Tarvaris Jackson is no Matt Hasselbeck. The Seahawks have ample offensive weapons now that Sidney Rice is back from a shoulder injury. Jackson's ability to make use of those weapons will determine whether the Seahawks outperform almost universally low outside expectations for them. Seattle is keeping things conservative from a scheming standpoint. Jackson obviously trusts Rice more than his other receivers, notably Mike Williams, after playing with Rice in Minnesota. Watching this game and then watching Hasselbeck play for Tennessee, I kept thinking the Seahawks would have won this game by double digits had their former quarterback been behind center. Then again, Jackson has weathered the physical punishment better than I suspect Hasselbeck would have. In addition to surviving teeth-chattering sacks from Calais Campbell, Jackson ran into and through Adrian Wilson at the goal line on his 11-yard touchdown run.
Carroll's personnel profile on display. Pete Carroll values players with unusual physical characteristics. Rookie K.J. Wright fits the profile as a 6-foot-4 linebacker. That height came into play on the pass safety Earl Thomas intercepted. A penalty negated the pick, but replays showed Wright leaping high to redirect Kevin Kolb's pass. Thomas, who possesses unusual speed for a safety, then made an athletic play on the ball. Kam Chancellor, unusually large even for a strong safety, then blasted Cardinals tight end Todd Heap during the return. This play showcased three Seattle players with unusual physical attributes for their positions. The thinking has advantages, but also drawbacks. It's tougher finding injury replacements, as Seattle found out last season when trying to replace Red Bryant, who has unusual traits for a defensive end.
Center Max Unger is looking better. Unger, back in the lineup this season after missing nearly all of 2010 with an injury, seemed to be searching for his bearings during preseason. He fared well after a shaky start. Unger directed Darnell Dockett out of the play during Leon Washington's 21-yard run in the second quarter. Unger also appeared determined to make sure the Cardinals didn't bully Seattle. Unger is the Seahawks' only remaining starter from the 2009 line that drew criticism for letting Dockett rough up Matt Hasselbeck with an elbow to the throat.
Browner did not always see the ball. The Seahawks generally fared well defending Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Brandon Browner, their new starting corner, matches up well against bigger receivers. But as Browner found out early in the game, it's nearly impossible to defend Fitzgerald when the perennial Pro Bowl wideout gets a head start on tracking the ball. For years, Seattle's Marcus Trufant has stressed this point. Fitzgerald had been tracking the ball for 3-4 yards before Browner could turn to see the sideline pass Fitzgerald would catch for a 28-yard gain. Rice's sideline reception for Seattle against the Cardinals' Wilson demonstrated the same principle. Big receivers with good hands will find ways to catch the ball when defenders are late in tracking it.
McCoy's split-second reaction key. Tight end Anthony McCoy was setting up in pass protection against the Cardinals' Joey Porter when Jackson mishandled a high shotgun snap from Unger with 12:37 remaining. Porter knocked the ball from the Seattle 42-yard line to the 29, where McCoy recovered even though Arizona's Richard Marshall beat him to the area. The play was impressive because McCoy, unlike Porter, had his back to the ball initially. He was the only Seattle player with a chance for recovery. The Cardinals' Marshall, Paris Lenon and Dockett were in pursuit, as were Clark Haggans and Porter. Had McCoy taken even a split second to express frustration over the fumble, Arizona would have recovered, changing the game. McCoy showed up again on the Seahawks' next drive. His block on Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes helped Rice get around the corner for a first down when Seattle was protecting a 13-10 lead with 4:34 to play.
I'll break out Cardinals observations separately as time permits.