The Seattle Seahawks won the NFC – and deservedly so. But it’s fair to wonder what the Arizona Cardinals could have done had they not lost their top two quarterbacks for the season.
After starting 9-1, the Cardinals lost four of their final six games – and scored just 29 points in their two wins – to limp into the playoffs. They then lost at Carolina, 27-16, in the Wild Card round.
“It is difficult to swallow that,” Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Everybody doesn’t look at the fact that we were 11-3 at one point and had the best record in football and holding on by a string with all the injuries and the suspension that we were able to overcome. I think the silver lining in all of it is a lot of guys got an opportunity to play, and it’ll make us better for (our) team next year and hopefully (we’ll) go on a run. We know we’re in an extremely difficult division. Seattle is as good as anybody. They’ve proven that the past couple of years, building toward this. And the scariest team on the rise might be St. Louis with that defense they have and those guys who can get after you.”
The Cardinals didn’t face New England this year, but they of course played the Seahawks twice. Seattle won, 19-3, at home in Week 12 and 35-6 on the road in Week 16.
In their last eight games (including playoffs), the Seahawks are allowing an average of just under 10 points per game. That run has coincided with the return of Bobby Wagner, who missed some time due to a toe injury.
“I think when they got Bobby Wagner back, that defense kind of changed their identity a little bit in a sense,” Stanton said. “They have an unbelievable identity as it is with the guys they have, and it starts with great players. They can get after you with four guys and don’t have to bring that extra one. They do when they want to sometimes to make the ball get out. But also when you have a secondary like that – and really, Kam Chancellor being banged up early in the year, he’s kind of their emotional leader in some sense as well. When you get those guys back full strength, it allows you to play those coverages they play so well.”
Those coverages, by the way, aren’t anything magical. It’s straight-up man with Earl Thomas roaming the middle and everyone pursuing the ball – and the quarterback. And when the Seahawks do drop into a zone, those windows get awfully small.
“They’re not going to beat you with their scheme or anything like that,” Stanton said. “They’re not going to disguise you. They’re not going to try to have some game plan that nobody’s ever seen and a quarterback can’t tell what it is. They’re going to play exactly what they play, but they’re going to play it to a tee, be where they’re supposed to be and do it precisely.”