Russell Wilson looked exquisite. Again.
Jadeveon Clowney looked like a basketball player. He tapped an interception to himself for the game’s decisive play. Then he got mobbed by just about every Seahawks player in uniform running off the sideline at him to celebrate his most significant feat yet for Seattle.
Chris Carson looked like a dominant, lead runner for the first time this season. And, yes, he held onto the ball.
Tight end Will Dissly continued to look like Kellen Winslow in his comeback from a ruptured patellar tendon suffered on this field 12 months earlier. He got his team-leading fourth touchdown catch this season, part of his career-best seven receptions.
And the Seahawks ground out an 8-minute drive to the clinching touchdown late. The march was directly out of the Pete Carroll coaching handbook.
It added up to a reassuring, 27-10 victory at winless Arizona Sunday in Seattle’s first NFC West game of the season.
“We were really rock-solid throughout the whole game,” Wilson said after his latest, lethally efficient day.
“And the great thing is, to be honest, we could have been better. There are some things we felt like we left out there and we could have been a little sharper.
“It was a complete team effort. And that’s what makes this game fun.”
The fun continued in the Seahawks’ locker room afterward.
Players massed under two overhead televisions in the visiting locker room. When they saw Tampa Bay’s clinching turnover and score late in the Buccaneers’ win at Los Angeles, the Seahawks erupted in roars.
The Seahawks (3-1) host the defending NFC- and division-champion Rams (3-1) on Thursday night at CenturyLink Field.
“We are going to get cranked up for it,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks are now unbeaten in their last seven games against the Cardinals in Arizona. Seattle’s last loss here was Sept. 9, 2012. That was Wilson’s first start in his first NFL game.
Yes, it was against a completely rebuilding opponent with a first-time NFL head coach and rookie quarterback. But the Seahawks looked far more like Carroll’s designed them to this season. Far more ready to play the Rams and 49ers (3-0 after their bye Sunday) in the NFC West than they did the previous week in their galling, malfunctioning loss at home to New Orleans.
Carroll’s design: winning with Wilson’s efficient passing off Carson’s controlling, often punishing runs and Clowney leading a pass rush that changes games on defense.
That’s what the Seahawks brought in the desert.
“This was really a complete game for us,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks led 20-3 at halftime, and still by that score 4 1/2 minutes into the final quarter. Then Kyler Murray scrambled to a touchdown run. Arizona’s first-overall pick in this spring’s draft was 22 for 32 passing for 241 yards and an interception. Seattle sacked him four times.
The Seahawks answer’s Murray score and the 20-10 game with the best part of Carroll’s day: a pounding, 15-play, 8-minute drive. It featured Wilson’s completions to Luke Willson and Tyler Lockett to convert third downs. It ended with C.J. Prosise’s touchdown run with 2:13 left.
It was Prosise’s second career score and first since November 2016, his rookie season. That was 10 injuries for him ago.
“The last drive was an extraordinary statement,” Carroll said. “Eight minutes-plus. C.J. running it in... It is exactly what we had hoped to do.”
Seattle was so dominant in this one, the loudest Cardinals fans got in the stadium otherwise dominated by Seahawks fans was when Carson Palmer was honored in a halftime ceremony—and when they fired T-shirts out of air guns into the crowd during a timeout in the third quarter.
Wilson completed 22 of 28 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown, to Dissly. He had another sterling passer rating of 114.3.
Wilson is now 29-7 following an in-season loss. That is the best such record by a quarterback since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
Carson rushed for 104 yards on 22, reassuring carries days after Carroll professed his continued trust in him despite his fumbling issues. It was his seventh 100-yard rushing day of his career and first since last Dec. 30, also against the Cardinals.
“I told him earlier this week, on Monday, I said: ‘You know, Walter Payton’s fumbled before, too,’” Wilson said.
And Clowney made a huge play against Murray to turn the game against the Cardinals (0-3-1).
While much of the Pacific Northwest fretted over the defensive line getting no sacks and only two quarterback hits—none by Clowney or Ziggy Ansah—in the loss to the Saints, defensive line coach Clint Hurtt focused on his guys affecting games with more than just sacks. Hurtt stressed to his pass rushers the need to counteract all the quick passing the Seahawks were seeing by getting their hands up and in the way of passing lanes.
That would prove to be decisive especially important Sunday against the quick-throwing, sub-6-foot Murray, who ran more for his life against the Seahawks than Wilson always has to in Seattle’s games.
“Oh, it was pretty significant, because he is a little (person),” said defensive end Quinton Jefferson, who joined Clowney in knocking down another of Murray’s short passes. “That was hands-down the hardest dude I ever had to play against and try to tackle in my entire life.”
Second-year man Rasheem Green continued his rapid improvement from a lost rookie year with a sack on which he ignored Murray’s shoulder and hip fakes in the open field. Rookie defensive end L.J. Collier got in Murray’s face to force a high throw. That gave cornerback Shaquill Griffin the opportunity to break up Murray’s third-down pass on the game’s opening drive. That ended with the first of two missed field goals by Arizona’s Zane Gonzalez in the first half.
Then Clowney made the kind of exquisite, athletic play you trade for. While getting blocked.
With Seattle leading 3-0 after Dissly’s two catches for 23 yards on a crisp opening drive to Jason Myers’ first Seahawks field goal, former Seahawk J.R. Sweezy popped outside from right guard on a short pass play. He was blocking Clowney as Murray threw quickly outside to the right. The 6-foot-5 Clowney tipped the rookie’s pass to himself with his strong, left hand, like a basketballer tapping a rebound to himself.
And he did it while Sweezy was still pushing and blocking him.
“The one-handed catch, I felt like I was a receiver at the time,” Clowney said, reaching his long left arm up above his locker. “I don’t get that a lot.”
As in, never before. It was his first interception in his six NFL seasons.
He laughed at the irony of spending five years playing in the Texans’ 3-4 defense that asked him to often drop into coverage as an outside linebacker and never picking off a pass, then in his first month of Seattle asking him to only pressure and sack the quarterback he finally gets an interception.
“Don’t drop, and I get a pick. That’s crazy,” he said. “But it works.”
After Clowney grabbed his own rebound, Sweezy was no match for the defensive end on his sprint 27 yards for a touchdown. His biggest play yet since Seattle traded with Houston to get him five weeks ago pushed Seattle to a 10-0 lead and effectively smashed any hope the young, starting-over Cardinals may have had of winning their first game of the season.
Clowney then got mobbed in the end zone by his teammates. Just about every Seahawk in uniform ran from the sideline to him to celebrate the memorable score.
Sometimes, it not all about just sacks for a defensive line.
“He looked like 7 feet on that play,” Seahawks All-Pro Bobby Wagner (10 tackles) said.
“Maybe just because Murray was throwing it.
“That was a big, big play in the game. He tipped it to himself, ran it back, showed a little speed. It really ignited our defense, our offense, our special teams.
“It ignited the whole team.”
PENNY OUT AGAIN
The Seahawks announced 90 minutes before kickoff that number-two running back Rashaad Penny was inactive. Penny missed his second consecutive game following a hamstring injury he got in a light, walkthrough practice two days before Seattle’s home loss to New Orleans Sept. 22.
Carroll confirmed what appeared likely before the game, that the Seahawks didn’t want to risk trying to play Penny Sunday and then him potentially re-injuring the hamstring and being unavailable for Thursday against the Rams.
Carson entered Sunday with four lost fumbles in three games this season. Carroll, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Wilson all said Carson remains their man. The coaches said the 1,100-yard rusher from last season was working through the issue that will pass.
Prosise was available behind Carson again on Sunday. He had three carries for 4 yards.
K.J. Wright’s five tackles Sunday gave him 747 for his career.
The longest-tenured Seahawks player, Wright took over fifth place on franchise’s list for career tackles. The 30-year-old outside linebacker passed Chad Brown, who showed his respect for Wright on Twitter following the game.
Wright had a strong first month to what he’s called a prove-it season in 2019. He believes he must earn the second, non-guaranteed year of the Pro Bowl veteran’s new deal he signed after briefly exploring free agency this spring.
One week after an odd, healthy scratch, L.J. Collier was active. The rookie first-round pick entered on the game’s first possession at defensive end, as Seattle used all eight of its active defensive linemen on Arizona’s first offensive possesion that ended in a missed field goal.
Collier did not record a sack. He was beaten to the outside and lost containment on a fly sweep by Cardinals rookie wide receiver Andy Isabella in the first quarter, but a holding penalty on Arizona negated that 16-yard gain.
Ansah and Jefferson had been questionable. Ansah has what Carroll on Friday called back spasms earlier in the week. Sunday was the second consecutive game the 30-year-old defensive end was active. He debuted with 18 snaps against the Saints the previous week, his first action in 10 months since shoulder surgery then a groin issue.
Collier was healthy but inactive the previous week against the Saints, one week after his NFL debut.
“LUKE WILLSON IS BACK”
That’s what Russell Wilson said following the game about his veteran tight end who said last week for his second go-round in Seattle.
“Felt like old times,” said Willson, a Seahawks tight end from 2013 through ‘17 who this time last week was, as he said, “running on public fields in San Francisco” and lifting weights in an apartment gym there.
Willson had two catches in his return game. His second one was a diving grab of Wilson’s playground flip on third down to keep that final, long drive alive.
Willson laughed that he was supposed to be open far earlier in the play, but his route stunk.
“Wasn’t the cleanest route I’ve ever run in my life. But it worked out, man,” he said, laughing and running his hand through his long, pro-wrestler-style hair.
Then he laughed again.
“I’m supposed to be a lot cleaner than I was getting out of there. I’m glad he trusted me to throw it, because it was not my cleanest route of all-time.”
The Seahawks led 20-3 after Myers’ second field goal of the first half in its final seconds. They have now won 53 consecutive games while leading by four or more points at halftime. ... The other inactive Seahawks Sunday: rookie wide receivers John Ursua and Gary Jennings were healthy scratches again; special-teams captain Neiko Thorpe (hamstring), rookie safety Marquise Blair, safety Adrian Colbert (promoted from the practice squad this week) and backup offensive lineman Ethan Pocic.