Another grinding on ground awaits Seahawks

Cardinals bring the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense Sunday while locked in a fight for their playoff lives

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comDecember 18, 2013 

RENTON — For the second time this season, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch had more receiving yards than running yards Sunday in the Seahawks’ 23-0 win at New York.

Lynch had a season-high six catches for 73 yards against the Giants, while rushing 16 times for 47 yards.

That average of 2.9 yards per carry marked the second time in three games that Lynch has been held under a 3-yard average.

Things don’t figure to get any easier Sunday, when the Seahawks get a visit from the Arizona Cardinals, whose defense allows an NFL-low 83.2 rushing yards per game.

Seattle’s offense ranks second with an average of 141 rushing yards a game, but the Seahawks have been below that average for four straight games.

“I think we’re OK,” coach Pete Carroll said this week. “We’re still going to pound away at it and keep working, keep getting our numbers and our attempts up there. It’s a matter of breaking one. It makes a difference in those stats sometimes.

“Our attitude about it is right. We’re on it and we’re consistent with it, so I’m fine about it. We’d like to get more production, and I would think it will happen. We’re going against the best run defense in the NFL in this game, so that’s going to be a great match for us.”

The stakes are high, as a victory would give Seattle (12-2) the NFC West title, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals (9-5) are one game behind San Francisco and Carolina, and playing for their playoff lives.

Ground yards could come grudgingly on both sides, as the Seahawks’ run defense is 10th in the league.

Seattle has allowed an average of 85.6 ground yards a game since the Rams and Buccaneers ran for 200 or more yards in back-to-back games that closed October and opened November.

On Sunday, the Seahawks limited the Giants to 25 yards on 14 carries, an average of 1.8 yards per attempt.

“Our tackling is the best it’s been,” Carroll said. “Team pursuit is the most consistent. … The overall attitude about playing fundamental football is really what’s improved. We took it up a notch; we challenged the players; the players challenged each other; and they took after it to play really hard-nosed football. And it showed up.”

Meanwhile, quarterback Russell Wilson indicated that Lynch emerged as a receiving target last weekend mostly because that’s what the Giants’ defense was dictating.

“The throws to Marshawn were more (from) trusting what I see; going through my reads, and he’s open,” Wilson said Sunday after the victory. “Throw it to the open guy. … Marshawn Lynch did a tremendous job today. That’s one of our goals — Marshawn’s and my goals — to be one of the best quarterback-running back tandems in terms of throwing the football, in terms of running the football, too.”

The only previous time this season when Lynch had more receiving yards than rushing yards came Oct. 13 against Tennessee, when he rushed 21 times for 77 yards while catching four passes for 78 yards.

SEAHAWKS’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK

Arizona Cardinals (9-5)

1:05 p.m. Sunday, CenturyLink Field

Against the Seahawks: This is the 30th regular-season meeting between the teams. The Cardinals lead the series 15-14. The last time the teams met, the Seahawks won, 34-22, in Glendale, Ariz., on Oct. 17.

Stats and stuff: The Cardinals are the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense, allowing just 83.2 yards a game. … The Seahawks ran for 135 yards in the first meeting this season between the teams. … If the Cardinals go 11-5 and miss the playoffs, they will be the third team in NFL history to do so. The others are the 1985 Denver Broncos and the 2008 New England Patriots. … Quarterback Carson Palmer has nine touchdowns and two interceptions over his past five games. … As good as they are against the rush, the Cardinals aren’t very good at running the ball. They are 25th in the league. … RB Rashard Mendenhall leads the Cardinals with 577 rushing yards. That’s just ahead of Russell Wilson’s 508. … Change-of-pace back Andre Ellington is averaging 5.9 yards a carry, almost double Mendenhall’s 3.1. … Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald might not play because of a concussion suffered in Sunday’s win over Tennessee. … Fitzgerald is 177 yards short of his seventh 1,000-yard receiving season. … Fitzgerald has been in the league 10 seasons. … Linebacker Karlos Dansby leads the Cardinals with 111 tackles. … Safety Rashad Johnson has a high-ankle sprain and might not be able to play this week. If Johnson is out, that means the Cardinals will have rookie Tony Jefferson and inexperienced Curtis Taylor at safety. Taylor has made seven career tackles, all coming in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Quotable: “It’ll be really weird. It’ll be the first time for me. I’m used to winning the division at 11-5.” – Arizona coach Bruce Arians on the possibility of going 11-5 and missing the playoffs

CARDINALS SCHEDULE

Sept. 8at St. LouisL, 27-24

Sept. 15vs. DetroitW, 25-21

Sept. 22at New OrleansL, 31-7

Sept. 29at Tampa BayW, 13-10

Oct. 6at CarolinaW, 22-6

Oct. 13at San FranciscoL, 32-20

Oct. 17vs. SeattleL, 34-22

Oct. 27vs. AtlantaW, 27-13

Nov. 10vs. HoustonW, 27-24

Nov. 17at JacksonvilleW, 27-14

Nov. 24vs. IndianapolisW, 40-11

Dec. 1at PhiladelphiaL, 24-21

Dec. 8at St. LouisW, 30-10

Dec. 15at TennesseeW, 37-34 (OT)

Sundayat Seattle

Dec. 29vs. San Francisco

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks todd.dybas@thenewstribune.com

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