By Danny O’Neil
PHOENIX – Ready?
The Seahawks better be when they take the field in Arizona just four days after hosting the Tennessee Titans.
The Seahawks should be after weathering an early wave of injuries that would have capsized a lesser team. Pro Bowl tackle Russell Okung is still out and receiver Percy Harvin has yet to practice, but Seattle will have all but two of its opening-day starters available on offense against the Cardinals.
That’s not a question so much as a directive at this point. When Seattle takes the field to play the Cardinals for the seventh games of this season, it’s not about survival, but acceleration for an offense that showed signs of coming alive against the Titans. Seattle didn’t punt over the final three quarters of that game and finished with more than 400 yards of total offense.
“It just looked better,” coach Pete Carroll said. “It looked cleaner and I think it looked like we’re making progress.”
Well, after taking a discernible step forward it sure would be nice to see the Seahawks break into a jog.
The Seahawks have certainly been resilient this year, surviving the absence of three different starters on the offensive line and tight end Zach Miller. They’ve shown resourcefulness with quarterback Russell Wilson throwing for more than 300 yards in a victory at Carolina and then giving the Texans the run-around in an overtime victory in Week 4.
Now it’s time to see if this team can be dominant in a game it absolutely should win. Yes, that declaration is troublingly bold, especially when you consider that Seattle is playing on the road against a defense that gives it fits at a stadium where the Seahawks are 1-6 since 2006.
710 ESPN Seattle hosts weigh in on Seattle’s Week 7 matchup against Arizona, finishing the sentence, “The Seahawks will win if … ”
|• Brock Huard: They throw for two or more touchdowns.||• Dave Wyman: Russell Wilson passes for more yards than Carson Palmer.||• Jim Moore: Larry Fitzgerald is held to fewer than six catches and 100 yards.||• Michael Grey: Their defense forces two or more turnovers.||• Danny O’Neil: They score the first touchdown of the game.||• Dave Grosby: They commit fewer penalties.||• Bob Stelton: They get ahead and force Carson Palmer to put the ball in the air, and as always, limit the costly penalties.|
But Thursday’s game in Arizona is more than just a chance for Wilson to show how far he’s come since the first start of his career in Week 1 last season. It’s an opportunity for the Seahawks to show that this offense, which has plodded its way through the first month and a half of the season, is capable of taking off against an Arizona team whose weaknesses play right into the sticky-fingered defense that is Seattle’s strength.
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer has been picked off 11 times, more than any NFL quarterback not named Eli Manning, while Seattle has intercepted nine passes. The Cardinals have committed 15 turnovers, the Seahawks have forced 17 and the fact Seattle is just now fleshing out the pass-rushing roles on this defense should be reason for any Cardinals fan to cringe.
The question for Seattle is the offense. The unit that has appeared allergic to third down for most of this season not to mention consistently inconsistent in the red zone. The Seahawks failed to score a first-half touchdown in either of their first two road games this season and currently rank 24th in passing yards.
Now, that offense has also been undermanned, missing that book end of a left tackle in Okung for the past four games while right tackle Breno Giacomini has been out for the past three. All-Pro center Max Unger was gone for a couple of games as was Miller, and Harvin has yet to practice with the team.
The Seahawks were doing everything they could to hold – sometimes literally – against the opposing defenses. Seattle did not punt for the final three quarters of last week’s game against Tennessee, scoring on three straight drives in the second half before running out the clock on the final possession.
“We’re doing a great job, with the situations that we’ve had over the past two and a half weeks or three weeks,” Wilson said.
Now, it’s time to see progress if this team is going to have the kind of season that forces the NFC playoffs to go through Seattle.
That’s not to say Seattle is expected to ring up the 150 points it had in a three-game span last December, but the Seahawks are capable of more consistency than we’ve seen so far.
Ready? The Seahawks think they are. Set? They’re getting closer to full strength so what’s left is for Seattle to go and show improvement on offense.