Thu, 26 Nov 2020

Cardinals-Seahawks Rivalry Back On The Big Stage

Arizona Cardinals
25 Oct 2020, 18:03 GMT+10

NFC West showdown will take place on 'Sunday Night Football' Kyle Odegard

Regardless of records, the rivalry between the Seahawks and Cardinals has provided nail-biting finishes and unforgettable moments for more than a half-decade now.

But everything is more fun when the stakes are higher.

Seattle (5-0) will put its undefeated mark on the line when it comes to Arizona to face the surging Cardinals (4-2) on "Sunday Night Football." The game was originally supposed to be played in the afternoon but was moved to primetime because the Raiders are facing COVID-19 concerns.

"There's something about a national stage," safety Budda Baker said. "I'm always locked in."

The Cardinals proved ready for the big-time on Monday night, drubbing the Cowboys 38-10 behind a stellar defensive effort. After three years of middling or low expectations, there is growing buzz that this is a team on the rise, behind burgeoning star quarterback Kyler Murray and a talented supporting cast.

When Bruce Arians took over as head coach in 2013, his group had to prove it could topple the mighty Seahawks in order to become a legitimate contender in the NFC.

Seven years later, coach Kliff Kingsbury and this new iteration of the Cardinals is staring at a similar roadblock.

"You definitely can see the trajectory we're on, and it's exciting," guard Justin Pugh said. "But if you don't go out there during the week and do the right things, and put in the work, we're not going to get more primetime games. It's the carrot incentive, to keep going out there and winning these big games."

Russell Wilson has been Seattle's quarterback throughout the rivalry's rise, and at State Farm Stadium at least, the Seahawks have been great. They haven't lost there since 2012, his rookie season, and with Wilson playing better than ever, Seattle is the road favorite again.

The Seahawks have transformed from a defensive juggernaut during the Legion of Boom days to a high-flying outfit, as Wilson is throwing for more than 300 yards per game, leads the NFL with 19 touchdown passes and is the front-runner for MVP.

DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are the top receiving weapons for a group that will test a Cardinals defense that enters second in the NFL in points allowed at only 18.7 per game. Cornerback Patrick Peterson said the secondary must brace for an aerial attack.

"Guys are passing the ball around the football field nine times out of 10," Peterson said. "You have to be able to have solid corners and a solid nickelback that will be able to hold up, to where teams aren't able to score. We have been doing a great job at that so far this year. ... We're playing some great complementary football, as far as rush and coverage."

The Cardinals' passing game was inconsistent against Dallas but the rushing attack was dominant. Kenyan Drake, Murray and Chase Edmonds combined to rush the ball 35 times for 261 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.

The team is averaging 5.3 yards per carry on the year, which would set a franchise-record for a second consecutive season. After so many years of greatness, the Seattle defense is off to a slow start in 2020, so there is the potential of a high-scoring affair.

Murray expects to be more accurate in this one after completing only 9-of-24 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns on Monday.

"A lot of things tie into being accurate - your feet, eyes, body, all types of stuff," Murray said. "If your feet are messed up, that's going to lead to inaccurate balls. Being fatigued, as far as running the ball and then coming back and throwing the ball, that's just something I've got to work through and mentally get over in the middle of the game. I'm not worried about the accuracy."

Kingsbury is excited to be back in primetime for a second straight week, but for a not-so-obvious reason.

Only 1,200 fans will be allowed in the stadium -- a small slice compared to the standard sellout - so the eyes of the nation will boost the electricity that could be missing from the building.

"Moreso than anything, in the year of COVID, creating that energy," Kingsbury said. "I really felt it in our locker room Monday night. Guys were excited, knowing it was a night game and that type of atmosphere. Even though it wasn't a ton of fans, it was still "Monday Night Football", and I feel like this will provide some of that same type of juice. As a coach, that's what you're looking for."

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