Here’s one trend the Seahawks hope continues as they head into a key NFC West clash Thursday night against Arizona — Russell Wilson has never lost three straight games.
The Wilson-era Seahawks have lost two in a row eight times previously before the current streak but the streak has always stopped there, including last year, when Seattle lost the last two of the regular season, then won at Philadelphia in a wild-card playoff game.
Here’s one they hope ends — Arizona has won four of the last five games against the Seahawks in Seattle, including 27-13 last December. That was a streak Seattle countered by going 6-0-1 in Arizona from 2013-19.
But that streak ended last month with Arizona’s 37-34 overtime win over the Seahawks.
Now, Seattle hopes to return the favor and regain control of the NFC West in the process.
Let’s take a look at some of the keys to Thursday’s game.
Matchup to watch
DK Metcalf vs. Patrick Peterson
Metcalf remains fourth in the NFL in receiving yards per game at 90.7 and tied for fourth in touchdowns with eight. But he’s been held to two catches in two of his last four games when matched up against an elite corner — Los Angeles’ Jalen Ramsey last Sunday and Peterson in the first game with Arizona. Metcalf had two catches on five targets for a season-low 23 yards in that game, with NFL Next Gen stats detailing that he was covered on 42 of 49 routes by Peterson, getting just one catch for six yards on four targets, with Peterson also snaring one interception.
Expect Peterson to again shadow Metcalf. Last time, Tyler Lockett took advantage to make 15 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns. But in ominous news, Lockett is dealing with a bruised knee and officially listed as questionable, but Pete Carroll said Wednesday after practice he expects him to play.
Player to watch
QB Russell Wilson
Once again, let’s not overthink this one and search for some other player to watch other than the one who will draw the most eyes, Wilson. The Rams game was Wilson’s worst of the season and one of the worst of his career — consider it was one of just four times in the last 56 regular season games that he did not throw a touchdown. Wilson rarely stays down long, though. In the eight games in the regular season following two straight losses, Wilson has a 14-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Seattle winning by an average of 10.7 points.
One big key? Handling pressure better. Wilson has been sacked 11 times the past two weeks with the Rams bringing pressure on 34.9% of dropbacks last week, via NFL Next Gen stats. Arizona blitzes 41.7% of the time, third-highest in the NFL. So Wilson in coordination with the line is going to have smooth out things some against blitzes.
Coaching decision to watch
Will Seahawks really try to balance things out offensively?
One thing that might help also Wilson is getting a little more help from the running game, which might be more doable now that Carlos Hyde is back, and maybe Chris Carson, though he was listed as questionable. Carroll said this week he’d like to get the Seahawks back to being a little more balanced. Seattle is throwing it on 62.87% of plays and the last two weeks has a 78-39 pass-run ratio. Being behind is obviously a big part of that. Still, a team that just two years ago passed on just 47.56% of plays has thrown it on more than half of plays in all but one game this year (30/28 run-pass ratio against New England). Seattle passed on 50 of 80 plays in the first game against the Cardinals. Carroll may want to try to even that out in hopes of keeping Arizona’s offense on the field a bit.
Defending Kyler Murray
Figuring out how to defend Murray is increasingly tricky. Murray is emerging as the best running QB in the league — he has 604 yards rushing on 87 carries with 10 touchdowns, and according to Pro Football Focus, he has 388 yards before contact, indicating he’s making smart decisions about when to take off into open space. Murray has been sacked just 13 times this year after being sacked a league-high 48 last year, also illustrating Murray’s increased pocket awareness. Seattle did not get a sack nor even a quarterback hit on Murray in the first game.
The Seahawks brought pressure fairly regularly early in the first meeting but backed off as the game wore on, and Carroll said later “there’s things that we’ll do a little bit differently next time we play them’’ seeming to hint that Seattle won’t back off on pressure this time.
One player who could really factor into that is safety Jamal Adams, who did not play in the first game but could be used this time as an edge rusher even more than he has been. Seattle also used Shaquem Griffin as an edge rusher often in the first game as he got 40 snaps. Griffin has not played a defensive snap in the three games since.
Player who could surprise
With Peterson likely sticking to Metcalf, and Lockett ailing if expected to play, Wilson might have to look more to Moore, who played a season-high 61% of the snaps last week against the Rams. Moore already has more yards receiving (332) than he had last season, and with 22 receptions is just off his high of 26 in 2018. Wilson has a 152.6 passer rating when targeting Moore, the best on the team, with Moore averaging 11.4 yards per target, also the best on the team (Metcalf is second at 11.3).
That’s the success rate of Seattle’s opponents on third down, a rate of 49.17% that is the third-highest in the NFL. Seattle last year allowed just 39.52%. The Rams hit on 9 of 15 last week, and eight of the first 10 in building a 23-13 lead. And Seattle has been consistently bad stopping third downs, having allowed at least 41.7% of third downs to be converted in every game — 17 teams are allowing a lower percentage for the season. Like almost every stat about Seattle’s defense, that can’t continue.
The final word
Seahawks 31, Cardinals 27
This isn’t quite a make-or-break game for the Seahawks with the soft schedule that lies ahead. But for the first time this year, it feels like a game Seattle had better really win, which is why I think they will. The injuries are concerning, to be sure, and the Cardinals are surging with Murray playing at a really high level. But it’s hard to imagine Wilson continuing to struggle the way he has the last few weeks.