Mare came on to hit a 19-yard field goal to make it 23-10 with 4:50 left in the quarter.
On the Cardinals’ ensuing series, the Seahawks got the ball back on the second play as LB Aaron Curry had a fumble-forcing sack of Anderson and Clemons had the recovery at the Arizona17. Mare kicked a 23-yarder to make it 26-10 with 1:15 left.
The Seahawks were threatening again as the quarter ended, after Leon Washington broke a 33-yard punt return to the Cardinals’ 11.
Peephole perspective: A 63-yard TD pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Deon Butler and a field goal for each team. Seahawks 17-10.
Player of the quarter: Hasselbeck. After sitting out last week’s game with a concussion, the Seahawks’ QB stormed back to complete 17 of 23 passes for 273 yards in the first half.
Play of the quarter: Hasselbeck was pressured from the pocket, but didn’t give up on first-down pass. He saw Deon Butler flash across the middle of the field and went to him at the Cardinals’ 22-yard line. Butler wasn’t done, however. He ran to the stop side and then reversed to take the ball into the end zone.
Number of the quarter: 273. It was Hasselbeck’s passing yards in the first half. Yes, it was already included above, but it deserves repeating because it surpassed his season high – for an entire game.
The bigger picture: A drive that started at the end of the first quarter for the Seahawks ended with Olindo Mare kicking a 41-yard field goal to make it 10-7 with 13:22 left in the quarter. The play that got the 67-yard drive going was another Hasselbeck-to-Mike Williams hookup on third down – this time for 14 yards on third-and-1. The play that made the drive was Hasselbeck passing 44 yards to TE Chris Baker to the Cardinals’ 23.
But the Cardinals came right back, thanks to 21- and 36-yard passes from Derek Anderson to Steven Breaston on back-to-back plays. But the drive stalled after the Cardinals reached the Seahawks’ 4 because LB Will Herring stopped Larry Fitzgerald for a 1-yard loss on second down and LB Aaron Curry dropped Time Hightower for no gain on third down. Jay Feely kicked a 23-yard field goal to tie it 10 with 8:11 left in the half.
The Seahawks’ ensuing possession lasted two plays – that covered 80 yards and resulted in a TD. After Hasselbeck passed to Williams for 12 yards on the first play, the Seahawks’ QB made a great read and throw to hit Butler at the Cardinals’ 22. Butler went to the sideline before reserving and running into the end zone for the score that made it 17-10 with 7½ minutes to play.
The quick work left Hasselbeck with 12 completions in 18 attempts for 210 yards for the half – or quarter and half, to be exact.
Hasselbeck then drove the Seahawks to the Cardinals’ 16-yard line, but his keeper on fourth-and-1 was stopped for no gain by LB Paris Lenon and the Cardinals took over. The big play for the Seahawks was Hasselbeck’s 40-yard pass to WR Ben Obomanu to the Cardinals’ 25.
The Seahawks held, but Charlie Whitehurst was the QB on the last play of the half as Hasselbeck went to the locker room early.
Peephole perspective: The Cardinals scored on the game-opening drive, but the Seahawks responded with a 12-play, 77-yard TD drive to make it 7-7.
Players of the quarter: Matt Hasselbeck and Mike Williams. On the Seahawks’ opening drive, they teamed up three times – all on third-down plays – for 53 yards.
Play of the quarter: The Seahawks’ first possession started as so many have, with a 2-yard pass and another that was almost intercepted. But on third-and-8, Hasselbeck passed for 32 yards to Williams to get the Seahawks rolling on their 12-play, 77-yard TD drive. The pass was nice. The catch was even better.
Number of the quarter: 10. The number of points the Seahawks had scored in the first quarters of their first eight games.
The bigger picture: The Cardinals got the ball first when the Seahawks lost the coin toss, and then got great field position as LaRod Stephens-Howling returned the kickoff 52 yards to the Arizona 48. They scored five plays later on a 2-yard run by Tim Hightower, who eluded DT Brandon Mebane in the backfield. The big play was Derek Anderson’s 33-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald to the Seahawks’ 2. Fitzgerald went over CB Marcus Trufant along the sideline to make the catch. The Seahawks challenged the play, thinking Fitzgerald did not get both feet inbounds. But the ruling on the field stood. The 33-yarder was 3 more yards than Fitzgerald had in the Cardinals’ Week 7 loss at Qwest Field.
But the Seahawks came right back, driving 77 yards in 12 plays to a 1-yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch. Hasselbeck was 6 of 9 for 71 yards – including a 32-yarder to Williams on third-and-8, a 10-yarder to Williams on third-4 and an 11-yarder to Williams on third-and-6. Lynch also had a 6-yard run and caught an 11-yard pass.
Following an exchange of punts, the Cardinals started a series at the Seahawks’ 33. But the Seahawks got out of the predicament as LB Aaron Curry sacked Anderson for a 9-yard loss on third down to force another punt.
The following players are inactive for the Cardinals today:
- RB Beanie Wells (knee)
- DT Darnell Dockett (shoulder)
- WR Max Komar
- CB A.J. Jefferson
- SS Hamza Abdullah
- LB Cyril Obiozor
- C Ben Claxton
- 3rd QB: John Skelton
Matt Hasselbeck can breathe easier – literally – because Dockett will not play. The Cardinals’ defensive tackle was fined last year for using Hasselbeck’s neck to help himself off the turf – and the Seahawks’ QB. Alan Branch will start for Dockett.
With Wells out, Tim Hightower is the starter. He was replaced by Wells after the Week 7 loss to the Seahawks because Hightower was fumbling too much.
Once again, injuries have dictated most of the players who are inactive for the Seahawks today:
- DT Colin Cole (ankle)
- WR Golden Tate (ankle)
- OL Mike Gibson (ankle)
- OT Russell Okung (ankle)
- FB Michael Robinson (hamstring)
- WR Brandon Stokley (calf)
- DE E.J. Wilson
- 3rd QB: J.P. Losman
With Stokley out after injuring his calf in practice on Friday, just re-signed Ruvell Martin is active. Martin was added on Saturday because of the injuries to Stokley and Tate, and also because Mike Williams is playing with stitches on a finger on his right hand.
Tyler Polumbus will start for Okung, and Junior Siavii will start for Cole.
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 …
When: Sunday, 1:15 p.m. PT, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Records: Seahawks are 4-4 and tied for first the NFC West; Cardinals are 3-5 and third in the NFC West
TV: KCPQ/13, with Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick and Nischelle Turner
Radio: 97.3 FM and 710 ESPN, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Seahawks CBs Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: The Cardinals’ big – and big-play – receiver had feasted on the Seahawks’ secondary, catching 48 passes for 620 yards and five touchdowns in his previous six games. But in Week 7 at Qwest Field, Fitzgerald had three catches for 30 yards. A big part of his uncharacteristic performance was the inability to rookie Max Hall and Derek Anderson to get the ball anywhere near him. But when they did, Trufant and rookie Walter Thurmond – who was subbing for an injured Jennings – made the play, rather than giving up the big play. The Seahawks will need a repeat performance if they are to sweep the Cardinals for the first time since 2005.
One to watch
Seahawks RBs Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett vs. the Cardinals’ 28th-ranked run defense: The Seahawks’ ground game has been running on empty the past two weeks, with 47 yards against the Raiders and 49 against the Giants. But Lynch had a season-high 89 yards against in the Week 7 win over the Cardinals at Qwest Field, while Forsett ran for 123 yards – the second-highest total of this career – in last year’s game in Arizona. Having Chester Pitts at guard on the left side of the line, because of Tyler Polumbus’ return at tackle, should help. So should the fact that the Cardinals already have yielded four 100-yard rushers, which is tied for second most in the league.
Fun to watch
Seahawks SS Lawyer Milloy vs. Cardinals SS Adrian Wilson: The key word with these two is strong safety. They are the 10th and 11th players in league history to collect 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in their careers. Wilson joined the exclusive club last December. Milloy did it with his two-sack performance in the Seahawks’ Week 6 win at Chicago. While they obviously won’t be matched against each other, their efforts – as usual – will go a long way in determining who wins this game.
One tough task
The kickoff coverage units. For both teams. The Seahawks’ Leon Washington ranks No. 1 in the league in return average (31.4), while the Cardinals’ LaRod Stevens-Howling tops the NFL in returns (38) and return yardage (1,060). Each has a pair of scoring returns – 101 and 99 yards for Washington in the Week 3 win over the Chargers; Stevens-Howling had a 96-yarder last week to go with his 102-yarder in the Cardinals’ Week 3 win over the Raiders.
The two teams have combined to lose their past five games – three in row by the Cardinals, for the first time since 2006, when they finished 5-11 in Dennis Green’s final season as coach; two in a row for the Seahawks, by a combined score of 74-10. … The teams have combined to score 27 points in the first quarter – 10 by the Seahawks, 17 by the Cardinals; and they have produced their most points in the second quarter – 41 by the Seahawks, 62 by the Cardinals. … The Seahawks have not beaten the Cardinals in Arizona since 2005. … The Cardinals Tim Hightower has 72 receptions in the past season and a half, which is fourth highest among running backs in the NFC. … Seahawks K Olindo Mare tied a club record with five field goals in the Week 7 win at Qwest, which ran his since-snapped franchise record for consecutive kicks to 30. … MLB Lofa Tatupu and Trufant lead the Seahawks in tackles (44, one more than Milloy), while LB Paris Lenon and FS Kerry Rhodes lead the Cardinals (61). … Seahawks DE Chris Clemons (5½) and Cardinals LB Joey Porter (5) lead their team in sacks. Porter needs three more to become the 25th player in NFL history with 100 for his career. … In their past five games against the Seahawks, the Cardinals defense has recorded six forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, seven interceptions and 17 sacks (including five in the Week 7 game).