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A happy homecoming
After the disappointment of a not-quite-enough loss to the 49ers in their season opener and the frustration of last week’s not-hardly-enough showing in a pointless outing against the Steelers, the Seahawks came into their home opener on Sunday with an enough-is-enough attitude.
It wasn’t artist, or overly impressive, but their 13-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field was needed – and overdue.
“Very happy to get the win,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We have a long ways to go. We have a lot of work to do. But we got a little better today. We did some good things and made enough plays.”
It was the tempo-setting effort by the defense that stood out on this day, but it was a tempo-dictating 14-play, 72-yard drive that ended with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson lunging into the end zone on an 11-yard run in the third quarter that gave the Seahawks their three-point margin that held up over the final 21 minutes of the game.
“We had some sets where we were able to get a rhythm and get some completions,” Jackson said of what he labeled “a hurry-up deal.”
“We talked about it during the week that we thought that we were going to do that … We had some success with it, so we stayed with it.”
Because, on that drive, they were walking the walk; not just talking the talk. And doing it quickly and decisively.
It was a game the Seahawks had to have, and even more so really couldn’t afford to lose – not after the road losses at San Francisco and Pittsburgh, and the Atlanta Falcons coming to town next week.
“We knew we couldn’t go 0-3,” said rookie linebacker K.J. Wright, who started on the strongside. “So we got a good division win, at home. The crowd got into it and helped us out a lot. We’re just trying to get this thing rolling.”
This was one of those games that wasn’t over until it was over, because Larry Fitzgerald plays for the other team. He made a typical Larry Fitzgerald play for the Cardinals’ only TD – going up between cornerback Brandon Browner and free safety Earl Thomas in the end zone and somehow coming down with the ball for a 12-yard score in the second quarter that gave Arizona 10-3 lead.
“I was hoping somebody would be able to get a hand on the ball,” said Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice, who finished with eight catches for 109 yards in his regular-season debut.
“But, as you know, Larry has done that throughout his whole career. Great receiver. Goes up and catches the ball at the high point.”
But rather than allow Fitzgerald to be a ticking bomb in the second half, the Seahawks used a frenzied pass rush led by end Chris Clemons and jersey-clinging coverage from Browner and Marcus Trufant to defuse the Pro Bowl receiver – who went without a catch in the second half.
“He’s just one of those guys – he’s an awesome player,” Trufant said. “You always have to know where he is. I give it up to the D-line. If the quarterback doesn’t have time to get him the ball, that’s the best coverage. So the D-line was up there pressuring and everybody was getting to the quarterback, so it made our job a little easier.”
There were a lot of reasons for the Seahawks to feel good about themselves:
A running game that had generated 95 yards in the first two games went for 122, including 73 yards on 19 carries from Marshawn Lynch.
“Marshawn ran really tough,” Carroll said. “He ran through some stuff to get to the second level. We’re just going to get a little bit better. We’re going to keep improving.”
After allowing Kevin Kolb to complete 14 of 18 passes for 139 yards in the first half, the Seahawks pressured him into an 11-of-21, 113-yard performance in the second half.
“Chris is a beast, man,” free safety Earl Thomas said of Clemons, who had the one sack but chased and pressured Kolb into other bad throws and decisions. “He’s valuable to the defense. He’s a great leader. He’s playing good ball right now.”
A defense that had produced no turnovers in the first two games came up with two interceptions – the first by Trufant, late in the first half; the second by strong safety Kam Chancellor, with just over a minute left in the game and after the Cardinals had reached the Seahawks’ 34-yard line.
“I saw on film during the week that they were going to come behind him (tight end Todd Heap) on a dig,” Chancellor said. “I just saw it as an opportunity to make a big play and I just jumped it.”
An inexperienced offense that had been struggling with growing pains used a no-huddle approach to keep the Cardinals off guard on the long TD drive – as Jackson completed six of seven passes for 53 yards and ran the final 11 for the Seahawks’ first TD since the third quarter of the opener in San Francisco.
“He showed tremendous toughness,” Rice said of Jackson, also his teammate with the Vikings the previous four seasons. “Everybody probably thought he would have been down probably 5-10 yards before that. But he continued to scramble and he just showed his will.
“He put his body out there on the line for the rest of the team.”
Oh, and the 12th Man – 66,199 strong – also was back to roar its approval.
“It was really a good day to come home for the first game of the year and allow our crowd to be such a factor,” Carroll said, after becoming the first coach in franchise history to win his first two home openers. “I thought the 12th Man was alive and well today, and boy we needed him down the stretch and they were there.
“The defense played to it. That’s kind of how it works here.”
The best part of this bounce-back effort? The players realize that while it’s a step in the right direction, it just a baby step toward reaching their ultimate goal.
“It’s great to build on,” Thomas said. “But we can’t get too big-headed with this game because we’ve got another game coming up. We’re blessed to get this ‘W,’ but we’ve got to get back to work and see what kind of scheme we can work up for Atlanta.”