The meeting at midfield was a formality, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said something to Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt that was straight from a greeting card. A very generic greeting card.
“I think I said, ‘Congratulations,’ ” Hasselbeck said, referring to last year’s game in Arizona. “It was like a programmed response. It was like I was used to saying that to him.”
There was a time when congratulations would have been in order, but that time was two years ago. That was when the Cardinals knocked the Seahawks off their four-year perch atop the division.
“It was a hurdle for them and they took advantage of it,” Hasselbeck said.
Just like Seattle will try to do Sunday in Arizona, where they have not won since the Cardinals moved into their new stadium in 2006. The Seahawks’ road losing streak to Arizona is at four and counting.
A victory for the Seahawks on Sunday would not only keep them in at least a tie with the Rams for first place in the NFC West, it would be a second victory over the Cardinals this season. That would constitute a tiebreaker advantage for Seattle over the two-time division champs.
“It’s a championship game in a way for us,” Hasselbeck said.
The teams played three weeks ago in Seattle, a game in which Arizona committed five turnovers, and the Seahawks scored a touchdown on just one of seven red-zone possessions. The Seahawks won 22-10, but two things have changed since. The Cardinals switched quarterbacks and the Seahawks stopped scoring. Arizona is going to start Derek Anderson, not undrafted rookie Max Hall, and the Seahawks will try to start scoring after its offense recently went 142 minutes without a touchdown.
That drought spanned from Mike Williams’ touchdown catch in the second quarter of the victory against Arizona until the fourth quarter of last weekend’s 41-7 loss to the Giants.
“Obviously we need to improve,” said Jeremy Bates, offensive coordinator. “We’re not scoring enough points and we’ve got to get better. It starts at practice, it starts in the meetings.”
And it starts up front. Seattle has started three different players at left tackle in the first eight games after starting four different players at that position a year ago. That means in the past 24 regular-season games, the Seahawks have started seven different players at what is considered the second-most valuable position on offense, trailing only the quarterback.
Rookie Russell Okung is not expected back for this game, but Tyler Polumbus is, which should allow Chester Pitts to slide to left guard. If Okung returns next week, Seattle will have the starting configuration it has been aiming to have in place since September.
But it’s not just the road graders up front. The Seahawks are desperate for some firepower on the perimeter. Williams caught 21 passes in the first two games after the bye. He has caught three the past two weeks, slowed by a leg bruise.
The Seahawks have completed two passes of 30 yards or more in the past four games, a reality receiver Deon Butler addressed when he said the challenge is to make something happen in the big-play department.
“We’ve just got to start making some tough ones,” Butler said. “So for me personally, that’s how I feel, just make a play, get this thing going. Get some life into the offense.”
Seattle better do something along those lines to avoid offering the Cardinals congratulations on another home victory.