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3 Key Matchups: Seahawks vs Cardinals

The Seahawks head to Arizona this week looking to bounce back from a tough Week 9 loss to Washington, and while a short week is tough for both teams, Seahawks players and coaches have said that, given the nature of their last game, having less time to dwell on a loss could be good for them.

The Seahawks are looking to also improve upon an impressive Thursday night record under head coach Pete Carroll. The Seahawks are not only 20-3-1 overall in prime time games under Carroll, they’re also 6-1 on Thursdays, including five straight wins dating back to a 2013 victory in Arizona.

“I think it all just comes down to the preparation,” quarterback Russell Wilson said of Seattle’s success on a short week. “How you prepare, how you are processing things throughout the week and how you are taking care of your body is really, really critical.”

Added Carroll: “You have to adapt to the players and what they can do during the week, and make sure you can push the guys who need to be pushed and take care of the guys who need to taken care of. So we just work real hard—every individual guy has an individual case, and we’ve got to make sure we manage that well.”

If the Seahawks are going to get back on track in the desert, these are three key matchups that could make the difference Thursday night:

1. The Seahawks vs Themselves

The Cardinals have the talent on both sides of the ball that can make things difficult for the Seahawks, and Seattle will have to handle those challenges if it is going to find success on the road, but right now the Seahawks’ biggest obstacle to overcome might be the mistakes that have kept them from performing at their best in all three phases of the game.

The Seahawks rank fourth in the NFL in total offense, which is based off yards gained, yet they’re 10th in scoring. A lot goes into that disparity, but in broad terms, the Seahawks are getting in their own way, particularly early in games.

“I think it’s getting in our way too much,” Carroll said. “We haven’t scored in red zone, the numbers have not been quite what we want. And these penalties creep into this as well. I think we have an opportunity to be really explosive and a really good-looking offense. We’re making first downs and we’re moving it and getting explosive plays and all that; we’ve got to cash in on the drives and cash in on the opportunities. Instead of kicking three field goals this week, we need to score some touchdowns here.”

The Seahawks really got in their own way last weekend, committing 16 penalties, 10 on offense, missing three field goals, committing two turnovers and dropping two potential interceptions. As Carroll said following Sunday’s loss, “We were in our own way. We really played against ourselves all day long."

The Seahawks know that against a talented team like Arizona, they can’t continue to play themselves as well as their opponent, so priority No. 1 has to be avoiding the unforced errors that have at times been a problem this season.

2. Seahawks LT Duane Brown vs Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones

Duane Brown joined the Seahawks only a week ago, but in his first game with his new team, the left tackle showed why he was a three-time Pro-Bowler with the Houston Texans.

“He played really well,” Carroll said . “He was really good. He and Ethan (Pocic) and (Justin) Britt, the left side really played good. Solid as a rock, probably as good as we’ve seen. So that’s a great first statement, we’re in good shape there. I think you’re going to see a lot from him as we move forward. We’ll be able to utilize his strengths even more — this was one week. He’s going to be a really good addition.”

And the Seahawks will need Brown to be on his game once again this week, because he will spend a lot of his evening blocking one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the NFL, Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones. After recording 11 sacks last year and 12.5 the year before, Jones is on pace for the best season of his career, recording 9.0 sacks through eight games this season, and a league-leading 14 tackles for loss. The Cardinals will move Jones around some, so it’s not just on Brown to block him, but it will be a fun battle to watch when those two face off.

“He is doing a great job,” Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of Jones. “He works hard, he has really nice pass rush moves, he’s got great hands. He is going to be a handful for us. They can move him around. They can put him on either side, so we will see how that goes.”

3. Cardinals RB Adrian Peterson vs Seattle’s Run Defense

In recent years, stopping the Cardinals high-powered passing attack has been a top priority, and while Arizona still has weapons in the passing game, most notably the ageless Larry Fitzgerald, they have been more of a running team of late. There are a couple of reasons for that shift, including the fact that the Cardinals are playing with their backup quarterback, Drew Stanton, and also because they recently acquired veteran running back Adrian Peterson in a trade with New Orleans.

In three games with the Cardinals, the 32-year-old Peterson has eclipsed 130 yards twice, including a whopping 37 carries for 159 yards last week.

“Adrian Peterson had what, 37 carries? So they’re definitely running the ball,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “Pretty much the same type of runs (as before Peterson was in Arizona). We’ve played him before and we know what type of player he is, so we’ve just got to be ready for that, we’ve got to be ready for them to give the ball to AP… It’s AP, it’s a Hall of Fame-type guy. I don’t think they’ve changed their running game, per se, they’re just using him and his talents and his ability, he’s still showing he’s a great player. Thirty seven carries, 32 years old, still 150-something yards? He’s still getting the job done.”

Also getting the job done of late has been Seattle’s run defense, which again looks a lot like the unit that last year allowed the fewest rushing yards per carry in the NFL. Early this season the Seahawks allowed back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances to San Francisco’s Carlos Hyde and Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray, both of whom benefited from one huge run. Yet in five games since then the Seahawks have stymied opposing running backs, with no opposing back gaining more than Lamar Miller’s 54 yards on 21 carries in Week 8. Yes, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson did have more than that in the same game, but Stanton is hardly the running threat that Watson is, meaning if the Seahawks can slow down Peterson, they can try to force Carson Palmer’s backup to beat them through the air.

“It’s discipline; there’s no doubt about it,” defensive coordinator Kris Richard said of the improved run defense. “It’s discipline and consistency and really, that’s what great teams and excellence are about. If you think about it, really, the mortal enemy of greatness is good. We want to be great.”

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