Seahawks finish regular season with dominant 36-6 win over Arizona
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The game didn’t determine where Seattle is going for the playoffs.
It did something more important than that.
It showed how the Seahawks are playing heading into the playoffs, and in that regard, they have never looked better than they did in a 36-6 victory over Arizona. Not this season. And that’s important because a week ago Seattle had never looked worse than it did in that home loss to St. Louis.
Sunday’s game was an ideal chaser for that as Seattle erased any lingering aftertaste by knocking the spit out of Arizona right from the get-go. The Seahawks scored a touchdown on their opening possession, had 30 points at halftime and didn’t punt for the first time until the final minute of the third quarter.
This wasn’t about Seattle setting the tone on Sunday. It wasn’t about sending a message against the division champs in Arizona. It was about Seattle getting back to playing the kind of dominating football it had been up until last week’s loss to St. Louis, and it was about the Seahawks doing it on the road, where they are likely to be from here on out.
The biggest challenge during Sunday’s game was keeping track of the franchise records being set by quarterback Russell Wilson and rookie Tyler Lockett, who had almost as many yards in punt returns (139) in the first half as the Cardinals had in total offense (147).
And to think, there were some people worried whether Seattle should even play Wilson without left tackle Russell Okung, who was out with a strained calf, and right guard J.R. Sweezy, who hasn’t recovered from a concussion.
Well, strong safety Kam Chancellor didn’t play for Seattle’s defense, either, missing his third straight game, and the Cardinals managed all of one first-half touchdown.
Seattle will head to Minnesota for a 10:05 a.m. game next Sunday as the NFC’s No. 6 seed to open the playoffs against the Vikings, who beat Green Bay 20-13 Sunday night to clinch the third seed.
Now come the qualifiers that need to be hung on the victory.
Arizona didn’t have much to play for either. Especially after Carolina took control of its game against Tampa Bay in the first half. The Panthers’ victory locked Arizona into the No. 2 seed.
That said, the Seahawks were missing more starters than the Cardinals, and Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer played every snap of a first half that ended with Seattle leading 30-6. Before Sunday, the Cardinals hadn’t given up more than 20 points in the first half of any game this season.
Seattle made quick work of that with a record-setting first two quarters:
• Wilson threw three touchdown passes in the first half, giving him 34 this season. That broke Dave Krieg’s franchise record of 32, set in 1984.
• Wilson threw for 155 yards in the first half, giving him 3,982 for the season. That broke the single-season Seahawks record Matt Hasselbeck set in 2007 with 3,966 yards.
• Then there was Lockett, who had 139 yards worth of punt returns in the first two quarters despite having a 22-yard return nullified because of a penalty. The previous single-game record for punt return yardage was 109 set by Charlie Rogers in 1999.
The biggest piece of suspense in the second half was how long the two teams were going to stay with their starters. Backup quarterback Drew Stanton entered the game on Arizona’s first possession while Seattle waited until the fourth quarter to replace Wilson with Tarvaris Jackson.
By that time there was nothing left for the Seahawks to accomplish except wait and see the outcome of Minnesota’s game at Green Bay to know where they’ll head for the wild-card game.
But judging by Sunday’s game in Arizona, where the Seahawks end up won’t be nearly as important as how they’re playing.