Seattle’s ‘Beasty Boys’ are back
GLENDALE, Ariz. — No one has repeated as Super Bowl champions in 10 seasons, but that may be about to change. Seattle was about as good as a team can be in its 35-6 leveling of the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night, when it took peaking at the right time to Space Needle levels.
The Cardinals were a wounded group, forced to face the league’s No. 1 defense with an offense led by the next man after the next man up, third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley, who was going to have some trouble regardless.
Still, the Seahawks were something to marvel at while moving within a final victory, at home against St. Louis on Sunday, of claiming the No. 1 seed throughout the NFC playoffs. By beating the Cardinals for the second time this season, Seattle (11-4) owns all the tiebreakers going forward.
Marshawn Lynch offered the most awe-inspiring play, among many, on his Beast Mode II 79-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, when he ran over one defender, through several others and finished with a backward lead into the end zone as he grabbed his crotch. It was a run reminiscent of the nine-broken-tackles, 69-yard run to eliminate defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans from the 2011 playoffs.
"I haven’t seen that since Dominique Dawes," Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said of Lynch’s landing.
"He’s really just showing the world that he is a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, continue to say bad, man," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said.
Lynch carried the ball only 10 times after missing the first quarter with an upset stomach, although he gained 113 yards. But the day belonged to Russell Wilson, who led the Seahawks to a franchise-record 596 yards in total offense.
The only player in NFL history with 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in one game, Wilson almost did it again. He completed 20 of 31 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 88 yards and a touchdown.
His perfectly placed 80-yard touchdown pass to tight end Luke Willson behind a suckered-in Cardinals secondary gave the Seahawks a 7-3 lead midway through the second quarter, and Lynch’s 6-yard touchdown run on the next series made it 14-3 at half.
After the Cardinals got within a field goal late in the third quarter, Wilson in short order hit Willson again for a score; then Lynch ran amok; and then Wilson scored on a 5-yard run to complete the 21-point fourth quarter.
"Russell was just ridiculous tonight," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "It’s as good as you can get."
It has that look. The Seahawks are winners of five straight games, mostly riding a defense that limited opponents to 33 points and 978 yards in that span.
It was unfair to expect Lindley, who was waived in preseason and re-signed only after No. 1 quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a season-ending knee injury Nov. 9, to have much impact. His lack of experience worked to the Seahawks’ advantage, Sherman said.
"I think to a degree, because it simplifies what they are able to do," Sherman said. "If you have a great defense and an intelligent defense like we do, you recognize formations. You recognize what they are trying to do, even if they switch formations. You recognize when (Larry) Fitzgerald is at the point and the bunch is to the boundary, they are going to run a big wheel to the field. So we know the plays."
Lindley completed only 18 of 44 passes for 214 yards in his first start since Dec. 23, 2012, his rookie season. Also crippled with the loss of No. 1 running back Andre Ellington, the Cardinals gained only 29 yards rushing on 15 carries. Part of it was playing from behind, but most of it was Seattle controlling the ball. The Seahawks had the ball for 33 minutes, three seconds.
"Well, that’s about as much fun as you can have playing NFL football in the regular season," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
"Thanks for asking," he said when asked about his career-long touchdown run.
Or about his stomach. Or if he is feeling better. Or what he saw on his long run.
Neither Carroll nor his players made a big deal of it, but their next game here could be the Super Bowl on Feb. 1. The stadium scoreboard showed a red "42" for the number of days until the game, and it brought back memories for safety Earl Thomas.
"It is the same thought process as last year when we played New York," Thomas said.
The Seahawks dominated the New York Giants, 23-0, on Dec. 15, 2013, before hammering Denver in the Super Bowl there 48 days later.
"I use my imagination," Thomas said. "Of course that is in my vision. I can see it."
He may not be the only one.