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Rapid Reaction: Rookies Steal The Show In Big NFC West Win vs. Cards

Notes and takeaways from a Week 6 win against the Arizona Cardinals 

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The Seahawks came into Sunday's game looking to right the ship on defense while also maintaining their momentum on offense. A tough Cardinals defense saw to it that the Seahawks had to work hard to score points, but after several weeks of struggling on defense, the Seahawks were great in that phase of the game, holding Arizona to just one offensive score in a 19-9 victory at Lumen Field.

Thanks to that strong defensive effort, a huge performance by the rookie class, and some timely drives on offense, the Seahawks improved to 3-3 to move into a tie for first place in the NFC West. Here are six rapid reactions to Sunday's win:


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1. The defense made huge strides to lead the Seahawks to victory.

It has been a struggle for Seattle's defense for much of this season, as was evident in nearly every statistical measure coming into this weekend. On Sunday, however, the Seahawks defense wasn't what was holding the team back; instead it was what kept Seattle in the game on a day when Arizona's defense was also making things difficult on Seattle's offense.

On Arizona's first possession, the big plays that have been a problem for the Seahawks showed up again, but the defense stood strong in the red zone to force a field goal, setting the tone for what would be an outstanding day of defense. The Cardinals managed just one more score the rest of the day, and that came on special teams, with the rest of their drives finishing as follows: turnover on downs, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, fumble, turnover on downs, punt, interception, end of game.

Even with those big plays early, the Cardinals averaged just 4.4 yards per play, gained 315 yards, were, 4 for 16 on third down—after starting 4 for 5, no less—and had only 15 first downs.

2. An Al Woods-less interior line stepped up in a big way.

Al Woods has been one of Seattle's best defensive players the past two seasons, but he was unable to play due to a knee injury, something that could have proven to be a big problem for a defense. But instead of struggling in Woods' absence, the interior line played its best game of the season, with players like Bryan Mone, Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson and Shelby Harris all stepping up. Ford, Jefferson and Harris all had sacks—as did edge rushers Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor, as well as safety Ryan Neal, giving the Seahawks a season-high six for the game—while Mone was a Woods-esque play-wrecker on run defense, blowing up one run play to set up a Ford tackle for loss, and driving the center back several yards into a running back to cause another tackle for loss.

3. Kenneth Walker III came up big in his first start.

Kenneth Walker III had a big game after taking over for an injured Rashaad Penny last week, breaking out for a 69-yard touchdown run on his way to 88 rushing yards. A week later, the rookie back was asked to start for the first time with Penny out for the season, and Walker responded in a big way, rushing for 97 on 21 carries.

Walker got going early, taking a direct snap on third down for a 17-yard gain, then rushing for 34 yards on the next play, a run that led to an eventual field goal. Walker's big game also included his second touchdown in as many week, an 11-yard scamper that showed off his incredible burst as he just outran Arizona's defense to the pylon.

4. It was a tough game for the Seahawks offense, but Geno Smith and company came up with a great drive when they needed it.

For as great as Geno Smith and the offense have looked in recent weeks, there was always going to be a game where an opposing defense made it difficult on the Seahawks, and on Sunday the Cardinals were able to do just that. The Seahawks still moved the ball well, particularly in the first half, but couldn't finish drives in the red zone, settling for four field goals on a day where that was enough to maintain the lead with the defense playing so well.

The Cardinals defense was particularly dangerous on third down, getting pressure on Smith in a way no other opponent has been, recording multiple drive-ending sacks on a day Smith was sacked five times and hit seven times.

But as great quarterbacks tend to do, Smith was able to come up with a big drive when the Seahawks needed it most. After a special teams disaster gave the Cardinals their only touchdown of the game, putting the Cardinals within a field goal, Smith and the offense put together their best possession of the game, with Smith making multiple great throws under pressure to move the offense quickly down the field. Once in the red zone, Walker finished things off with an 11-yard touchdown run that gave Seattle some much-needed breathing room.

On that crucial possession, Smith was five for six for 64 yards, completing passes to five different receivers, including a crucial third-down conversion to Tyler Lockett just before Walker's TD run.

5. The rookie corners just keep making plays.

In what is becoming a weekly occurrence, Seattle's rookie cornerback tandem of Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant came up with big plays, each of them resulting in a Seahawks takeaway. Bryant got thing starting by ending a promising Arizona drive with a forced fumble, chasing Kyler Murray down before punching the ball loose, with Woolen falling on the loose ball. It was Bryant's third straight game with a forced fumble, the first of which was recovered by Jordyn Brooks, with Woolen recovering the past two.

Later in the game with the Cardinals trying to come back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Murray took a deep shot to Marquise Brown down the sideline, but Woolen was there to make a leaping interception, his fourth in as many games.

Woolen became the seventh player in team history and just the third rookie since 2000 to record an interception in four straight games.

6. Jason Myers was money, but the special teams miscues persist.

With Seattle's offense having a tough time in the red zone for much of the day, kicker Jason Myers came through in a big way, making all four of his field goal attempts, as well as an extra point. Myers also opened the game with a well-placed kickoff that helped set up a Joey Blount tackle inside the 20, and banged most of his kickoffs deep in the end zone for touchbacks.

But while that part of Seattle's special teams play helped them win, a troubling trend continued with the Seahawks having another critical miscue that led to points for their opponent.

In this case, the issue occurred when Michael Dickson, punting from his own end zone, recognized that a free rusher was going to get there before he could get the punt off. Dickson made the wise—and probably injury-saving—decision not to try to punt, but rather than take a safety, he fumbled when he was hit, with Arizona recovering for a touchdown. It was the second week in a row a punt not getting off has led to an opponent scoring a touchdown, with the Saints scoring last week immediately after Dickson was unable to get off the kick on a designed roll-out punt. In previous games, opponents have scored after a Seahawks muffed punt, and after a fumble on a punt return.

The Seahawks face the Arizona Cardinals at Lumen Field for Week 6 of the season on October 16, 2022. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.

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