NFC West: 2012 Week 9 coverage
November, 4, 2012
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
SEATTLE -- Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' victory over the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field in Week 9:
What it means: Seattle improved to 5-4 overall, 5-1 outside the division and 4-0 at home. The victory kept the Seahawks on pace for a winning record if they can continue to win their home games. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson continued trending in the right direction with three touchdown passes and heady scrambles. His recent performances suggest a bright future for Seattle even as its once-formidable defense sprung additional leaks. The Seahawks are alone in second place behind San Francisco in the NFC West.
What I liked: Wilson came out firing with two first-quarter touchdown passes, building upon his recent improved play. The Seahawks opened up the playbook early, including when they had receiver Sidney Rice throw to tight end Zach Miller for a 25-yard gain. Wilson's three first-half scoring passes helped Seattle take a 20-17 halftime lead despite having no answer for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Wilson took one sack after taking zero on 35 drop-backs at Detroit last week. Offensive lines tend to get credit and blame for sack numbers, but quarterbacks play a critical role, too. Wilson is showing a very good feel for the pocket. He turned at least one sure sack into a short gain Sunday. Wilson ran the four-minute offense effectively to help close out the game.
Marshawn Lynch topped 100 yards rushing for the third game in a row. He continued to break tackles and overcome missed blocks. Lynch gives the offense attitude. He should have an easier time if Wilson continues his recent improvement.
Seattle's pass defense was effective, particularly considering how well Minnesota was running the ball. Jeron Johnson, Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin, Leroy Hill and Greg Scruggs had sacks or half-sacks. Irvin roughed up Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder in the second half. Ponder was limping after that play. The second-year quarterback did not hurt the Seahawks much with his scrambling.
The Seahawks held Ponder to 2.9 yards per pass attempt. They sacked him four times and picked him off once. Brandon Browner's diving interception was the catch of the game. Earl Thomas narrowly missed another shot at picking off Ponder.
What I didn't like: Seattle's once-fearsome run defense continued to struggle. The Seahawks entered this game ranked 19th in yards per carry allowed over their previous three games. They promptly allowed a 72-yard run to Peterson on the Vikings' first drive. Peterson had 144 yards by halftime, and when he scored on a 4-yard run in the second quarter, Seattle's defense had allowed 28 points in its past 28 minutes of clock time. Peterson had more yards rushing than Seattle allowed during its first three games combined.
Seattle had an extra-point try blocked in the first half. Coach Pete Carroll, who admittedly botched a replay challenge against Detroit last week, lost a questionable second-half challenge in this game. Running back Robert Turbin and receiver Jermaine Kearse dropped passes.
Moffitt's role: John Moffitt started at left guard after the Seahawks named James Carpenter inactive. There had been some thought Moffitt might start at right guard, where he started previously. Moffitt got backed up and lost his helmet to blow up a short-yardage run in the first half. Moffitt later helped clear the way for Lynch's 23-yard run to the 9-yard line with 5:30 left in the third quarter. Moffitt also helped clear the way for Lynch's 3-yard scoring run later in the drive.
Injury watch: K.J. Wright, the Seahawks' starting strongside linebacker, left the game in the first quarter after suffering a concussion. Mike Morgan replaced him.
The Seahawks lost center Max Unger, their best offensive lineman this season, to a hand injury in the third quarter. Lemuel Jeanpierre replaced him. Unger returned to the game after undergoing X-rays.
The Vikings lost receiver Percy Harvin to a leg injury in the third quarter. Harvin had just returned after a hamstring injury had forced him to the sideline. He was injured when Wagner tackled him on the perimeter. Harvin returned the game, but he was limping and did not pose the same threat from that point forward.
What's next: The Seahawks are home against the New York Jets in Week 10.
November, 4, 2012
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 31-17 defeat to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 9:
What it means: The Cardinals fell to 4-5 with their fifth consecutive defeat. The slope appears to get more slippery following a Week 10 bye. The team visits the Atlanta Falcons to kick off a four-game stretch featuring three road games. Running back Beanie Wells is expected to return Nov. 25, but the Cardinals' troubles go beyond one player. Even their defense is sagging. Arizona has allowed 17, 19, 21, 24 and 31 points during its slide.
What I liked: Arizona's defense held the Packers to a three-and-out and missed field goal after Green Bay opened its first possession from the Cardinals' 20-yard line. Defensive ends Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett shared a sack to set back the Packers on that drive. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald's diving effort to cap his 31-yard scoring reception gave Arizona life in the second half. Andre Roberts had a 40-yard reception, Michael Floyd had a 37-yarder and Rob Housler had a 22-yarder. The Cardinals downed four of Dave Zastudil's punts inside the Green Bay 20-yard line. The coaching staff gave rookie Nate Potter a chance at left tackle. Potter had issues, but this was a good time to give him reps. Quarterback John Skelton took only two sacks, a low number for Arizona.
What I didn't like: The Cardinals gave up four touchdown passes to Aaron Rodgers, including two to Randall Cobb. And when Tom Crabtree slipped behind inside linebacker Paris Lenon for a 72-yard scoring grab in the second half, the Cardinals were pretty much finished. The Arizona ground game continued to struggle without Wells and Ryan Williams. LaRod Stephens-Howling and William Powell found little room to run. Early Doucet continued to struggle with dropped passes. The two he dropped gave him six drops for the season, twice his total for 2011. Outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield suffered an injured ankle. Patrick Peterson averaged only 4.8 yards per punt return. He has zero returns for touchdowns after getting four as a rookie in 2011. The Cardinals, meanwhile, allowed a 28-yard return and 15.3-yard average to Cobb.
What's next: The Cardinals have a bye before visiting the Falcons in Week 11.