Could Kyler Murray and the Cardinals catch Russell Wilson and the Seahawks once again? Just four weeks earlier, the Cardinals pulled off a thrilling comeback win and they were striving to do so again on Thursday. But Murray and Arizona's comeback hopes came up short within the grasp of Carlos Dunlap as the new acquisition's sack concluded a 28-21 win for the Seahawks on Thursday.
1) Four days removed from his first touchdown-less outing, Russell Wilson offered no feeling-out process, but instead offered up a dazzling first drive that concluded with a sensational scramble and scoring throw that found another Seahawk coming off a forgettable showing in DK Metcalf. And the Seahawks offense was off to the races! Well, not quite. This wasn't the aerial showcase the Seahawks have so often treated us to this year. But Wilson settled in and excellently executed the Seattle offense, scrambling for chunk gains when they were offered, leaning on the running game when the clock had to be ground down and efficiently hitting his targets in the passing game. And then cheering mightily as Carlos Dunlap and the defense made one final stop. There were no game-tilting interceptions (he had seven combined in the team's three losses over the past four games) and he finished with two touchdowns, completed 23 of 28 attempts for 197 yards and rushed for 42 more. All the MVP convo this season for Wilson began with 300-plus outings and five-TD showings. But Wilson was splendidly efficient on this evening and emerged from a first-place battle having led his team to a victory. That's MVP-worthy, too.
2) Like many a Seahawk, Dunlap had a quiet Week 10 in a loss to the Rams. But he had a very loud response against the Cardinals, culminating with a game-sealing sack of Kyler Murray that has Seattle (7-3) atop the NFC West and Arizona (6-4) looking up. Dunlap responded from his quiet Week 10 with his second impactful performance in three games with Seattle. Dunlap had two sacks, three quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and four tackles overall. Since he was traded to Seattle from Cincinnati he's helped to fill a huge Seahawks need in the pass-rushing department and you can't help but wonder after Thursday if his inspired play is rubbing off on the rest of the defense. The Seahawks have been in need of playmakers on the defense all season. They've needed to make stops and simply could not. On Thursday, Dunlap delivered the Seahawks' most emphatic stop of the season -- and he's only been there three games.
3) Favoring his shoulder too often for Cardinals fans not to be worrisome, Murray still went back and forth with Wilson just as he did four weeks prior. Working feverishly to force another overtime classic like Week 7's win was, Murray was instead sacked by Dunlap and the Cardinals came up short. Murray produced a pair of TD throws and 269 yards on 29-of-42 passing. He only had 15 yards on five carries, which might have been equal parts Kliff Kingsbury caution and the Seahawks' inspired defensive play. Murray held his own with Wilson once more, though, and showed up for prime time yet again. A loss is never easy to take, but Murray played well. The only area of unease to take from this evening as it concerns the Cardinals QB is just how healthy that aforementioned shoulder is as it was attended to plenty on the Arizona sideline.
4) It wasn't just Dunlap who had a stellar showing defensively for the Seahawks. Considering the opponent and the importance, this was the Seahawks' most impressive defensive performance of the season. Rightfully maligned for the duration of this campaign, the Seahawks defense held the Cardinals to 107 yards and seven points on five first-half drives, accentuated by three three-and-outs. Just days removed from hauling in a win and perhaps the play of the year, Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins was held in check to the tune of five catches for 51 yards. Arizona's offense ended the game with 314 yards and tied its lowest point total for the campaign. Dunlap had the lasting highlight, but the defense as a unit looked better than it has and if there's any way this carries forward, Thursday night will prove to be a pivotal turning point for the Seahawks.
5) Though the first half was largely a forgettable one for the Cardinals as they trailed 16-7, rookie first-rounder Isaiah Simmons tallied four tackles and a sack. It was a positive development as Simmons' role on the defense grows following a slow start. Ahead of this game, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said the team needed to get Simmons more playing time and the versatile defender did well. At game's end, Simmons had rattled off a team-high 10 tackles, the sack and two tackles for loss. This was a tough defeat for the Cards, but their first-rounder provided his finest showing yet and that's at the very least a promising development to take out of this one.
6) It's unlikely Carlos Hyde will ever get his due, but on this night he came back from a hamstring injury that had sidelined him the past three games and ran with might and bad intention. With Chris Carson still absent, Hyde made big runs and delivered some big hits to sorrowful Cardinals defenders. He also recovered a fumble on a botched toss from Wilson that could've altered the entire night. He had a game-high 79 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Last season, his only one in Houston, he had his first 1,000-yard campaign in his seventh season. The Seahawks are Hyde's fifth team, but this rolling stone got going when they needed him on Thursday.
7) For a pair of teams aiming for the NFC West title and rife with postseason aspirations, each of them must cut out the equally stupid and costly penalties. Owning momentum and a healthy 16-7 lead coming out of the half, the Seahawks allowed the Cardinals right back into it on the opening drive of the third quarter. It's unlikely the Cards would've come up with points, if not for an unnecessary roughness call on Quandre Diggs on third and 11 from the Arizona 18. It was a silly and dangerous hit by Diggs on Hopkins. A 15-yard horse collar by Bobby Wagner seven plays later didn't help matters. And on the ensuing drive, Cardinals DB Dre Kirkpatrick drew a taunting flag after the defense had just tackled Tyler Lockett two yards short on third and seven. Kirkpatrick's taunting incited a kerfuffle with Metcalf and preceded a Hyde TD run. However, penalties overall were damning for the Cardinals, particularly on the offensive line. In total, Arizona racked up 10 penalties for 115 yards of punishment with the worst coming in the fourth quarter when a J.R. Sweezy hold translated into a safety. Each team hurt itself on Thursday, but the Cardinals did far more damage.