Carlos Dunlap sacked Kyler Murray on fourth-and-10 with less than a minute to play as the Seahawks held on for a 28-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night.
In just his third game with the Seahawks after a trade from the Cincinnati Bengals last month, Dunlap delivered the finishing blow for a Seattle defense that had its best showing of the season. The Seahawks held Arizona to a season-best 21 points and 314 yards of offense allowed. They also managed three sacks and seven hits on Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray after coming up empty in the first meeting in Arizona last month.
The victory kept Seattle from a third straight loss and avoided a season sweep by the Cardinals. A loss to Arizona would have significantly hampered Seattle's hopes of winning the NFC West or chasing down the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
The offense didn't turn the ball over once after a pair of lax games in that department and Carlos Hyde sparked a rushing attack that had been lacking pop in the absence of Hyde and Chris Carson over the last three games.
While Seattle did suffer a few concerning injuries in the win, the Seahawks now get an 11-day break before a meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football. The next four games come against the Eagles, New York Giants, New York Jets and Washington Football Team, who have a combined 8-28-1 record so far this season.
Here are the takeaways from the Seahawks' win over the Cardinals:
-- Carlos Dunlap looks like a significant addition for Seattle's defense.
The Seahawks had one of the worst pass rush units in the league through the first half of the season. But since acquiring Carlos Dunlap in a trade from the Cincinnati Bengals last month, the defense has become far more productive at getting opposing quarterbacks on the ground.
Seattle had 10 sacks combined over the previous two weeks with seven coming against the Buffalo Bills and three coming last week against the Los Angeles Rams. Last time the Seahawks and Cardinals met, Seattle did not sack Murray one time and never really came close either. Dunlap had two sacks, three quarterback hits and a handful of pressures on Murray as the Seahawks were far more effective pressuring the Arizona quarterback.
"And it was great to see Carlos Dunlap finish it off on almost a walk-off sack, which is pretty cool and really fun and great to see him continue to contribute and help us," Carroll said.
Having Dunlap, Jamal Adams and Rasheem Green in the lineup this time around was cumulatively beneficial. The Seahawks now have 13 sacks over the last three weeks combined. L.J. Collier had the third sack of Murray for the Seahawks on Thursday night.
Dunlap now has three sacks in three games with Seattle, nine tackles and six total quarterback hits.
"It was surreal, man. Honestly, with the way the sideline erupted, I can only imagine what it would have been like if the 12s had been there," Dunlap said.
This team is very exciting. I’m happy to be a part of it. I can’t go into much detail, but it is super surreal. It is refreshing. I feel lighter; rejuvenated. I’m excited to continue to go to work. They brought me here to do one job. I would like to say that I was happy to get it done."
-- Seahawks need the presence of a legit running back threat in the lineup and Carlos Hyde delivered.
The Seahawks' offense has been in a bit of a funk recently without the complementary balance of a rushing attack.
The turnovers have increased, the efficiency of the offense has decreased and the Seahawks had lost two of their last three games with Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde sidelined. But Hyde's return to the lineup on Thursday night was the boost the offense needed to settle a jumbled offensive line and carry the day.
"It felt like the Seahawks that we've all seen over the years," Carroll said. "Carlos did a great job tonight. He did exactly what we needed. We needed him to run hard and run tough, knock people backwards and make extra yards with his juice. And the guys up front responded with him.
"That was a really good contribution to this effort tonight and it balanced us out just like we talked about. Russ didn't have to throw for 400 yards to have a big night. He had a big night throwing for less than under 200. And so, yeah, Carlos had a great factor that he played tonight for us."
Hyde rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. He also caught two passes for 16 yards. The presence of the running game helped the offense stay in more manageable third down situations and that resulted in an 8 of 14 showing on third downs that helped keep drives alive.
"No lie, in the beginning I was a little winded," Hyde said after missing the last three games with a hamstring strain. "I had to get that game-play wind back. After that I started to settle in and things started to click, the run game started to get going. It felt great to be back out there with my guys."
An additional benefit of the running game was to keep a patchwork offensive line from busting as frequently and putting Wilson in harm's way. With Damien Lewis at center, Jamarco Jones at right guard and, eventually, Cedric Ogbuehi at right tackle in place of Brandon Shell, the Seahawks had to survive the game up front. With Arizona's pressure packages, a pass heavy game by Seattle could have spelled big problems for Seattle's offense.
"Those are major opportunities for us to be in trouble and our guys came through," Carroll said. "We could have been a hard night against a good group and it wasn't. The guys came through beautifully."
-- Damien Lewis did an admirable job at center in his first ever game at the position.
It was far from perfect, but given that Damien Lewis had never played a game at center prior to Thursday night's starting nod it was a perfectly fine performance.
Lewis moved from his normal right guard spot to center after injuries to Ethan Pocic and Kyle Fuller over the last two weeks. Pocic missed a second straight game due to a concussion while Fuller suffered a high-ankle sprain on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. With Fuller iffy because of the ankle sprain, Lewis got picked to move to center with Jamarco Jones taking Lewis' normal spot at right guard.
"Well, that was our best choice," Carroll explained afterward. "He's such a good athlete, and of course right off the bat he gets in trouble on the one play and had a couple penalties tonight. I mean, his head was full of all kind of thoughts. It was a marvelous job by him to pull that off."
Lewis did get a pair of holding penalties, though one was pretty clearly a bogus call by the officials that negated a big reception from D.K. Metcalf. He did have at least one missed snap exchange with Russell Wilson as well. But the Seahawks managed to rush for 165 yards and Wilson was only sacked twice by a defense that likes to throw some challenging pressure schemes at their opponents.
"I wouldn’t have thought this was D-Lew’s first time playing center," Hyde said. "Even earlier in the week I was wondering if D-Lew ever played center in college. I was thinking that to myself. He did a hell of a job. Hats off to D-Lew, he did a hell of a job handling that especially in a short week having to go play center. He did a hell of a job."
-- Defense puts up it's premier showing of the season.
It may not exactly spark comparisons to the Legion of Boom but Thursday night's defensive performance against the Cardinals was by far the best showing of the season for Seattle.
The Cardinals were held to 21 points and 316 yards by Seattle. That's the lowest output of any game this season against the Seahawks defense in both categories.
"I know that you you've been hearing me talking about it but we're getting well," Carroll said. "We're going to get better and we're going to be stronger and we're going to be better for it. And we have a chance to really put together, you know, a good opportunity here for us of playing good ball week in and week out so."
Seattle's defense did a fantastic job of keeping Kyler Murray from hurting them with his legs. Murray managed just 15 yards on the night as K.J. Wright, Jamal Adams, D.J. Reed, Carlos Dunlap and others did a brilliant job of keeping the edges contained and not allowing Murray to outflank them in space. It was a season-low rushing output for Murray and the Cardinals rushing attack.
"I think that we executed the blitzes and we executed the calls," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "The big thing was that everybody had to stay in their gap. Nobody can pick and choose what gap they’re going to be in; they had to own their gap because he was a guy who was going to find it. We didn’t want to give him the opportunity to break outside and find those gaps, so I think we just played really sound defense. Everybody did their job."
L.J. Collier drawing a holding penalty in the end zone from J.R. Sweezy for a safety was a big moment as well. Combine that with being able to get the defensive stop they needed to put the game away in the closing minute and it was easily the strongest performance of the year for the unit.
"That's just a lot of good stuff. There's no reason that we can't come together and play really good football. There's no reason, and from this point forward," Carroll said.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 19: Carlos Hyde #30 of the Seattle Seahawks runs in for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in the third quarter at Lumen Field on November 19, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)