Richard Martin

The Blueprint For Winning In Seattle

Created on Dec. 23, 2013 4:23 PM EST

And, that, my friends, is how you beat the Seahawks in Seattle. The tape of the Arizona game is likely to be pored over as frantically by NFL scouts as conspiracy buffs checked out the Zapruder film.

What’s amazing is that the visitors violated some of the Cardinal rules to do what hadn’t been done in two years and still won.

So here, without further fanfare, is what you must do to win in Seattle:

Your defense must play lights out.  

This eliminates most teams right away. Shutdown defenses are a thing of the past. Well, in the NFC West if nowhere else, great defense is still practiced. Most defenses stress getting turnovers. That’s fine is you get them, but you could end up like the Bears and Cowboys defenses. Arizona caused two turnovers, but mostly their defense stopped the run and gave Russell Wilson fits. They sacked him four times and blanketed receivers. It was a dominating defensive performance.

You have to keep Wilson in the pocket.

He’ll kill you if you gets outside and runs. He had only one big run Sunday.

You have to play great red zone defense.

Sure, give up a field goal now and then, but don’t give up six. The Cardinals had one great goal line stand at the end of the first half when the ‘Hawks had a first and goal inside the five. They stuffed them, and then Steven Hauschka missed the field goal. That was a crucial sequence in the game.

You have to run the ball effectively.

The Seahawks blow teams out by getting a lead, forcing them to pass and causing turnovers. Their rush and coverage are so good that you have no chance. Once you’re passing on every down, it’s goodnight Irene.

Andre Ellington, a shifty runner, and power man Rashard Mendenhall had decent games. Nothing earth-shattering, but the Cardinals rushed for about 120 yards. The way their defense was playing, it was good enough.

You can’t give the ball up.

Here the Cardinals got away with one. Carson Palmer threw four interceptions, some of them on bad decision making, some from the heavy rush. The Cardinals left some points on the field.

You must plan for the blitz, account for everyone, and call plays to deal with it.

You can’t target Richard Sherman.

Here again the Cardinals broke the rule. Sherman picked off two passes, continuing a season of making opposing quarterbacks miserable.

Mind you, the Seahawks are a good cover team, but you have to leave Sherman alone. He’s a beast. He’s feared as much as another Sherman was in the Civil War, and rightly so. Palmer had one great drive. On the touchdown that put them ahead for good, he found Michael Floyd. Byron Maxwell had very good coverage, but Floyd made a great play.

So that’s how to do it. I still consider the Seahawks the NFC team with the best shot to get to the Super Bowl. But now they’re clearly not invincible.

Which teams have the best chances of winning in Seattle? (That’s assuming they get home field. I have to believe they’ll beat the Rams and be at home the entire playoffs.)

Here are the teams with the best chance:

San Francisco – The 49ers’ defense is as good as Arizona’s. They can fulfill all the requirements. They can win low-scoring games. They can run the ball. They can play it close to the vest. They don’t just heave it up there. Colin Kaepernick has to play well – better, you’d think, than Palmer did Sunday – but the 49ers could pull it off.

Carolina – This is another team that has a balanced attack and strong defense. Cam Newton’s running might cause the Seahawks trouble. The Panthers have a strong rush and could harry Wilson. They don’t make many mistakes.

Yes, it’s a short list. Saints? No way. They can’t run the ball well enough and their defense is decent but not great. Eagles? Their defense isn’t good enough. Cowboys? Forget it. This might be the worst defense in the league, and it would be a repeat of the New Orleans game or maybe worse. Least of all, the NFC North winner. (All four teams in the division lost Sunday, and the team that might win the division, the Bears, were destroyed by the Eagles.) There could be a 49-3 game with one of those teams in Seattle.

Oh, but let me add one more team to the list:

Arizona – It will be tough for them to even get in. But it could happen, and if they can win on the road in Seattle and next week in San Francisco, who could count them out? They did it once. That defense is as good as anyone’s. If they could get some more turnovers and if Palmer could play smarter, this team could do some damage.

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