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Cigar Thoughts, Game 6: I hate Cardinals week

I hate Cardinals week; it’s too weird. And it sucks that it happens twice a year. How weird? Well, the home team has only won one of the last eleven matchups, which is honestly one of the most bonkers head-to-head stats I’ve ever heard for any rivalry. So on the one hand, I guess it’s good for Seattle that this game was in Arizona but on the other, that stadium has been an absolute minefield for the Seahawks.

That field has not only seen that awful 6-6 monstrosi-tie, it’s also where Super Bowl 49— the most heartbreaking moment in franchise history— happened, and where Cliff Avril, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and Earl Thomas all played the final snaps of their Seahawks careers. Every week this season I’ve bet the Seahawks to win outright, and for the score to hit the over. I didn’t even touch this one. Hate Cardinals week.

The Seahawks received the opening kick and immediately turned Russell Wilson loose. On the first play from scrimmage, Wilson dropped back and lobbed a pass down the left seam to a doubly-manned Tyler Lockett. The coverage was perfect but it didn’t matter, because Lockett made an insane one-handed catch. On the play he got jammed, yanked, and rode all the way down the field by two defenders before lunging out and snagging the pass with what’s really more of a back-scratcher than a hand, pulling the ball in to his thimble-sized chest as he dove to the ground. It was a spectacular opening salvo that was followed by 10 yards to Carson on a run and a pass, then another shorty to Lockett for a first down. Then it was a quick-hitter to Jacob Hollister— efficient foreplay for what came next.

Taking the snap from Arizona’s 3, Wilson casually whipped a third pass Lockett’s way, where he had out-wiggled the coverage for an easy score. 7-0. The Cardinals went three and out on their first drive and the Seahawks got right back to work, picking up a couple more first downs before Jason Myers knocked a field goal through to push the lead out to 10.

Now, if there’s one constant to Seahawks games, it’s that they’re completely fucking insane but if there are two constants, it’s that as soon as Seattle goes up by two scores, they allow an eye-gouging long TD drive. So it went in this one, as Kyler Murray shimmied and scooted the Cardinals offense down the field, before finally going up top and hitting Deandre Hopkins inside the front right pylon to close the gap to 10-7.

Seattle would get three more first downs on their next drive, mostly thanks to Lockett, and Myers banged another one home to push the lead out to six at 13-7. Four plays into Arizona’s next drive, Murray hit Hopkins again, this time on a little screen but as Nuk started up field, POONA FORD came flying in from the backside to strip the ball loose, where it was pounced on by KJ Wright. That gave Seattle the ball on Arizona’s 31 and it looked like the Seahawks could really push this lead out, especially after driving it all the way down to the 4, but instead, Seahawks.

Up by six and knocking on the door again, Wilson took the snap and drifted right as Carson slipped out into the flat. Instead of firing the ball into his running back though, Wilson lobbed it and the pass was undercut by a full-speed Budda Baker. Baker took the interception and sprinted to glory, with no one between him and a 100-yard pick-six. Under almost every other imaginable circumstance, it would’ve been a lead-switching TD but unfortunately for Baker, DK Metcalf exists.

Metcalf could have easily let this one go, and no one would’ve blamed him, given the 20-yard deficit he faced, but that’s not how he rolls. Taking off with straight-line speed that boggles the mind from someone his size, he tracked Baker down like a T-1000, roping him to the turf inside Seattle’s 10. It was a play that was so incredible that it would have stood on its own as one of the great efforts of the season; but the impact of that hustle was amplified by the fact that Seahawks would absolutely slam the door on the Cardinals inside the 10. They shut Arizona down on four consecutive plays, taking over on downs and preserving their lead. The pure want-to from Metcalf was worth as much as a touchdown on the scoreboard, and the ensuing Seattle drive would’ve been enough to bury any team that wasn’t playing the Seahawks.

It only took Seattle six plays to go 97 yards, leaning on Carlos Hyde after Carson left with a foot injury he wouldn’t return from. Hyde opened the drive with a 7-yard plunge and ended it a couple minutes later by taking a toss sweep and running around absolute eraser-blocks from Metcalf and Duane Brown, tiptoeing the sideline for a 34-yard score. 20-7, and that should’ve been it.

The Cardinals, however, weren’t about to kiss the ring, and they came right back with a sharp TD drive of their own. Seattle’s defense applied exactly zero pressure on the Cards’ diminutive signal-caller, and he made them pay for it the rest of the night. The score came on a little double-move from the 7 that confused Seattle’s secondary, and Murray’s pass landed safely in Christian Kirk’s arms for a much-needed TD. 20-14. Seattle, to their credit, didn’t skip a beat and marched right back down the field.

After Russ kept the opening snap for a 22-yard run, he hit Lockett over the middle for 16 more to Arizona’s 47. That’s when Wilson dropped back, let go, and let God. His pass carved through the desert air, howling at the moon before turning over at it’s apex and hurtling back down towards the endzone. The timing, as always, was exquisite, and Lockett squirted beneath perfect coverage from Patrick Peterson to dive beneath it and skid to a stop in the endzone for the score. 27-14. The Cardinals would add a field goal before the half, but the visitors hit the locker room upon 10.

The third quarter got off to a sluggish start, with each team punting before the Cards broke through. It was a touchdown drive that never should have happened though, as Arizona actually went three-and-out inside their own 10, but the last incompletion was nullified by a terrible roughing call against Bobby Wagner. On the play, Wagner contacted the intended receiver as the ball sailed behind him. It was a perfectly timed hit but I think the combination of the pass’ errancy and the rag doll effect that Wagner’s hit had convinced the official to throw a flag. Even so, just an awful call and one that would have huge consequences.

The Cardinals made it count, turning their second chance into a 12-play, 93-yard TD drive to close the gap to 27-24. It set Seattle up to answer once more but instead, Wilson would turn it over again. With a promising drive entering field goal range, Wilson tried to force a scrambling bomb down the right sideline to Metcalf, who was silenced all night by Peterson. Metcalf’s route was cut off by the All Pro, and as the ball sailed beyond DK, Patrick backpedaled into the endzone to snag it for an interception. Fortunately for Seattle, Murray would uncork a wild throw on the very next play, allowing Quandre Diggs to make a phenomenal interception of his own.

That left Seattle only 45 yards to go, but it took them 12 plays to do it. After a couple more passes to Lockett, a few Hyde runs, and a handful of incompletions, Seattle found themselves facing a 4th down decision on AZ’s 3. Rightfully, they elected to keep their offense on the field and the ballsiness was rewarded when Wilson lobbed a perfect pass to the endline where Lockett fairied in to snag it while tapping his toes. The pass was initially called a TD before being overruled on the field. Pete Carroll, who had to burn two timeouts in the third quarter, was forced to risk his final one to challenge it. The initial call of TD ended up being correct, and Seattle was able to extend their lead to 34-24 with less than seven minutes left. It was Lockett’s third TD and while it wasn’t the longest, it might have been the most impressive of what would end up being the greatest performance of his career to date.

Arizona should have died a dozen times by now, but you’ve got to tip your hat to their resilience. Needing two scores and hardly enough time to do it, Kyler led his boys right past an exhausted Seahawks defense. The tacked on a few first downs before stalling out inside Seattle’s 35. Knowing they needed to score twice anyway, they opted to settle for a field goal attempt, one that Zane Gonzalez knocked through to make it 34-27. A flag flew on the play, for a very obvious offsides on Benson Mayowa, and it looked for all the world that the Cardinals would keep the points on the board. Instead, Mayowa was called for leveraging himself off the blockers (which he definitely did)— a 15-yard foul that gave Arizona a first down. Two plays later, they were in the endzone and the deficit was only 3 instead of 7.

When Seattle got the ball back, they needed two first downs to seal it and they got the first one pretty quick. Using a couple of runs on the plus side of the two minute warning, Seattle found themselves a 3rd & 2 away from sealing the deal. On that play, Hyde got hammered down at the line of scrimmage and the Cardinals got the ball back after a punt with just enough time to get into field goal range— which, of course, they did. On the last snap of regulation, Gonzalez nailed his 44 yarder to tie it. It was the first time the Cardinals hadn’t trailed since four minutes into the game, and it forced an improbable OT.

With a coin toss about to swing the odds in one team’s favor, each squad sent out their champion. Arizona sent the greatest Cardinal of all time, Larry Fitzgerald and the Seahawks sent their Achilles. Coin toss god Geno Smith correctly called tails, and Seattle got the ball with a chance to end it.

We’ve seen this script so many times before. Given the opportunity, Russell Wilson drives the team down for the win. This time, however, there was a plot twist, and he suffered the first sack of the night thanks to some creative blitzing from Arizona. The sack came on third down and Seattle had to kick it back to their hosts. At this point, the Seahawks were showing absolutely no ability to stop anything, and Arizona pushed that ball all the way down to Seattle’s 23 before bringing Gonzalez out one more time. A game the Seahawks should have won was now a simple swing of a leg away from a really tough loss. Zane calmly knocked the kick through the uprights, but the celebration was cut short because head coach Cliff Kingsbury had called timeout right before. So of course, this being Seahawks-Cardinals, Gonzalez missed his second try, having been effectively iced by his own coach.

Now Russ could go do his thing. And go do his thing he did, hitting Lockett for a first down and then, after a swing pass to Hyde lost 4, whipped a miracle completion to Lockett at the sticks while being thrown down for what should have been a sack. A couple of plays later, he fired a bubble screen out to Metcalf who DK’d his way through two arm tackles and into the endzone for what appeared to be his third game-winning TD of the season. As his teammates began to jump on him, the dreaded yellow graphic popped up on the screen. A David Moore hold had brought the play back, not only eliminating the touchdown, but knocking Seattle back out of field goal range.

On the very next play, Russ rushed a throw against the blitz towards Lockett, who wasn’t even expecting a pass so quickly. It soared right past him and into the hands of rookie Isaiah Simmons. The return set the Cardinals up for yet another game-winning field goal attempt and this time they converted. The 48-yarder flew through the uprights, giving Arizona their only lead of the game, and a monumental win against the previously undefeated Seahawks.

SMOKE RINGS

~Russell Wilson was both bewitching and bewitched in this one. He spent most of the night fitting high-risk throws into keyholes and the rest of the night throwing baffling interceptions. All three of his picks were eminently avoidable, and the last one broke his team’s back. It was so odd to see him turn it over like that, especially with the game on the line.

His stat line was all over the place, completing 33 of 50 passes for 388 yards and 3 TDs to go with the trio of picks. he also added a remarkable 84 yards on 6 carries, stuffing the box score but ultimately failing to deliver on the game’s final three drives.

Wilson totaled 306 yards in the first half alone, with 56 of them coming on two scrambles and the rest courtesy of his God-kissed right arm. It looked like it was gonna go down as one of the greatest statistical performances of his gilded career but it was all undone by mistakes. Now, Wilson is absolutely the biggest reason that the Seahawks were 5-0 coming into this but he’ll wear a large part of tonight’s loss. He had a lot of chances to end this game and he just never did. A rare sight.

~Tyler Lockett has had a couple of quiet weeks, the dip in production highlighted by a couple of shocking drops. Any worries about a drop-off with him felt a little silly anyway, but they were absolutely put to rest tonight. He was targeted a staggering 20 times, hauling in 15 of them for 200 yards and 3 TDs, all of which were career highs. He was open almost all night and when he wasn’t he made heroic catches to compensate. It was as incredible a performance as I’ve ever seen from a Seahawks receiver and it’s a massive shame that it was all for naught.

Last year, it was obvious that DK Metcalf was a stud in the making but he still lacked the nuance necessary to win against great cover guys. Nowhere was that more evident than against Patrick Peterson, who held him to a total of one catch in two games back in 2019. This season has been different, however, as Metcalf has torched every defender unlucky enough to guard him. That includes reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, so I was optimistic that he’d be able to emerge victorious against his fiercest foe tonight.

Instead, he was held utterly inconsequential, save for his would-be OT TD. He caught a crossing route against zone coverage early, but was otherwise eliminated by Peterson, who shadowed him for most of the night and was this game’s real MVP. A performance that saw Seattle throw for nearly 400 yards also saw Metcalf get just 23 of them. Maybe the biggest bummer in all this is that his chase-down should’ve gone down as a defining moment for this season. Such a shame.

Meanwhile, David Moore caught all three of his targets for 54 yards and the TE trio of Greg Olsen, Jacob Hollister, and Will Dissly combined to turn 10 targets into 7 grabs for 78 yards. It’s worth. noting that this receiving corps is very deep.

~The Seahawks ran the ball pretty well tonight, especially considering that Chris Carson left the game after racking up 41 yards on just 6 touches. Carlos Hyde came in and delivered 68 yards on 15 carries in relief, adding 8 more on 3 catches. He was fine, and the run game was good, but their inability to get that final first down in regulation haunted them. I really really hope Carson is okay because he does make this offense better, but it’s tough to pin this one on his absence. Travis Homer chipped in 10 yard on 3 carries and DJ Dallas caught a couple of passes as well.

~The defense has been toothless all year, especially without Jamal Adams and Bruce Irvin, and that was the case again tonight. They never so much as put a hit on Kyler Murray, despite 48 pass attempts and more than a dozen scrambles. I guess they technically got close a couple of times but there’s just no one on that defensive line capable of winning in a meaningful way right now. It puts so much pressure on the linebackers and secondary, and with Seattle needing to spy on Murray all night, the back end got completely gassed.

I don’t doubt that this unit will get better with Adams back (how could they not?), but it is absolutely a problem. I won’t spend too much time on the details because we all saw it for what it was. They gave up 519 yards on 71 plays and that’s just too much, no matter who the guys on the other side are. What’s frustrating is not knowing whether the Seahawks can do anything schematically to change it, because it’s just really fucking hard to defend when the opposing quarterback is unbothered all game.

~The broadcast showed a really cool graphic that finally quantified the change in approach to the offense for Seattle this year. It highlighted how over the last two years (to many of our consternation), the Seahawks have passed the least on 1st and 2nd down in the first three quarters of any team in the NFL at 45%. This year, it’s been 65%, which ranks #1 in the league. Yes, they lost this game, but it wasn’t for lack of aggression— save maybe for the last drive in the 4th quarter but I suppose that would have been forgiven had they got two more yards.

~What ultimately did this team in were three enormous penalties. The first one was bullshit, the unnecessary roughness against Bobby Wagner on a third down incompletion that allowed Arizona to go score a TD. The second was Benson Mayowa’s leveraging foul on the field goal with three minutes left that allowed the Cardinals to get a touchdown instead. And the last one, the hold on David Moore that brought back DK’s walk-off shot, was the most wrenching of all. Now maybe Metcalf doesn’t score without the hold, but they’re definitely still in field goal range. Honestly, the team played well tonight but it was a terrible call and two bonehead penalties that cost them.

If we step back and view this season from 20,000 feet, we should all be thrilled. If, at the beginning of the season, I offered you a 5-1 start and a share of the #1 seed in the NFC (for now), I think we all would have taken it without hesitation. The Seahawks weren’t going to go undefeated, after all. Also, Seattle has won a few games that they could easily have lost and a couple that they probably should have, so it was inevitable that their tightrope act wouldn’t last forever. What really hurts about this one is that it’s a divisional loss, and one that gives a hat-hanging victory to a young upwardly mobile rival that now believes they can beat anybody. It’s also the first time in the last 42 opportunities that the Seahawks have lost a game in which they held a double-digit halftime lead.

Still, 5-1 is a great place to be. This was the first of a really tough five-game stretch that will show all of us how good this team really is, before getting to spend the following month feeding on the NFL’s soft underbelly. I have no doubts that this team will emerge from this loss stronger but it doesn’t change the fact that this feeling sucks. I guess this is how we make other teams feel all the time, huh?

Anyhow, there’s a ton of season left and this team is still a lot gooder than it is bad. Onward, upward, and let’s go get the 49ers next week.

Jacson on Twitter | Cigar Thoughts Hub | Cigar Thoughts Facebook

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A wild game begets a wild cigar and let me tell you, the 10th Anniversary Bon Chasseu from Tatuaje was every bit as crazy as the game. Lots of spice and plenty of bite made me reach for something reliably smooth to even it out. Paired with some Basil Hayden, it was a wonderful fire-and-ice combo. I’m telling you— if you wanna get your senses tingling, fire up this cigar.

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The 2020 season of Cigar Thoughts is also proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners in Bellingham, WA.

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