Kyler Murray is a hard man to get to. He’d only been sacked 13 times heading into Thursday night’s showdown against the Seahawks. He’s equally difficult to contain. Murray entered the matchup with at least 60 yards in seven different games, including each of the Cardinals last four contests. And yet, somehow Seattle did both during its 28-21 win over Arizona in Week 11. The Seahawks sacked Murray three times and limited him to just 15 rushing yards.
“I think the energy was there, the focus was there, the execution was there,” Bobby Wagner said after what was easily Seattle’s most complete defensive performance of the season. “I think, obviously, we understood this game was big.”
It was, indeed. With Thursday night’s victory, the Seahawks gained control of their own destiny in the NFC West, pulling a game ahead of Arizona in the standings and earning a season split against the Cardinals. That’s important as Seattle heads into the softest month of its schedule against the Eagles, Giants, Jets and Washington.
Wagner explained just how precise Seattle’s execution had to be in order to limit Arizona’s offense that had scored at least 30 points in its previous six games. The Seahawks had to bring pressure via blitzes. Failing to do so in their Week 7 loss to the Cardinals was a major part of Seattle’s undoing.
But blitzing against someone as athletic as Murray required absolute dedication to assignments. Murray would have capitalized on any freelancing. Seattle relentlessly collapsed the pocket and hit Murray seven times without allowing a crease for the Cardinals quarterback to escape.
“The big thing was that everybody had to stay in their gap,” Wagner said. “Nobody can pick and choose what gap they’re going to be in. They had to own their gap because he was a guy who was going to find it. We didn’t want to give him the opportunity to break outside and find those gaps, so I think we just played really sound defense. Everybody did their job. We executed the plays that the coaches were calling. I really felt like we just played fast.”
It is truly amazing the marked improvements that can take place merely by having 11 guys who simply do their job. Miscommunications and blown assignments plagued Seattle’s. defense for the majority of the team’s first nine games.
Beyond the impressive pass rush numbers, the Seahawks also limited Kenyan Drake to just 29 yards on 11 carries and DeAndre Hopkins to just 51 yards on five catches. L.J. Collier had a sack and also forced a hold in the end zone that resulted in a safety. Carlos Dunlap had 2.0 sacks, including a game-sealing takedown of Murray in the final minutes of the game.
Although there were still some miscues to clean up, like a busted coverage that allowed Murray to find a wide-open Chase Edmonds for a 3-yard touchdown, Thursday night was far and away the best we’ve seen the Seahawks defense this season.
The arrival of Dunlap and return of Jamal Adams certainly provided a boost. But Wagner indicated that there was an added intangible layer to Seattle’s success on Thursday night.
“A lot of it is pride,” Wagner said. “When you’re giving up the yards that we’ve been giving up, and the plays and things of that nature, at the end of the day, from a player’s standpoint, it comes down to pride. Do you have it, and do you have heart. I think that we showed that. I would like to say it’s a step in the right direction, but we need to be consistent with it. It’s good to do it one time, and we have to continue to do it.”
After a well-deserved weekend off, the Seahawks will begin preparations for a Week 12 road game against the Eagles. Philadelphia has a gruesome -7 turnover differential and figures to be a spot where Seattle can continue to build some much-needed momentum on defense.