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A victory of historic proportions
Where to begin with everything that transpired at CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon?
At the end is a great place to start, because the Seahawks finished their 58-0 rout of the Arizona Cardinals with backup Matt Flynn at quarterback, rookie Robert Turbin running for 47 yards in the fourth quarter to put him over 100 for the game, No. 3 running back Leon Washington scoring his first offensive touchdown since last year’s season finale – also against the Cardinals – and seldom-used defenders Heath Farwell and Byron Maxwell making plays to help preserve the team’s first shutout since 2009.
“It was unbelievable. It was a total team effort,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, who had two interceptions and recovered a fumble. “Guys were playing out of their minds.”
And many of those guys were playing in the fourth quarter because the Seahawks were in mop-up mode after everything that had transpired in the first three quarters:
Marshawn Lynch rushing for three touchdowns and 128 yards on only 11 carries;
Sherman returning one of his interceptions for a touchdown and also recovering a fumble in a performance that had NFC Defensive Player of the Week stamped on it in boldface caps;
Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner also intercepting two passes and leading the shutout with eight tackles;
Second-year linebacker Malcolm Smith recovering a muff punt in the end zone for a touchdown;
Tight end Anthony McCoy catching three passes for the first 100-yard receiving game (105) of his three-season NFL career;
Steven Hauschka kicking three field goals, and also kicking off nine times.
All of this added up to the Seahawks’ eighth victory of the season – which is one more game than they won in each of their first two seasons under coach Pete Carroll.
“We had, obviously, a very good game today,” Carroll said after the Seahawks also ran their record at home to 6-0. “It was actually a reward to the players for working so hard and executing well in this game. All phases gave us a great chance to have a heckuva day.
“The turnovers were the story. You have to do well when you get eight.”
The 58 points were the most ever scored by the Seahawks, two more than they put up against the Buffalo Bills in 1977. This also was the largest-margin of victory in franchise history, erasing the 45-point bulge in a shutout win over the Kansas City Chiefs in 1984. They had two 100-yard rushers for the first time since 2005, the season when they made their Super Bowl run. The eight turnovers were two shy of the franchise record that was set against the Cleveland Browns in 1981 and matched against the Oakland Raiders in 1996.
“That’s the plan,” said defensive end Chris Clemons, who had a fumble-forcing sack and recovery to the big-play onslaught. “When you’ve got teams that come in and they’re not confident in their team, we just had to go out and show them early that we’re the same team that has had a lot of confidence all season in fighting the way we’ve been fighting.”
Historic stuff, indeed. But the big-picture view after this one also is enticing. At 8-5, the Seahawks moved into the No. 1 wild-card spot in the NFC playoff picture. They’re tied with the Chicago Bears, but hold the tiebreaker because of last week’s overtime victory over the Bears in Chicago.
The San Francisco 49ers also won on Sunday, pushing their record to 9-3-1 and maintaining a 1½-game lead over the Seahawks with three to play. But the 49ers play the Patriots (9-3) in New England next week, while the Seahawks are off to Toronto to play the Buffalo Bills (5-8). The Seahawks then host the 49ers on Dec. 23 before playing their regular-season finale against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field on Dec. 30.
“I’ve never been involved in anything where the ball falls your way every single time,” Sherman said. “It seemed like if the ball was going to come out, it was going to fall our way.”
Case in point, Sherman's recovery of a fumbled forced by No. 3 safety Jeron Johnson on a sack.
“It just kept bouncing around,” Sherman said. “I was like, ‘There’s no way this ball is going to bounce right to me.’ And it did. It was the opposite of Murphy’s Law, everything that could go right went right.”
Did it ever.
Wagner’s first interception, on the fifth play of the game, came when linebacker K.J. Wright ripped the ball from the grasp of Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and cornerback Walter Thurmond batted it in the air while going for the pick. Four plays later, Hauschka kicked the first of his three field goals.
The Cardinals’ first possession of the second quarter ended, abruptly, when Clemons swatted the ball from the hand of QB John Skelton for a sack and then recovered it.
On the second play of the Cardinals’ next possession, Sherman made his first interception and returned it 19 yards for a score – the first TD by the defense this season.
Eight snaps later, the Seahawks punted to Patrick Peterson, who muffed the ball. Rookie cornerback Jeremy Lane whiffed on an attempted tackle of Peterson, but hit the ball with his foot as he was falling. Smith snatched the ball for the TD.
Sherman’s second interception came later in the second quarter, after Skelton locked on to Fitzgerald from the snap of the ball and Sherman made a better read on the ball than Fitzgerald.
On the Cardinals’ next possession, Peterson flat out fumbled a punt when hit by Maxwell, who also recovered the ball to set up Russell Wilson’s 27-yard TD pass to tight end Zach Miller.
That’s how the score got to be 38-0 in the first half. The game was, for all intents and purposes, over. But the Seahawks weren’t done.
After Lynch scored on a 33-yard run to cap the first possession of the second half, Wagner made his second interception, setting up another Hauschka field goal.
On the Cardinals’ next series, Sherman made his recovery of the Johnson-forced fumble, setting up another Hauschka field goal.
“We wanted to come out and make a big statement,” Wagner said. “This is one of those games that we had to win, and we had a huge win as a defense.”
The flipside to all the happiness for the Seahawks was the harsh reality for the Cardinals, who have lost nine in a row after their 4-0 start – which included a 20-16 victory over the Seahawks in the season opener that was played in Arizona.
“Ass kicking,” Skelton said when asked to put the game into words. “That’s the only thing you can say. For them to come out and dominate the way they did in every phase of the game, it’s embarrassing.”
The Seahawks, meanwhile, said all the right things.
“It’s another chapter,” said Wilson, whose fourth-quarter and overtime heroics were needed to pull out wins over the Green Bay Packers, Patriots and Bears – and also gave the Seahawks fourth-quarter leads against the Lions and Dolphins that the defense couldn’t hold.
“You have so much respect for their football team, and defensively they’re done a great job all year. To be able to win in that fashion, especially in the National Football League, it’s hard to do. Now we can go on to the next weekend – it’s another chapter. So you have to move on and play the Buffalo Bills.”
Taking them one at a time, and maintaining the focus it takes to do that, is how the Seahawks have won eight games. It’s also the best way to insure No. 9 – which would give the Seahawks their first winning season since 2007 and setup one huge rematch with the 49ers.
“We’ve always got room for improvement,” Clemons said. “We just have to stay humble and come and play well next Sunday.” Read