Reeling Seahawks return home for important matchup with Cards
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has not been shy in continuing to add to his roster since taking over prior to last season.
After a tough start to this 2011 campaign, Carroll could have one of his biggest offseason additions in the mix for the first time if Sidney Rice can get on the field for the Seahawks' home opener against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks opened the season with numerous fresh faces in the starting offensive lineup, including quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, tight end Zach Miller, left guard Robert Gallery and rookie offensive linemen John Moffitt and James Carpenter.
Rice was thought to be one of the biggest additions, but a shoulder injury has held him out of Seattle's first two games, road losses to San Francisco and Pittsburgh. The 6-foot-4 wide receiver returned to practice this week, but his status for this game is still up in the air.
"He looks like he's ready to go," Carroll said on Wednesday. "His mentality is he's ready to go. He is not even thinking about anything but that. But we'll have to make a good decision on that when the time comes. We're day-to-day on this deal with him."
Jackson could certainly use Rice's help, as he has struggled since taking over under center for Seattle. The Seahawks have been outscored 57-17 to start the year and were shut out in Pittsburgh, 24-0, last weekend. It marked Seattle's first shutout loss since Oct. 7, 2007, also at the Steelers.
The Seahawks were outgained by a 421-164 difference in total yards in defeat and had just eight first downs to the Steelers' 23.
"I'm just in shock with the offense," said Jackson. "We just didn't play well at all. We couldn't get a rhythm."
Seattle is off to its first 0-2 start since a 4-12 campaign in 2008, but has won seven of its last eight home openers by a 182-50 margin.
While the Seahawks could have Rice, they will be without Gallery for at least a month due to a groin injury he suffered in Sunday's loss.
Arizona opened the season with a home victory over Carolina, but fell at Washington, 22-21, last weekend. It marked the Cardinals' eighth straight road setback, and they have not won as the guest since Sept. 12, 2010 at St. Louis.
Arizona will try to snap that skid on Sunday in its first division game of the season. After this weekend, the Cards won't play another NFC West opponent until Week 9.
In a game that featured four lead changes, the Cardinals went ahead by four points against Washington on Kevin Kolb's 73-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald, but the Redskins scored the next nine points, including Graham Gano's 34-yard field goal with 1:45 left that dealt Arizona the narrow loss.
"They have guys that can rush the passer and their defense is solid all the way through," Kolb said of the Redskins. "Offensively you can see what they can do once they get the running game going. They're a great team. I wish we would have gotten the win [Sunday], to show how good of a team we are, but hopefully we'll see them again."
Fitzgerald's touchdown catch was the 66th of his career, tying him with Roy Green for the most in club history.
The Cardinals lead the overall series with the Seahawks by a 13-11 margin, but Seattle took both meetings between the teams last season, following up a 22-10 home win in Week 7 with a 36-18 triumph at University of Phoenix Stadium on Nov. 14. Arizona recorded home-and-home sweeps of the Seahawks in each of the previous two years, which included victories at CenturyLink Field in both 2008 (26-20) and 2009 (27-3). Seattle has still prevailed in six of its last eight encounters with the Cardinals at home, however.
Carroll is 3-0 lifetime against the Cardinals, with the first win coming in 1999 while then at the helm of the New England Patriots. Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt owns a 5-3 record versus the Seahawks, but lost both of his two career head-to-head bouts with Carroll last season.
WHEN THE CARDINALS HAVE THE BALL
Kolb (560 passing yards, 4 TD, 1 INT) and Fitzgerald are showing the chemistry the Cardinals hoped the two would form when they acquired the quarterback from Philadelphia in the offseason. Kolb stood in to take a hit on Fitzgerald's 73- yard score and completed seven passes to the wideout for 133 yards. In addition to tying Green's touchdown record, Fitzgerald (10 receptions, 1 TD) needs just 99 receiving yards to surpass the former's franchise mark of 8,497. Kolb also completed a touchdown pass to tight end Jeff King (4 receptions), who can become the first Cardinal at the position since Rob Awalt in 1987 to post a touchdown catch in three straight games. King has been more of a factor in the passing game than Todd Heap (3 receptions), who made just one catch last week. No. 2 wideout Andre Roberts (5 receptions) was targeted seven times by Kolb, making three catches for 30 yards. Running back Beanie Wells (183 rushing yards, 2 TD) got 14 of Arizona's 15 handoffs against Washington and finished with 93 yards and a score.
With Seattle's offense struggling to stay on the field, the Steelers held the ball for almost 39 minutes on Sunday, leaving the Seahawks with some tired defenders. The unit was able to record a pair of sacks, getting one each from defensive end Chris Clemons (5 tackles, 1 sack) and safety Atari Bigby (2 tackles, 1 sack). However, after Pittsburgh turned the ball over seven times in Week 1, Seattle was unable to force a giveaway and has allowed 630 yards of offense through two weeks. Safety Kam Chancellor (19 tackles) led the club with nine tackles in the loss, while linebacker Matt McCoy (13 tackles) posted seven. Linebacker Aaron Curry (11 tackles), cornerback Marcus Trufant (8 tackles) and safety Earl Thomas (15 tackles) all ended with six stops. The Seahawks are still looking for their first turnover of the season, though Curry had a career-high two sacks and forced a fumble in his last game versus Arizona.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
While the debut of Rice will certainly help the struggling offense, it is the Seattle offensive line that will need to step up without Gallery. Paul McQuistan is slated to start in his place at left guard on a young front that has allowed Jackson (356 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) to be sacked 10 times already this season. Under pressure yet again, Jackson was able to complete 20 of his 29 pass attempts against Pittsburgh, but for just 159 yards. Seattle ended with 164 yards of offense, getting just 31 on the ground. Marshawn Lynch (44 rushing yards) led the club with six carries, but totaled a mere 11 yards for an average of 1.8 per attempt. Jackson did spread the ball out to 11 different receivers, with wideout Ben Obomanu (6 receptions) grabbing four passes for 35 yards. Rookie wide receiver Kris Durham (3 receptions) and running back Justin Forsett (6 receptions) added three each. Jackson did have a career game in his lone start versus the Cardinals, posting a personal-best four touchdown passes while with the Vikings in 2008.
Arizona's defense yielded 455 total yards versus the Redskins and nearly allowing a pair of 100-yard rushers. With the Cardinals playing without linebacker Daryl Washington (8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) because of a calf injury, the Redskins posted 172 yards on the ground. Washington is questionable to return this week, but fellow linebacker Paris Lenon (14 tackles) should play after missing some of last week's game with a groin injury. The Redskins also elected to pick on rookie corner Patrick Peterson (13 tackles), who had to make a team high-tying eight tackles, as did safety Kerry Rhodes (15 tackles, 2 sacks). Rhodes also came up with a sack, while safety Adrian Wilson (8 tackles) and corner Richard Marshall (6 tackles, 1 sack) posted interceptions. Linebackers Stewart Bradley (7 tackles) and Reggie Walker (9 tackles) made seven tackles each in the loss. Arizona's defense does have eight picks and 19 sacks in its last six games against Seattle, posting seven sacks in the two meetings last year.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Kolb needs to find Fitzgerald early and often. The wideout owns 88 career receptions versus the Seahawks, including a pair of games with 10-plus catches. He also has 1,158 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games against them, while posting three 100-yard games in the last six meetings.
Both Seattle and Arizona need to find their run games. Wells had a decent day last Sunday, but 87 of those yards came in the first half. More carries should be in line this week. It will be harder for the Seahawks to establish the run with their inexperienced line, but Jackson isn't good enough to beat a defense that is ready for his passes.
Seattle needs to keep the crowd into it for its home opener. Everyone who saw -- and those who felt -- Lynch's 67-yard touchdown run that literally shook the ground in last year's win over New Orleans in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs knows how much an impact the 12th man can have.
Division games are always important, but those goes double in the ultra-tight NFC West. Seattle has already let one of those games get away from it and will need to rebound against an Arizona club fresh off a pair of close contests. While the Cardinals could easily be 2-0, the Seahawks have yet to look competitive in their games, and even the presence of Rice might not be enough to save an offense that is still trying to gel together. Expect the more balanced Cards to put the Seahawks in a big early-season hole.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cardinals 17, Seahawks 10