Safety Deone Bucannon chases Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson during the Cardinals' visit to Seattle last month.
Since Russell Wilson plays in their division, the Cardinals get a more consistent look at him than most. That doesn't make it any easier to slow down the Seahawks' standout quarterback.
Wilson has been on the mind of the defense throughout the week, because while Marshawn Lynch is a top-tier running back, it is Wilson's improvisational skills which are hardest to prepare for heading into Sunday night's primetime matchup.
The Cardinals did a nice job at times in last month's 19-3 loss in Seattle, harassing Wilson repeatedly and sacking him seven times.
When the rushers didn't get him, though, Wilson took advantage. He finished the game 17-of-22 for 211 yards with a touchdown while adding 10 carries for 73 yards.
"Many have tried, many have failed," said defensive coordinator Todd Bowles when asked about containing Wilson. "The guy's got a gift. He's smart, he's heady, he understands their offense and he understands what's happening to him. We've got our work cut out for us."
Wilson has a quarterback rating of 93.6, which is in the middle of the NFL pack. However, that doesn't account for his legs. Wilson averages a league-leading 7.1 yards-per-carry and is 15th with 754 rushing yards despite only 106 carries.
If the Cardinals can keep him in the pocket, they'll have a chance to limit Wilson's effectiveness. It's just always easier said than done.
"Try to contain the improvised plays because that's where he makes his money," linebacker Kevin Minter said. "That's his bread and butter. 'This ain't open? Alright, I'll scramble a little bit and find somebody deep.' The dude's special. He was one of the main reasons why they won the Super Bowl last year. We've just got to contain that dude."
Wilson picked up his 34th career victory in last week's 17-7 win over the 49ers. That's already more than any other quarterback has accumulated in his first three seasons during the Super Bowl era. Wilson will look to add another to the list against the Cardinals.
"I don't think you can stop him," Bowles said. "Try to slow him down a little bit and make some plays in between."
COOPER SITS OUT PRACTICE WITH WRIST INJURY
Left guard Jonathan Cooper (wrist) did not practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. The 2013 first-round pick has played the past two games in place of the injured Paul Fanaika, in which the Cardinals have set successive season-highs in rushing yards.
Fanaika (ankle) has returned to practice, which tuned attention to how the Cardinals planned to handle the guard position, but the injuries could dictate who starts. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said Fanaika has looked good in practice.
"If Coop plays, he plays," Goodwin said. "If not, next man up. We don't panic. Whoever is out there, that's how we play ball."
The Cardinals got a surprise addition to practice, as quarterback (knee) participated in a limited fashion. Others limited at practice were wide receiver Jaron Brown (toe), linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (knee), defensive end Calais Campbell (hip), safety Tyrann Mathieu (thumb) and running back Kerwynn Williams (knee). Linebacker Larry Foote (knee) did not practice.
Sitting out practice for the Seahawks were running back Marshawn Lynch (back), left tackle Russell Okung (chest), guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle), center Max Unger (ankle/knee), wide receiver Paul Richardson (hamstring), tight end Tony Moeaki (shoulder) and defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (ankle).
MATHIEU ADJUSTING TO CAST
Mathieu has spent the last few practices adjusting to the cast protecting his broken left thumb. He's already mentioned how difficult it will be to nab an interception, and said tackling will also be more of a chore.
"I'm sure it will be in some situations, i.e. Marshawn Lynch," Mathieu said with a smile. "Hopefully my teammates are right there."
Despite those potential shortcomings, Bowles said there will be no limitations on Mathieu's playing time. He's missed the past two games, but has found inspiration in fellow safety Rashad Johnson, who broke his thumb against the 49ers in Week 3 but didn't miss any games and didn't suffer a dropoff in performance.
"Rashad played with it," Mathieu said. "He played well. Hopefully I can have the same outcome."
GAME OFFICIALLY A SELLOUT
Sunday's showdown may be the biggest regular season game since the Cardinals moved to Arizona, and there was never a doubt the game would sell out. It was made official on Thursday, as the team announced its 93rd straight sellout at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Bowles knows the crowd will help pump up the players.
"We've got a few showboaters over there," Bowles said. "They come running out of the tunnel looking like the 'Soul Train' line. Those guys feed off the home crowd pretty good."
Images from the wins which have clinched playoff berths for the Cardinals in Arizona