Defensive end Calais Campbell brings down Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson with one of his three sacks Sunday.
SEATTLE – It was a sack party, but no one celebrated in the Cardinals' locker room Sunday evening because it felt like Russell Wilson left with the cake.
The pass-rush was the weakest part of the defense for much of the first half of the season, forcing defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to regularly dial up blitzes to get heat on the opposing quarterback. The Cardinals had their best effort of the year against the Seahawks, sacking Wilson seven times, but it was the plays when he escaped which left the Cardinals in a sour mood.
Seven sacks should have been 11 or 12, they said, and the resulting gains helped Seattle to the 19-3 win at CenturyLink Field.
"When you lose a game like this, within the division, no matter what you did doesn't matter because it wasn't enough," linebacker Alex Okafor said. "We had a lot of sacks but we missed a lot. If we're talking about sacks, we should have gotten more. That might have swung the ballgame a little bit."
It was a constant battle of strengths, as the Cardinals defenders regularly made it into the backfield and then Wilson would try to juke his way to breathing room. In such a defensive struggle, the Cardinals needed to be nearly perfect in containing Wilson, and they couldn't quite do so. He finished with 10 carries for a team-high 73 yards and most of his big passing plays came after he wiggled away from pressure.
"He can read defenders, even though it might look like he doesn't see it coming," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "He can see it. He's got a knack for extending plays. He did a good job of extending plays and getting some runs out on us that kind of hurt us. I kind of felt that if we didn't let him escape in this game, we were going to handle their offense pretty soundly, but he was able to escape."
The Cardinals kept the game close in large part due to the sacks. The defense was continually put in bad field position in the first two quarters but kept the Seahawks out of the end zone with a steady stream of tackles in the backfield. Okafor, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, linebacker Kevin Minter and linebacker Deone Bucannon each had a sack, but it was defensive end Calais Campbell who led the
He sacked Wilson three times in the first half alone to set a career high, passing the 2½ he registered on Sept. 25, 2011. Campbell has been a menace in Seattle throughout his career with 10 sacks in seven games.
"For the most part, I just went hard, left it all on the field," Campbell said. "That's all you can do."
The improvement of the pass rush is an encouraging sign moving forward. The Cardinals had eight sacks through the first eight games of the year and now 17 in the last three.
"We were so close early in the season," Campbell said. "It comes in bunches."
Campbell is back to peak form following a knee injury which sidelined him for two games, amassing five sacks in the past three games. Okafor has given the team a lift with six sacks in seven starts at outside linebacker, and the consistent push of the line has made the pocket uneasy for opposing quarterbacks.
While there was the short-term disappointment of letting Wilson freelance too much, there is still plenty on the line these last five weeks, and the increase in pass pressure bodes well for a defense playing at a high level.
"We're starting to get more comfortable and know each other's tendencies that we're playing with so our game's getting a little more effective as well," Okafor said. "It's getting better and better each game. We've just got to keep building upon it."