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Rost: After OT loss in Arizona, Seahawks’ defense knows it’s ‘now or never’ to turn things around

Bobby Wagner spoke out about the Seahawks' defensive struggles Sunday. (Getty)

You knew the Seahawks were going to have to figure out sometime this season whether they could win a game without Russell Wilson playing at his best, and you knew the answer – despite plenty of talent – was probably going to be no. But a sub-optimal Wilson was unlikely to throw for three interceptions, which is what Seattle’s star quarterback did in Sunday night’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

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“I thought we played a great game, except for those three plays, honestly. And those were my fault,” Wilson told reporters post-game. “There’s so much that we can do and we have so much confidence. Our confidence is not going to waver.”

In a strange way, maybe that makes the loss easier to stomach for Seahawks fans. Some of their defensive struggles aren’t going to be fixable this season, but the league’s MVP front runner isn’t going to have too many games with three interceptions.

Sunday also brought answers to three big questions about this matchup I asked Friday. Let’s see how they turned out:

Did the Seahawks’ defense contain Kyler Murray in the red zone?

No. The Cardinals had been scoring touchdowns on 80% of trips inside the red zone, on average, and on Sunday they converted on three of five trips (60%).

Yes, 60% percent isn’t 80%. And this also isn’t meant to detract from some of the good the Seahawks did Sunday, like Poona Ford and K.J. Wright combing for a forced fumble and recovery, or Quandre Diggs nabbing an interception. But the defense struggled to contain Murray on a few key possessions, and in the end it proved too costly.

Murray scrambled for one touchdown in the red zone and threw for another two. He finished the night 34 of 48 passing (70.8%) for 360 yards.

The defense is going to be in question every week. And this week, they didn’t get the answer they were hoping for.

“We’re nowhere where we want to be,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We have to play better… we have to be more consistent. We have to find a way to get off the field. We can’t put the offense in the situations that we put them (in). We can’t make the penalties that we had… We’re not where we want to be…

“At this point, you’ve just got to make your mind up and say you’re going to play good defense, period.”

Wagner was asked whether he’s confident they have the right attitude to turn things around, and said yes – but it’s now or never.

“We have a lot of talent in our locker room, we have a lot of guys coming back (from injury). We have the ability to improve, we just need to make our minds up. That’s it. No more talking. No more saying what we’re gonna do. We have to go show it. At this point I don’t have no words for you. It’s either we do it or we don’t.”

Did DK out-duel DeAndre?

No, but turns out neither was the best receiver on Sunday.

Week 7 marked a meeting of the two players who are leading the league in receiving yards per game, so it made sense to wonder which star receiver would have the biggest day.

Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins (100.2 yards per game) finished the day with yet another strong outing: 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. The Seahawks knew Hopkins would be Murray’s favorite target. Before Sunday, he had more than double the targets (47) of the next-closest receiver (Larry Fitzgerald, 21). That didn’t change Sunday. Murray targeted Hopkins 12 times, five more targets than anyone else, but Seattle’s offense still couldn’t stop him. If we’re being honest, not many defenses have been able to; that’s Hopkins’ fourth 100-yard game of the season.

Technically though, the receiver who had the best performance was the one we didn’t talk about at all Friday. Tyler Lockett outshined both players. It had been Lockett, not Metcalf, who was leading Seattle in receptions heading into Sunday. And despite Metcalf’s undeniable talent and skyrocketing production, it was the veteran who was Wilson’s favorite target in this game. Lockett finished with 15 receptions for a career-high 200 yards and his second three-touchdown game of the year.

“He did everything,” Carroll said of Lockett, highlighting Lockett’s final toe-dragging touchdown. “He’s a phenomenal, phenomenal football player.”

Metcalf does get honorable mention here for making the best play of the day. It was neither a touchdown nor a highlight-reel catch, but Metcalf lit a fire on social media after he chased Cardinals safety Budda Baker 90 yards down the sideline to save a pick-six. In a shocking display of athleticism, Metcalf reached a startling 22.64 miles per hour on his way to the tackle.

“It was one of the best football plays I’ve ever seen,” Carroll said without hesitation (keep in mind that Carroll has been coaching since 1973). “It was just remarkable. You saw him realize what was happening and the opportunity, and he just used all that marvelous skill that he had and the will to go run the guy down… It was an inspiring play. Nobody could miss. Everybody that was watching that play, whether you like football or not, you could see that was something extraordinary. I’ve just never seen one quite like that.”

Did the Hawks get healthier in Week 7?

It’s just bad news all around, isn’t it?

Safety Jamal Adams couldn’t make it back from a groin injury in time for Week 7 and was declared inactive by the close of Friday’s practice. Starting guard Mike Iupati (back) was also inactive after being ruled out Saturday.

A secondary that was already short one starter lost another mid-game when cornerback Shaquill Griffin had to be evaluated for a concussion. Griffin was unable to enter the game and will remain in concussion protocol this week.

If there’s a silver lining to any of this injury news, it’s that Adams should be able to start next week.

Answers to questions from the game

What’s the latest with running backs Chris Carson and Travis Homer? You probably noticed a lot of DeeJay Dallas in the fourth quarter and in overtime. That was after both Carson and Homer were forced out of the game with injuries. Carson has a mid-foot sprain and will have an MRI. There was no further update on his status from Carroll. Homer suffered a knee contusion, and the team was unsure of the severity as of Sunday night.

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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