PHOENIX – Even though the playoffs are no longer a possibility, the Seattle Seahawks claim they are properly motivated for facing NFC West Division rival Arizona on the road today in the final game of the season.
The season record for both teams is 7-8 and both have an opportunity to finish the season on a good note, with a .500 winning percentage and a second-place finish in the NFC West.
“We want to finish the season out right,” Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch said. “And 8-8 would look a lot better than 7-9.”
With 19 players scheduled to become free agents, Seattle coach Pete Carroll will get one final look at his team before mulling over some tough offseason decisions, including whether to sign Lynch to a long-term deal and how to move forward at quarterback – although Carroll already has committed to Tarvaris Jackson starting at quarterback next season.
“It’s very important for these guys to make their statements,” Carroll said. “Guys that are getting their play time, guys on (special) teams – there’s a number of guys that have been with us just a few weeks on the active roster, (and) this is a great opportunity for them.”
Arizona starting quarterback Kevin Kolb will miss his third straight game because of lingering concussion symptoms.
Backup John Skelton, while unpolished, has figured out a way to help the Cardinals win games. At 6-foot-6 and 244 pounds, the Fordham University product is a huge presence in the pocket. He’s thrown for 1,642 yards and 10 touchdowns with 13 interceptions, and he has a pedestrian 68.1 passer rating.
But Skelton has a 4-2 record as a starter this season and has led four fourth-quarter comebacks.
Skelton has been blunt in assessing his play.
“Quarterback win-loss percentage is kind of overrated,” he said. “Our defense has really been playing lights out ever= since we went on our run, and I’ve actually put our defense in some pretty bad situations that they’ve come out with either no points or only allowing a field goal.
“Offensively, we just find a way to somehow do enough.”
Carroll has been impressed with the way Skelton has played.
“It hasn’t been all numbers because his numbers aren’t great, but when it comes down to crunch time, he’s making things happen with his legs a ton,” Carroll said. “He’s not a real fast guy, but he runs very effectively. He’s made big plays, and he’s also done a really good thing that he knows where Larry Fitzgerald is all the time, and he gets him the football.”
But Skelton is right about Arizona’s defense – it’s the reason the Cardinals rebounded from a 1-6 start and have won six of their past eight games.
Tacoma native and University of Washington alumnus Ray Horton, who is in his first season as Arizona’s defensive coordinator, has finally figured out how to get his players effectively playing the 3-4 scheme he brought over from Pittsburgh.
Arizona has allowed only 18 points per contest over the past eight games.
“We scaled some things back so we were making fewer mistakes, and we made some plays in games that got their confidence going,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “So I think it was a combination of all of those. As we’ve played a little better defense, we’ve been able to do a few more things and build off that, and that’s allowed us to not be one-dimensional, which has helped.”
Arizona’s defense will have to deal with Lynch, whose has rushed for a career-high 1,118 yards this season. Lynch has scored a touchdown in a team-record 11 consecutive games and rushed for 100 yards in six of Seattle’s past eight contests.
Lynch’s 855 rushing yards since Week 9 leads the league by more than 100 yards.
“(He’s a) really good player,” Whisenhunt said. “Hard to tackle, very good at extending the run, had a lot of production. It’s a guy that you definitely take notice of.”