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Heaps: Why stopping Cardinals’ run game is critical for Seahawks

Containing Kyler Murray's rushing is key for the Seahawks, Jake Heaps says. (Getty)

The last time the Seahawks and Cardinals faced off, Arizona took home a hard-fought home win on a late overtime field goal on Sunday Night Football.

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In the rematch, the Seahawks will play host on Thursday Night Football aiming to overtake the Cardinals in the NFC West standings.

That Week 7 loss to the Cardinals started a skid of sorts for the Seahawks as that was the first of three Seattle lost in a four-game stretch. The Seahawks were riding high at 5-0, but now they enter Week 11 at 6-3, the same record as both the Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams, who beat the Hawks on Sunday to leapfrog them in the standings.

Seattle’s offense is expected to improve after putting up a season-low 16 points last week in Los Angeles. That group remains one of the league’s best offenses and will be getting at least one of its two top running backs back for the matchup with Arizona. The defense, meanwhile, has struggled all season long while the Cardinals also possess a potent offensive attack.

So what’s the key for the Seahawks on defense in this critical divisional game? Former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy said it’s Arizona’s rushing attack, not the passing game with star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, that concerns him the most.

“Can you limit (running back) Kenyan Drake, (quarterback) Kyler Murray and their running attack?” Heaps said on Wednesday. “It is a tremendous challenge and they were able to do that pretty effectively last time around. Kyler Murray still was able to make some plays with his legs, but not nearly in the same fashion of what he’s been able to do all year.”

Last time, Murray passed 48 times for 360 yards and three touchdowns, but he also had 67 rushing yards and a score on 14 rushes. His 4.79 yards per rush was his second-worst total this season. Drake, meanwhile, rushed for only 34 yards on 14 carries before leaving with an injury that sidelined him until last week. His backup, Chase Edmonds, was more productive, rushing five times for 58 yards and catching seven passes for 87 yards.

Through nine games, the Cardinals are first in the NFL in rushing with 168.9 yards per game. In Week 7, they ran for 159 yards and 4.8 yards per carry against the Seahawks.

“If Kenyan Drake and Kyler Murray are effectively able to run the ball, this will make their offense very, very dynamic and tough to defend,” Heaps said. “If you make them one dimensional, as bad as this passing defense has been, it is a better position for them to be in because Kyler Murray will make mistakes.”

Murray is firmly in the NFL’s MVP conversation as he is on pace for over 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards this season. Through nine games, he has 17 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing scores. But he has given the ball away, throwing eight interceptions and losing two fumbles. Murray was intercepted by Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs in Week 7.

“He’s a young player, he has been frustrated at times … He will give (the Seahawks) more opportunities (for turnovers) again, but if you let those two get going in the ground game, that’s going to be a tough, tough ask of this defense to stop them,” Heaps said. “They’ll be able to put up 30 points easily. If you limit them to just the passing game, it puts you in a much better position.”

Listen to the second hour of Wednesday’s Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

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Jake & Stacy