Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Condotta breaks down Sunday’s game in Glendale, Ariz.
Running on empty?
In what was their second full game last week without either Marshawn Lynch or Thomas Rawls, the Seahawks were held to 60 yards last week by the St. Louis Rams —- their fewest yards in their past 38 games. The Seahawks again will be without Lynch, who will miss his seventh consecutive game because of an abdomen injury, and Rawls, out for the season because of a broken ankle. That means the bulk of the carries again will go to Christine Michael and Bryce Brown. Just as critical will be the play of an offensive line that struggled as much as it has all season against the Rams and likely will be without starting left tackle Russell Okung and will be without starting right guard J.R. Sweezy. Good news for the Seahawks is that Lynch is expected back Monday and be available for the postseason opener Jan. 9-10. But for Sunday, the Seahawks will have to find a way to beat Arizona without him.
The Seahawks know one thing will happen when they face Arizona — lots of blitzes from the Cardinals. Arizona leads the NFL in bringing pressure, doing so 49.8 percent of the time according to Pro Football Focus. Arizona used some of those packages to great effect last weekend against Green Bay, sacking Aaron Rodgers eight times and the Packers nine times overall. Seattle has had success beating Arizona’s blitz for big plays in previous years, such as an 80-yard TD pass from Russell Wilson to Luke Willson that kickstarted the Seahawks’ 35-6 win in Glendale, Ariz., last season. But the likely absence of both Okung and Sweezy won’t make things easy. Rookie Mark Glowinski seems likely to get his first career start in place of Sweezy and could have some tough matchups going against veteran tackle Calais Campbell, who was named to the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive season.
No rest for the defense
Arizona scored 39 points in the first meeting, the most the Seahawks have allowed since the 2010 season. They allowed 451 total yards and 334 passing yards to Carson Palmer, both totals the most they had given up in years until Pittsburgh topped them a couple weeks later. Since allowing 538 yards to the Steelers, though, the Seattle defense has looked like its old self, giving up just two offensive touchdowns and a total of 864 yards in the past four games, an average of 216. But that has come against quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Clausen, Johnny Manziel and Case Keenum. Sunday will offer another chance at Palmer, who has thrown for 34 touchdowns, third in the NFL, and a chance for the Seahawks to show their recent defensive surge is due to more than playing untested or young QBs and lackluster passing offenses. Coach Pete Carroll said this week the Seahawks were surprised by how well Palmer was able to evade the rush in the first meeting and said getting him down will be a key this time.