What we learned: Cardinals at Seahawks
After all, Seattle did score a franchise-record 58 points, but here's a summary of three things we learned and three things we're still trying to figure out in the wake of the Seahawks' historically large shutout.
Three things we learned
1. Seattle doesn't need to always bite its nails.
It was like watching a parade Sunday, the Seahawks rolling over the Cardinals without all that much resistance. That was a change for a Seattle team that had nine of its first 12 regular-season games decided by seven points or fewer. And even those three games Seattle won by double digits were in doubt in the second half, the Seahawks leading by seven points or fewer midway through the third quarter. No drama on Sunday. No doubts. Just a singularly dominant performance.
2. Turnovers do, in fact, come in bunches.
The Seahawks had forced a decidedly mediocre 17 turnovers in the first 12 games. They forced eight in one game alone, tied for the second-most of any game in franchise history. Now, Arizona's offense is so unambiguously awful it's tough to call this a signature performance by the defense though any time you keep an opponent from getting inside your 37-yard line, you're doing something right. But the turnovers were the most encouraging thing for this defense. If Seattle starts taking the ball away from opponents, and giving the offense a short field, Seattle might wind up with more than just a playoff berth this season.
3. Seattle's pass protection is no longer an oxymoron.
The Cardinals have a lot of problems, but their defense is not one. At least it wasn't prior to Sunday. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton -- who is from Tacoma -- comes from Pittsburgh, steeped in the Steelers tradition of bringing pressure from every conceivable angle. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was under siege in the season-opener, getting sacked three times. Arizona totaled 16 sacks in the first four games. Sunday in Seattle, the Cardinals finished with a single sack for the third time in their last five games. Some of that was because Seattle simply didn't have to throw the ball. Some of it was because the Seahawks improved their pass protection. Wilson has been sacked more than twice in a game only once since the season-opener.
Three things we're still trying to figure out.
1. Has Seattle's defense gotten a bad rap?
The unit has been deservedly criticized for surrendering fourth-quarter leads against Detroit, Miami and Chicago, but Sunday marked the fourth game this season in which Seattle held an opponent without an offensive touchdown. That's tough to do, and so far this season, only the 49ers have allowed fewer points than Seattle. Perhaps the rumors of the Seahawks' defensive demise have been exaggerated?
2. Seattle's offense is becoming -- dare we say it -- more potent?
Seattle totaled 57 points in its first three games combined and was held to fewer than 20 points in four of its first five games. The statistics show pretty clearly the improvement Seattle's offense has made over the course of this season. After five games, Seattle ranked No. 28 in scoring. The Seahawks are now a downright respectable No. 15.
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3. Has Seattle turned the corner as a contender?
That would require a level of consistency against not only the league's best teams, but its worst. Seattle has shown that it can compete against top teams like the Packers, Bears and the Patriots. The victory against Arizona showed a killer instinct against an opponent that had lost eight straight. Then again, maybe Arizona is simply that bad. While it's hard to question the caliber of a 58-point victory in the NFL, this is an Arizona team that was taking on water with an obvious void at quarterback and an effort that appeared to lag in the second half.