By Brady Henderson
The Seahawks forced eight turnovers during a defensive performance that was so dominant it had cornerback Richard Sherman referencing Murphy’s Law afterward – sort of.
“Opposite of Murphy’s Law, everything that could go right went right,” a jubilant Sherman said following the Seahawks’ 58-0 rout of the visiting Cardinals on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Sherman, potentially playing his final game of the regular season pending his appeal of a four-game suspension, accounted for three of the Seahawks’ season-high eight turnovers, picking off Cardinals quarterback John Skelton twice and recovering a fumble. Linebacker Bobby Wagner added two interceptions of his own, and Seattle recovered four Arizona fumbles in all en route to their most takeaways in a game since 1998.
Richard Sherman returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown. (AP)
It all started on the opening possession, when linebacker K.J. Wright wrestled a pass out of receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s hands. Cornerback Walter Thurmond dove and tipped the ball to Wagner, who returned it 45 yards to set up a Seattle field goal.
The Seahawks, despite their stingy defense and coach Pete Carroll’s philosophy that turnovers are the most important stat in football, entered the game with only 17 takeaways, half of Chicago’s league-best 34.
“That is our main focus every week, just getting turnovers,” Wagner said. “Once you get one, they just start to come in bunches.”
Did they ever.
Chris Clemons got the pass rusher’s trifecta two possessions later, sacking Skelton, forcing a fumble and recovering it himself. Then came Sherman’s first interception as he caught an underthrown Skelton pass and returned it 19 yards for his first career touchdown.
Later in the first half, linebacker Malcolm Smith gave the Seahawks another touchdown when he recovered Patrick Peterson’s muffed punt in the end zone. Cornerback Jeremy Lane tried to fall on the ball but inadvertently kicked it right to Smith, who tipped it to himself and grabbed it as he crossed the goal line.
Cornerback Byron Maxwell later forced and recovered another Peterson fumble during a punt return.
“It seemed like if the ball was going to come out, it was going to fall our way,” said Sherman, who also recovered a fumble on a strip-sack from safety Jeron Johnson.
Skelton completed 11 of 22 passes for 74 yards and the four interceptions. He was replaced in the second half by rookie Ryan Lindley, who didn’t look much better while going 8 of 17 for 59 yards.
This marked the third time this season that Seattle’s defense hasn’t allowed any points. The Seahawks also kept St. Louis and Carolina from scoring on offense, but neither of those performances could match this one. Seattle held Arizona to 154 yards in all, an abysmal total even for a Cardinals offense that ranks last in the NFL.
“Ass kicking. That’s the only thing you can say,” Skelton said when asked to put the game into words.
As thorough as this performance was, beating up on the NFL’s worst offense won’t put to rest questions about Seattle’s sometimes suspect defense. Issues against the run and pass alike have cost the Seahawks in close road losses.
It sure was impressive, though.
The Seahawks’ six first-half takeaways set a franchise record for a single half. The eight total takeaways is tied for the second-most in Seahawks history. Seattle had previously forced eight turnovers three times, most recently during a 1998 game against San Diego.
“The turnovers were the story,” Carroll said. “You have to do well when you get eight.”