ReFo: Seahawks @ Cardinals, Week 16
Last night had the potential to be about the Arizona Cardinals and the continuing story of their miraculous season against the odds, but instead, the Seattle Seahawks served a reminder that they are the defending Super Bowl champions for a reason and they are ready to do it again.
Clinching their fifth straight victory in dominant fashion the Seahawks took control of not only the NFC West but the NFC as a whole, with a win at home to the Rams next week making it a near certainty (barring a tie in Green Bay) that the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will run through Seattle.
Seattle Seahawks – Performances of Note
Marshawn Lynch, RB: +2.5
Breakdown: The Seahawks had many a performance of note so you’ll have to excuse me for not mentioning all of them. Lynch stood out with another memorable run bludgeoning his way through the Cardinals’ defensive backfield, having found a crease through the front seven to find that space. The Cardinals had Lynch cornered to the sideline but some poor tackling combined with Lynch’s raw power saw him bust out and outrun the pursuit for the score that put the game well beyond Arizona’s reach.
Signature Stat: Limited to only 25 snaps last night Lynch played less than 50% of the Seahawks’ offensive snaps for only the fourth time in the last three seasons.
Michael Bennett, DE: +3.3
Breakdown: A destructive force once again both inside and out as Bennett graded in the green for both his run defense and pass rush, with only those two inexplicable defensive offsides in the first half drawing his grade down. Most of Bennett’s pressure came inside against Paul Fanaika, consistently beating him inside to take the shortest route possible to Ryan Lindley.
Signature Stat: The gaudy sack total may not be there to draw the attention but with a week to go Bennett has already topped his pressure total from a year ago (65); last night’s eight pressures (1 Sk, 2 Ht, 5 Hu) taking his season total to 67.
Russell Wilson, QB: +5.4
Breakdown: It seemed like the Seahawks’ players were just trying to outdo each other last night and Wilson was making plays with the best of them, both with his arms and legs. On the ground he flipped the field with a 55-yard scramble on the final play of the first quarter before doing his best Lynch impression on the final score turning a potential 11-yard loss into a 5-yard TD, stiff arming Alex Okafor to the ground deep in the backfield. Through the air he exploited an abnormally leaky Cardinals’ pass defense with some excellent deep and intermediate passing.
Signature Stat: Only two Wilson’s passes hit the turf on deep and intermediate targets last night; 8-of-10 for 254 yards and two scores.
Arizona Cardinals – Performances of Note
Ryan Lindley, QB: -6.3
Breakdown: As rough an outing for Lindley as you might have expected before the game with his poor decision making and accuracy a bad combination for a quarterback making his first in two years against the league’s best defense. A handful of nice throws were smattered in there but outweighed by poor ones and a couple of key missed opportunities that might have kept the Cardinals in the game.
Signature Play: One of Lindley’s better throws came late in the third (3.22) completing a pass deep down the right sideline over tight coverage from Richard Sherman with Michael Floyd going up to make the catch.
Larry Foote, ILB: -3.8
Breakdown: The Cardinals’ aggressive defensive play calling put Foote in a tough spot twice in quick succession at the start of the fourth quarter and he got burned both times. At 14.14 and 12.05 Foote was left trying to cover Luke Willson down the field and both times he came up empty, first surrendering a 39-yard gain to move the Seahawks into Arizona territory before giving up a 20-yard score three plays later.
Signature Stat: After adding three more pressures last night Foote’s season total is up to 19, only four inside linebackers have more, though no inside linebacker has rushed the quarterback more times than Foote (186).
Drew Butler, P: +4.0
Breakdown: The search for a silver lining takes a deep dig for the Cardinals last night but their punter, continuing to get plenty of practice, had another strong showing. His hang-time was excellent all night, topping 4.8 seconds on six of his nine punts, playing a key role in the Seahawks’ only attempting one return with six fair catches.
Signature Stat: In the last three weeks only Johnny Hekker of the Rams has earned a higher punting grade (+11.8) than Butler (+8.0).
PFF Game Ball
There were plenty of deserving nominees on the Seahawks last night and it feels like a snub in some senses to mention just one, but the whole offense stemmed from Russell Wilson in a spectacular all-around display.
Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben