Before the Seahawks came to crunch the first-place Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, they came to an agreement on more unity.
Doug Baldwin, Kam Chancellor, Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were among the 10 self-described “core” veterans who met a few days ago with coach Pete Carroll to reset the Super Bowl champions’ azimuth for the final six games of their so-far rocky 2014 season.
Those veterans feel this thrust of trust led to Sunday’s 19-3 grounding of the previously soaring Cardinals — and may turn around Seattle’s 7-4 season.
“I think so,” Baldwin said. “Everyone who plays in the NFL is talented athletically, is gifted physically. However, the subtle difference between what’s good, what’s great and what’s legendary is the mental side of it and also the emotional side of it.
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“It’s us trusting each other. Feeling each other. Feeling what it is to play as a team.”
The wide receiver and team leader went deeper. And not on a post pattern.
“That was the theme of the week: We had to get back to trusting each other,” Baldwin said. “I spoke to Earl about it earlier in the week. I told him, in order for a team or a collective group to live and to thrive, the individual must die. Not necessarily die as in you’re not breathing. It means the ego. We as a collective must realize if we trust everyone on this team, if we trust each individual, each other, to go out there … do what we are supposed to do and not try to do too much and trust each other, then the sky will be the limit for us.
“We will be unstoppable, because we will all be playing together. … I feel like today we kind of found it. Trusting each other, respecting each other, going out and playing for each other.”
How did that show up while Seattle’s offense drove six times to Arizona’s 20 or beyond and its defense throttled the Cardinals to their season lows in points and yards (204)?
“You can see the enthusiasm,” Baldwin said. “You can see all the pieces playing together. There wasn’t anyone out of position trying to do too much, trying to make a play on an individual basis. It was, ‘Let’s just go out there and do this together.’ ”
The younger recipients got the message.
“When we play as a team, I really think we are unstoppable,” said tight end Cooper Helfet, who caught the clinching touchdown pass from Wilson late in the third quarter. “We kind of embraced ‘We all we got. We all we need.’ ”
RED-ZONE WOES (CONTINUED)
The Seahawks’ defense kept the home team ahead through an uneven first half. Their offense should have had them up by far more than 9-3 at halftime.
Seattle drove inside the Arizona 20-yard line three times in the first half.
The first time, on third and 7 from the Cardinals 15, Wilson completed a short pass to Lynch only to the 9. That became Steven Hauschka’s field goal.
The second red-zone trip was a first and goal at the 8, after Wilson faked a handoff to Robert Turbin, then threw crazily across his body from left to right 48 yards to wide-open Ricardo Lockette. It was the second-longest reception of Lockette’s four-year career, and just his second catch in four games. But then the Cardinals sacked Wilson twice in three plays. So that second red-zone trip also ended with a field goal.
Arizona only had 18 sacks in 10 games coming in, part of the reason its pass defense was 29th in the league.
Seattle’s third trip to the 20 came after Byron Maxwell intercepted Drew Stanton’s far-overthrown pass at midfield midway through the second quarter. Wilson’s 40-yard run on a read-option keep would have been a touchdown had Jermaine Kearse not tackled a Cardinals defensive back at the 10 for holding. Wilson got sacked on second down and threw for 1 yard in the flat on third and 16. Hauschka’s third field goal gave Seattle a 9-0 lead.
Arizona went 15 plays on a drive at the end of the half, aided by defensive fouls on Maxwell for illegal contact in downfield coverage and Michael Bennett for offside. But Jaron Brown dropped a sure touchdown pass just inside the goal line on third down as Stanton was being hit by middle linebacker Bobby Wagner as he threw. Brown’s drop forced Arizona to settle for a field goal with 13 seconds left before halftime.
Seattle entered the game converting just 53 percent of its red-zone trips into touchdowns, the 20th-best success rate in the league.
LYNCH SORE, SICK, THEN SAVVY
Just like Denver in February’s Super Bowl, Lynch finished with 39 yards on 15 carries. The Cardinals’ third-ranked run defense blitzed to stop Lynch’s running as much as Wilson’s passing.
Lynch was out for two of the drives that first half with what the team announced was a recurrence of his sore lower back; Carroll said afterward that it was nausea.
Lynch, by the way, not only jogged off the field with his teammates at the start of halftime but skipped into the Seahawks’ locker room. Apparently he stays out on the field only when the wind chill is 10 degrees, as it was when he stayed outside at halftime for his back last week at Kansas City.
After the game, Lynch may have avoided another $100,000 fine from the NFL for not talking to the media. He sat at his locker wearing a plaid, hunter-style, fuzzy hat with ear flaps and answered 22 questions with 58 words — mostly “yeah” — in 3½ minutes.
FINALLY, A REPRIEVE
Eventually, the Seahawks had to figure out the Cardinals’ pass rush.
Wilson took five sacks in the second quarter, including three by defensive end Calais Campbell and one by former Washington State Cougar Deone Bucannon on a safety blitz.
Wilson took the blame away from his patchwork offensive line, with fourth-stringer Patrick Lewis starting in place of injured All-Pro center Max Unger (out three to four weeks with a high ankle sprain and twisted knee) and Alvin Bailey starting at left guard for James Carpenter (sprained ankle).
“I just think they made some plays,” Wilson said. “I think I could have done a couple things better, in terms of protection calls, for whatever reason.”
The Cardinals defense blitzed on 33 of the Seahawks’ 58 plays for the game, and 22 times in 33 snaps after halftime, but got to Wilson only twice in the second half.
Wilson’s elusiveness helped with that. He hooked up with Lynch on a 23-yard pass after first making surging linebacker Alex Okafor miss one-on-one in the backfield. Okafor ran right past Bailey hoping for his second sack of the quarter.
But Lynch caught the wide-open pass and ran to the Arizona 29. Wilson hit Helfet four plays later for the Seahawks’ only touchdown.
“I thought in the second half we were really able to slow down their rush,” Wilson said. “I thought we did a great job of that and we were able to capitalize on some big-time plays down the field.”
The Seahawks inactives were all expected or injured: CB Marcus Burley, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB Allen Bradford, C Unger, G Carpenter, TE RaShaun Allen, DE Demarcus Dobbs. … Carroll said the only new injury was Helfet turning his ankle late in the game. … Lawyer Milloy of Lincoln High School, the University of Washington and eventually the Seahawks, wore his former No. 36 Seahawks jersey while raising the 12th Man flag high above the south end zone just before kickoff.