It wasn't easy, but the Seahawks beat the Arizona Cardinals Sunday afternoon, ending Arizona's three-game winning streak at CenturyLink Field. Sebastian Janikowski provided the game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Seahawks a 10-6 record and the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs. Seattle will play at Dallas, which won the NFC East, in the Wild Card round next weekend. Kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m. PT on Saturday, January 5 with television coverage on FOX.
The win also gives the Seahawks 10 or more wins for the sixth time in the last seven years. Here are five rapid reactions to Sunday's win:
1. Seattle's defense came up big.
While allowing 24 points to the league's lowest-scoring team might not look good at first, a closer look at the game reveals a pretty dominant performance by Seattle's defense. One Arizona touchdown and two field goals were the result of very short fields, while another touchdown came on a blocked punt.
Beyond that, the best the Cardinals were able to do was a 38-yard drive that led to a field goal, their longest drive of the day.
As always, Bobby Wagner led the way with 12 tackles, one for a loss, while Seattle's pass rush sacked Josh Rosen six times, two of those turning into turnovers on forced fumbles by Frank Clark and rookie Jacob Martin.
Overall the Cardinals managed just 198 yards and 12 first downs, and were 4 for 17 on third down.
2. Frank Clark and Jarran Reed are having great seasons.
While the Seahawks had trouble with Arizona's pass rush, their rush was also a handful for the Cardinals offense, recording six sacks. Leading the way were Frank Clark and Jarran Reed, who had two sacks each to cap very impressive regular-season campaigns. Clark finishes the year with a career-best 14.0 sacks, the last of which forced a fumble that helped set up a crucial late-game field goal.
Reed meanwhile, came into this season known for his run-stopping abilities, and had just 1.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons, but this year he emerged as a big-time pass rusher. Reed's two sacks give him 10.5 this season, a huge number for an interior lineman.
Washington state high school football championship winning coaches raised the 12 Flag prior to the Seattle Seahawks' 2018 regular-season finale at CenturyLink Field. The group included Randy Cornwell (Colville), Jeff Nelson (Odessa), Rick Steele (Hockinson), Sean McDonald (Kalama), Jeremy Thielbahr (Eastside Catholic), and Rory Rosenbach (Union).
3. The Seahawks have some special teams issues to clean up before the playoffs.
The Cardinals struggled to do much offensively on Sunday, yet they were in the game the entire way in no small part because of plays they made on special teams, and particularly when the Seahawks were punting.
After the Seahawks built an early 14-3 lead, the Cardinals got right back into the game after linebacker Dennis Gardeck got a hand on a Michael Dickson punt, causing it to travel just 21 yards. Arizona took advantage of that short field, with Larry Fitzgerald scoring on a 15-yard pass from Josh Rosen three plays after the deflected punt.
After the Seahawks went three-and-out on their next possession, the Cardinals got close to Dickson again, and while he got off a 54-yard punt, the Cardinals were able to return it 45 yards, leading to an eventual field goal despite the drive netting negative-5 yards.
Then in the third quarter, the Seahawks saw their 8-point lead disappear when the Cardinals scored on a blocked punt, then ran in a 2-point conversion.
In the end, the Seahawks were able to overcome those miscues, but against playoff-caliber opposition, they likely wouldn't be so fortunate.
4. Russell Wilson had a record-setting day.
Sunday wasn't the best day for Wilson and Seattle's offense overall, but when Wilson hit Tyler Lockett for a first-quarter touchdown, it gave the seventh-year quarterback a couple of significant team records.
Most notably, Wilson now has 196 touchdown passes in his career, moving him past Dave Krieg for first place on the team's all-time list. That was also Wilson's 35th touchdown pass of the season, breaking his own single-season record. Wilson now has the top three single-season totals, throwing 34 touchdowns in both 2017 and 2015. Krieg is next on the list with 32 touchdowns in 1984.
And while Wilson had a modest overall stat line, completing 12 of 21 passes for 152 yards, one touchdown and one interception, he did make a huge play when Seattle needed it most, escaping pressure before hitting Lockett for a 37-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal.
Pregame photos from the Seattle Seahawks' regular-season finale against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field.
5. Pass protection was an issue.
It didn't help that the Seahawks came into the game with a new-look offensive line thanks to injuries, and Arizona does have a good pass rush, but one way or another, the Seahawks will have to protect Wilson better come playoff time.
With J.R. Sweezy out and with D.J. Fluker still working his way back from a hamstring injury, the Seahawks moved right tackle Germain Ifedi to right guard and put George Fant at right tackle, while Ethan Pocic played left guard in place of Sweezy.
And with some changes and against a formidable pass rush, it was a tough day of pass protection. Wilson was sacked six times, matching a season-high (both Week 1 and Week 2), with all of those coming on third down, many of them third-and-medium or long.
Fan photos from the Seattle Seahawks' regular-season finale against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field.