Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks aren’t desperate in must-win against Arizona Cardinals — but it’s close

They already have more losses in 10 games than they had all last season. Their defense of their Super Bowl championship is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs.

They are three games out of first place in the NFC West with six games left in the regular season. And now they have the division-leading Arizona Cardinals coming in with the NFL’s best record at 9-1.

Are these Seahawks not only dialed in, but even desperate?

“I don’t feel desperate. It’s another championship opportunity for us,” All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said.

Sherman said desperate was “when I had negative-38 dollars in my account and I needed a ride home.”

“That was college,” he said of the “good ol’ days” of his senior year at Stanford.

Sherman and Seattle’s secondary — in fact, his entire defense — is as healthy as it’s been all season. Byron Maxwell is back from a calf injury to start opposite Sherman at cornerback. Strong safety Kam Chancellor is what the Seahawks hoped he’d be when they sat him for consecutive games for the first time in his five-year career earlier this month. His groin injury is better. And he’s better able to play through the bone spurs in his ankles for Seattle’s six-game push toward the postseason.

“Yeah, he’s at the best that’s he’s been. He’s quick, he’s determined. He’s really on it,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Chancellor. “He didn’t miss a snap (last week in his return at Kansas City).

“This is the best week of preparation coming off a game that he’s had, so that’s a really good sign.”

So is Bobby Wagner being back at middle linebacker for the first time in six games, since he broke a bone and tore a ligament in his foot. That will allow his recent fill-in K.J. Wright to move to his normal outside linebacker spot.

Jeremy Lane is a week healthier since his return two games ago from a groin injury that cost him eight games. With Arizona often in three-, four- and even five-wide receiver formations, Lane is likely to be on the field for much of Sunday’s game as the “nickel,” fifth defensive back.

The Cardinals like to throw deep, even with fill-in starter Drew Stanton instead of injured Carson Palmer at quarterback. Stanton is making his fifth start this season, one more than he had in the first seven years of his career. He hadn’t started a game in four years, until Palmer’s shoulder injury earlier this season; a knee injury later ended Palmer’s season.

Arizona has won six straight and beaten St. Louis and San Diego, which both have beaten Seattle. The Cardinals are 3-1 with Stanton; his only loss was in Week 4 at Denver.

“People tried to write us off when Carson was out and we had a lot of question marks. People wanted to sit here and doubt us,” said Stanton, the former Lions and Colts backup. “We’ve done a god job of blocking that out. And I think we need to continue to do so. I think that the leadership that we have and really everybody on this team by themselves go about it in that way.”

Sherman, the Seahawks’ secondary and their mostly quiet pass rush have been waiting all season for a quarterback that holds the ball longer and receivers that challenge them down the field.

“I know this team does, that’s for sure. And knowing that, we’d rather have that matchup then some of the guys we’ve played outside,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said of getting that with Stanton on Sunday. “So it’s going to be a heck of a game. And knowing that, the fact that they’re going to take shots down the field, we’re going to contest them.

“It’s going to be awesome environment, one we’re ready for and looking forward to.”

They are ready. Seattle’s defense has 10 of its 11 starters relatively healthy and available for the Cardinals game. That’s the most it’s had since the fifth game of the season, Oct. 12 against Dallas.

The Cardinals will be sending blazing-fast rookie John Brown deep. Brown, from tiny Pittsburg State, leads Arizona with five touchdown catches, including a 75-yarder. And with leading receiver Larry Fitzgerald (46 catches) questionable to be running routes underneath Brown’s deep runs — Fitzgerald missed practice all week with a sprained medial collateral ligament — Brown will be even more prominent in Seattle.

“I think the speed (is big), and he’s a factor inside because they can go to the three- and four-wide-receiver sets; that’s been a staple for Coach (Bruce) Arians in that system for a long time,” Quinn said. “Instead of playing three receivers on third down, there’s four and five at times. So really, it’s the speed and the plays that he can make down the field. That’s probably the biggest thing that jumps out.

“He’s made some terrific catches for them and big plays too at the end of the games. Certainly somebody that we’ve been impressed with by watching.”

On offense, it appears to be a grudge match between Marshawn Lynch and Seattle’s top-ranked rushing offense (174 yards per game) and an Arizona rush defense third in the NFL, allowing 80.5 yards per game. The Seahawks will again send Lynch, who didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday for the third consecutive week to rest his sore back, at Arizona early. But this one could come down to how many plays Russell Wilson can make in the Seahawks’ passing game, which has only passed for more than 200 yards in two of their 10 games this season.

“I think we’re doing a tremendous job of running the football. Marshawn has had an unbelievable year, so we’re trying to give him the football,” Wilson said. “In terms of our passing game, we’ve capitalized at good points when we needed to and sometimes we haven’t and I think the times we haven’t, it’s really more on me.

“So that’s something that I believe I will fix and that’s something that will happen for us this week and in weeks to come … because we run the ball so effectively — I’m running it, Marshawn’s running it and all that — there’s no excuse for that hindrance of the passing game.

“It’s on me. And we have to get better.”

Pronto, if the Seahawks want to truly avoid feeling desperate.

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