Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Condotta hands out grades from the Seahawks’ 36-6 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Conventional NFL wisdom said maybe the Seahawks should play it safe and get their starters out of the game Sunday at Arizona as quickly as they could.
Coach Pete Carroll, though, insisted all week that his only real goal was to get a victory.
Ultimately, the Seahawks got the best of both worlds with a stunning 36-6 triumph over the Cardinals in which the starters were pretty much out of the game by the start of the fourth quarter.
“I think we’re finding our rhythm,’’ cornerback Richard Sherman said. “I think we’re playing exactly how we want to. Doing exactly the kinds of things that we want to do.’’
It was hard to argue after a performance that earned high grades all the way around:
You hardly would have known the Seahawks played without their two most experienced offensive linemen (J.R. Sweezy and Russell Okung), top two running backs (Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls) and top two tight ends (Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson).
The Seahawks scored on their first five possessions, and then after missing a field-goal attempt, scored on two more. They punted for the first time with 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
The tone was set from the start, with the Seahawks driving 88 yards the first time they had the ball and 80 the third time. They gained 244 yards in the first half in taking a 30-6 lead.
The Seahawks again flourished with their quick passing game, picking a few well-timed spots to go deep. Russell Wilson turned in another sterling passer rating (123.7) and improved his season rating to a franchise-record 110.1.
Despite the absence of Okung and Sweezy, the Seahawks were much better in protection, with Wilson hit just five times after being hit a combined 24 times the previous two weeks.
Rookie Mark Glowinski showed lots of promise in his first start at right guard, and Alvin Bailey was much improved this week at left tackle.
Chase Coffman was a revelation at tight end, with four catches and a touchdown in his first game with the team.
And the revival of Christine Michael took another step as he shook off the tepid performance a week ago against the Rams to turn in the first 100-yard game of his career. He had 102 yards on 17 carries, and the Seahawks had a more normal looking 145 rushing yards.
The defense allowed one touchdown drive but otherwise had its way with the Cardinals. It was a stunning turnaround from the 39 points allowed to Arizona on Nov. 15 — the most the Seahawks had given up since 2010.
The theory in Arizona was that Carson Palmer finally had just played a bad game in going 12 of 25 for 129 yards and an interception (a passer rating of just 60.2).
But the Seahawks had a lot to do with it, hitting the Arizona quarterbacks nine times and getting their hands on 10 Cardinals passes.
The pass-defense numbers included three interceptions — Jeremy Lane, Earl Thomas and DeShawn Shead — as well as Sherman batting down two passes in coverage and end Cliff Avril two more at the line.
And Arizona’s running game went nowhere, just 27 yards on 13 carries with a long of 5 — the fewest rushing yards allowed by the Seahawks this season.
Seattle finished allowing just 81.6 rushing yards a game, the best in the NFL and just off the team record of last season. (Seattle gave up 1,306 rushing yards this season compared with 1,304 a year ago.)
Lane began the game as the starting left cornerback with Shead coming in as the nickel cornerback. But Lane suffered an oblique injury, and that had Marcus Burley coming in at the nickel.
Tyler Lockett had four punt returns for 139 yards in the first half, and that didn’t include a 22-yard return negated by a penalty.
In maybe the only negative of the day, Steven Hauschka missed an extra-point and a field-goal attempt. But he also hit two 52-yarders, the second time this season he made two or more that were 50-plus yards (a first in team history).