What we know and what we don't after Seahawks' loss in Arizona
1) The preseason ended on Aug. 30.
The Seahawks were one of the league's very best teams in August, the Cardinals one of the worst. Seattle was 4-0 in exhibition games, Arizona was 1-4. Seattle allowed the fewest points in August, Arizona was tied for giving up the sixth-most. The Seahawks ranked first in points scored, Arizona No. 17. Well, Seattle went from being the league's highest-scoring team last month to failing to put together a scoring drive of longer than 33 yards against the Cardinals while Arizona held the Seahawks to just one sack despite missing their top two tackles.
2) Penalties remain a problem.
Seattle's New Year's Resolution could already use some work. The Seahawks set a team record for penalties last season, and they were called for 13 infractions on Sunday, matching their highest total of 2012. Left tackle Russell Okung was penalized for three false starts, and cornerback Richard Sherman was flagged twice for defensive pass interference. Seattle emphasis on running the football and playing stout defense requires the team avoid self-inflicted mistakes whether it's turnovers or penalties.
3) Leon Washington remains a difference-maker on this team.
Anyone who still thinks the new kickoff rules muted Washington's importance is advised to take another look at the second half of Sunday's game. Washington's 84-yard kickoff return in the third quarter set up Seattle for its first touchdown and his 52-yard punt return is what led to the Seahawks' go-ahead field goal in the third quarter. Entering the second season of the four-year contract he signed in 2011, Washington remains a game-changing returner capable of jump-starting this team.
Three things we're still trying to figure out
1) Where was the pass protection?
Seattle's offensive line was so much farther ahead of where it was entering last season. That was something coach Pete Carroll said repeatedly in August only to watch the Cardinals lay siege to rookie Russell Wilson. So what happened? Well, a good chunk of that pressure came right up the gut, and Darnell Dockett is as tough and versatile a defensive lineman as there is in this league. Breno Giacomini was started for only the second time against Arizona while J.R. Sweezy was making his NFL debut. Wilson was sacked three times, but only because of his ability to scramble and get away from tacklers, many of whom were coming straight up the gut.
2) How well prepared was Seattle's offense to start the season?
Carroll conceded there was underside to the way he staged the quarterback competition in training camp. Namely, whoever ended up the starter, would not have the benefit of having worked predominantly with the first-unit offense throughout August. And when it came down to the final six plays of Sunday's game, Wilson couldn't quite connect with his receivers, and it was possible not to wonder if Seattle couldn't crack the goal line in part because the quarterback and receivers aren't as familiar with each other as they could be.
3) Where was Bruce Irvin?
He was on the field, but not often in the Cardinals' backfield, and he also appeared to tire down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Irvin was the first defensive end chosen, but Seattle's inability to generate a pass rush in the first half was a continuation of the trend from the first three exhibition games. Chris Clemons dialed up the pressure for Seattle in the second half, but Irvin remained largely absent from the stat sheet.