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Week 16 Game Recap: Arizona Cardinals 34, Seattle Seahawks 31


What you need to know

Arizona Cardinals

It was too little too late for the Cardinals, but Saturday’s win was in many ways a glimpse at what this team could have been this season. In the end the victory will push the Cardinals further up the draft order, the only positioning they are unfortunately playing for right now, but sticking it to a division rival at home and jeopardizing their post-season home field advantage was well worth the tradeoff.

Seattle Seahawks

It's almost as if two different teams played the first and second halves. In the first, the Seahawks offense looked terribly overmatched, giving up five sacks and sporting a rushing 'attack’ of 8 yards on 8 carries. To add insult to injury, the Cardinals stood up the Seahawks at the goal line on four straight plays, and followed it up with three more in the red zone. Out of those two promising situations, the Seahawks came away with a mere three points. The Seahawks suffered a big loss when they lost Tyler Lockett, who will be out for the season. Running back Thomas Rawls looked even worse - if that is possible - than he did last week, and was replaced with Alex Collins, who looked pretty good. Doug Baldwin shouldered most of the load one Lockett was gone; but the whole of the receiving corps really stepped up as well. Paul Richardson could emerge as the most likely replacement for Lockett. Russell Wilson did in fact lead the team to a comeback, but left too much time on the clock and the Cardinals had the last laugh with a late game winning field goal.

Arizona Cardinals

QB Carson Palmer, 60 offensive snaps, Pass: 16 - 26 - 284 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0
Despite a makeshift line and without one of his top targets for the 2016 season, Palmer played a spectacular game Saturday up in Seattle. It was a controlled effort from Palmer, only dropping back for 26 attempts, taking fewer shots downfield, and throwing with a pinpoint accuracy that ensured he would not turn the ball over. Palmer’s highlight of the day, an 80-yard bomb to J.J. Nelson came nearly immediately after Seattle Safety Kam Chancellor left the game with an injury, displaying the smarts and savviness he played with all afternoon. After a difficult season in which Palmer both clearly regressed and also ultimately was blamed for far more of the team’s woes than he was responsible for, he has played some of his best football of the year of late, proving that while the Cardinals need to find their eventual replacement, he is still a viable option going forward.

RB David Johnson, 59 offensive snaps, Rush: 28 - 95 - 3, Rec: 4 - 41 - 0 (7 targets)
It was a quiet afternoon for much of the game for Johnson. Despite his role as the team’s feature player, Johnson only managed 37-yards at half. With his streak of consecutive 100-scrimmage yard games in jeopardy, Johnson exploded in the 4th quarter, picking up over half of his scrimmage yards in the final period alone. Johnson also dominated short yardage conversions, picking up multiple first downs and scoring three touchdowns all within the 2-yard line. While his MVP campaign will likely fall short, Johnson showed why many consider him the league’s best offensive player, and doing so against a dominant defense.

WR Larry Fitzgerald, 56 offensive snaps, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rec: 4 - 31 - 0 (4 targets)
After a few weeks filled with questions about retirement, Fitzgerald’s contribution to Saturday’s win was rather minimal, but his excitement afterwards was anything but. Despite only four targets, Fitzgerald made the most of his limited use, catching all four balls, including an incredible, contested over-the-shoulder grab at the 1-yard line to set up a David Johnson touchdown, as well as the last reception of the afternoon leading to Catanzaro’s game winning field goal. Whether or not Fitzgerald returns for the 2017 season will likely remain a mystery well into the offseason, but Saturday’s win clearly gave Fitzgerald a much-needed sense of rejuvenation.

WR J.J. Nelson, 42 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 132 - 1 (7 targets)
Nelson was spectacular on Saturday, playing arguably the best game of his young career. It was not simply Nelson’s stat-line, as impressive as it was, but having done nearly half his damage against one of the league’s best cornerbacks in Richard Sherman. Sherman was not the victim of Nelson’s 80-yard touchdown bomb, but was beat both on a crucial first down catch early in the first quarter directly setting up David Johnson’s first score, as well as the 44-yard catch and run to the 1-yard line, setting up Johnson’s third and final touchdown of the day. While there were some clear bumps along the way, Nelson’s development has been one of the few bright spots and gives genuine hope the offense will be able to rebound in 2017.

WR John Brown, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (2 targets)
Brown was only targeted twice on Saturday, catching one pass. Brown’s lack of involvement appeared more a function of the offense’s game plan, minimizing downfield targets and taking advantage of J.J. Nelson’s speed, than his health issues, a hopefully encouraging sign moving forward.

TE Jermaine Gresham, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 40 - 0 (4 targets)
For the second time in last three weeks, Gresham’s solid play was overshadowed by a boneheaded, costly penalty. Unlike his tantrum in Miami, Gresham’s frustration was well warranted after a bad cheap shot by a Seattle defender, but his 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty pushed the Cardinals out of field goal range, forcing a punt instead. Gresham has become a vital cog in this offense, displaying a strong rapport with Palmer, but the penalties because of emotional outburst have become far too frequent and far too costly. Simply put, they need to stop.


Seattle Seahawks

QB Russell Wilson, 83 offensive snaps, Pass: 29 - 45 - 350 - 4 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 10 - 36 - 0
We know by now that we are getting either a very good Russell Wilson or a very, very bad version. In this game, we saw both. Considering that Wilson put together his finest fantasy score of the season, it's tough to explain just how awful his first half was. He was sacked five times and faced constant pressure. He and the Seahawks got stood up at the goal line - twice - over seven consecutive attempts. Playing from behind in the second half, and clearly making some much needed adjustments, his bag of tricks included several accurate deep passes - though on one, he lost one of his best weapons, Tyler Lockett, for the season. After the Lockett injury, he leaned heavily on Doug Baldwin, who caught nearly everything Wilson could throw at him, including a great pass with three defenders rushing him, which became a scoring play of 42 yards early in the fourth quarter. And although Baldwin was far and away the go to option, Wilson still mixed it up, with additional TD passes to Jermaine Kearse, Jimmy Graham, and Paul Richardson. He was able to make some excellent throws when he had time in the pocket, which he finally got later in the game. The biggest difference from first half to second, though, was the emergence of a running game. In the first half, the ground game fizzled entirely, whereas in the second, it was healthy enough that Wilson was able to bring back the read option play with much success, finishing as the team's leading rusher. Once he got that play working, everything else opened up for him. Ironically, he was too successful on the final drive: running out of bounds to stop the clock, and getting to the end zone too quickly to tie the game, gave the Cardinals enough time to kick one more field goal.

RB Alex Collins, 43 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 28 - 0, Rec: 4 - 19 - 0 (4 targets)
Collins is a bit of a wild card going forward. He subbed in after Thomas Rawls's dismal first half showing. And he looked fantastic. Collins showed excellent Speed, burst, and good hands on receptions, fighting for every inch. But it was a limited sample size and there is no guarantee that he will see the field that much next week. It all hinges on Rawls and whether or not he gets another crack at it after two terrible showings in a row.

RB Thomas Rawls, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 8 - 0 (1 targets)
Rawls had a bad game. A Really, really, really bad one. He got caught again and again waiting for running lanes to develop, and rather than run north-south for at least a short gain, he tried to follow blocks that weren't really there for him, which resulted in a 1 YPC average. On one hand, the Cardinals defense was awesome in the first half; but on the other, this was the second game in a row that Rawls flirted with the one yard per carry average. He was replaced in the second half by Alex Collins, who had much success.

WR Doug Baldwin, 77 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 6 - 0, Rec: 13 - 171 - 1 (19 targets)
Baldwin was money today. He started out humbly, with a number of short receptions, but he just kept going - becoming an even bigger focus of the offense after the Tyler Lockett injury. It took a while, but eventually the short gains gave way to a few big plays, and though nothing came easy, especially in the first half, Baldwin was able to gain big separation on one long catch near the end of the half. As it turned out, that would be a sign of things to come, as he was leaned on heavily as the Seahawks played catch up. His hard work and consistency paid off finally with an almost ordinary looking short catch over the middle that he was able to turn into a 42 yard TD. It was a perfect storm of sorts: Baldwin's discipline and skill on the field met with opportunity and turned into a huge day.

WR Jermaine Kearse, 66 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 37 - 1 (9 targets)
Kearse shone on his acrobatic TD play, as he stretched for the ball in the back of the end zone. It was slightly reminiscent of the big plays he's made for the Seahawks in the past. This year, however, has been a write off. Next week, with Tyler Lockett out of the lineup, Kearse will have an opportunity to produce a little more, but the most likely scenario is the he makes a couple of short catches while ceding playing time to Paul Richardson.

WR Paul Richardson, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 42 - 1 (5 targets)
Richardson, who had been dealing with an injury, and who played no more than a dozen snaps over the last two games, suddenly saw more action after Tyler Lockett left the game. He made a couple of good short catches, and showed good quickness running after the catch - a good sign that his hamstring is not an issue. The yardage total wasn't huge, but Richardson nearly won the game for Seattle in the final minute. He first made a big red zone catch to convert on 3rd and long; then, on the very next play got wide open in the end zone for the score.

WR Tyler Lockett, 26 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 38 - 0 (3 targets)
Lockett, of course, is out for the rest of the season. Before the injury, he was building on his long awaited week 15 breakout. He was heavily involved early on, and in fact the only Seahawks receiver with a catch for most of the opening quarter. And twice he came close to scoring. First, he nearly made a spectacular one handed catch heading into the end zone, but couldn't hang on in tight coverage. And on the play that he got hurt, he did make a brilliant one-handed 28 yard catch, but was brought down just shy of the goal line.

TE Jimmy Graham, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 43 - 1 (3 targets)
Except for a couple of low percentage opportunities early on, Graham was called on to block rather than run routes all day. That happens when your quarterback is sacked five times before the first half is done. But just when he'd become the forgotten man, Graham made a huge play as he found an opening over the middle, late in the game. He outran the close proximity linebackers, and the defensive back tried but couldn't take him down as he found the end zone.