The Josh Rosen era has begun in the valley. The Arizona Cardinals welcomed the Seattle Seahawks for Rosen’s first career NFL start. It was an exciting finish at State Farm Stadium on Sunday with the result in doubt until the final seconds. Both teams struggled to pull away and control the game. Ultimately it was a parade of unforced errors and mistakes which clipped the Cardinals on Sunday.
We Have a David Johnson Sighting
Coming into Sunday’s game the Arizona offense had struggled finding ways to get running back David Johnson the football. Johnson is the Cardinals’ most explosive offensive weapon but entered week four with just 44 touches. On Sunday Johnson touched the football 25 times, a little more than half his season total. On the Cardinals’ first drive of the game, Johnson either carried the football or was targeted on four of five plays.
Johnson ran the ball three more times on the next Arizona drive. Johnson scored just his second rushing touchdown of the season with just two minutes remaining in the first half. It was a one yard run initially ruled short, but a video review confirmed Johnson broke the plane. The half was highlighted by a 21 yard scamper in the second quarter. Johnson began to the left but cut the play back to the right. He got the edge against Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin and got to the second level. It was excellent vision on Johnson’s part and he showed the shake and acceleration needed to make the change of direction.
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Johnson finished the first half with 11 rushes for 66 yards. It was an impressive first half performance and one much-needed. The second half however was a different story. Johnson carried the ball 11 times in the second half but the Seattle defense focused on the running back. Four of the first five carries in the second half went for negative yards.
The biggest issue with the ground game in the second half was the lack of push up front. Seattle keyed on the run and forced plays to the outside. The defense then came down hard on the outside with the secondary. Arizona’s blocking upfront failed to keep Seattle defenders from breaking through the line and making plays in the backfield. On most of Johnson’s carries in the second half he was forced to make a defender miss right after receiving the hand-off.
Dominant Seahawks Offensive Line
Seattle’s offensive line woes are well documented. However, the Seahawks ground game ate up the Arizona defense on Sunday. Running back Mike Davis ran for 101 yards on 21 carries. Davis also added a pair of rushing touchdowns. The Cardinals defense struggled to get penetration against the Seattle offensive line for most of the game.
Davis and rookie running back Rashaad Penny combined for 150 yards on 30 carries. Seattle’s offensive line routinely pushed moved around the defensive line. The Seattle offensive line found little resistance in opening up gaping holes in the ground game. The lack of push inside was compounded by the missed tackles by Arizona defenders. On more than a few occasions a free Cardinals defender missed either Penny or Davis with a chance at stopping a play for no gain or a loss. Each time they failed to bring down the Seattle runner, typically resulting in large gains.
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The Cardinals pass rush struggled on Sunday. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson entered the game having been sacked 14 times through three weeks. Arizona brought Wilson down twice, both coming in the first half. Linebacker Haason Reddick blitz off the right guard and practically jumped over a blocker to smother Wilson. Later in the second quarter defensive end Chandler Jones bull rushed Seattle left tackle Duane Brown and brought down Wilson. During the second half the pass rush kept Wilson far from comfortable but failed to wrap up the slippery quarterback.
Missed tackles kept Seattle drives alive. The Seahawks controlled the football in the third quarter. Seattle got the football with just over 12 minutes remaining and went for a seven minute field goal drive. In total the Arizona defense was on the field for just over two-thirds of the third quarters. A dominant Seattle ground game took over the second half and was the undoing of the Arizona defense.
Mistakes Cost the Game
Arizona wasted a solid showing from both David Johnson and Josh Rosen. The rookie quarterback was near flawless in his starting debut and seemed to light a fire in the Cardinals offense. Rosen make big throws in the game and showed tremendous poise and a willingness to stand tall and deliver the football. Timely drops by Arizona receivers slowed down the offense at critical junctures. Ultimately the rookie finished with 180 yards passing, completing 15 of 27 passes and a touchdown. However, if the Cardinals receivers were a bit sure-handed, it might have been a bigger statistical night for Rosen and the offense.
Arizona has only itself to blame for their fourth loss of the 2018 season. Between the dropped passes, missed tackles, and a pair of Phil Dawson misses, the Cardinals left points on the field and gave a struggling Seahawks team the chance to get the victory. The 2018 season looked promising as many saw the Cardinals as a team who could defy low expectations. However, an inability to get out of their own way have grounded the Cardinals and leave them as the league’s lone winless team.