The Seahawks’ first foray into NFC West play this season begins Sunday afternoon in Arizona.
The Seahawks are coming off their bye and, at 5-0, are one of three undefeated teams remaining.
The Cardinals are coming off a 38-10 dismantling of the Cowboys in Dallas on Monday night and, at 4-2, they are tied for second place in the NFC West.
Just how good are the Cardinals?
“For us, honestly, we just got the ‘W’ in Dallas, we’re going to celebrate tonight and get ready for the Seahawks tomorrow,” Arizona safety Budda Baker said, via The Arizona Republic. “Hopefully, you can ask me that question soon, but we know the Seahawks are a great team. They’re always a great team. Russell Wilson has got them going. DK Metcalf, (Chris) Carson and the run game, they’re a great offense, a great team. We know we’re going to have a great challenge ahead of us.”
Three things to know about the Cardinals this week:
How about Budda?
Any discussion about the best safety in the NFL has to include the Bellevue High School and UW product, especially after his performance Monday night. Baker, playing with a cast over his broken right thumb, had seven tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and his first NFL interception on a diving grab in the fourth quarter.
“He is everywhere,” Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said, via The Arizona Republic. “You watch the game, (number) 32 shows up in every situation, all night. Just such a tremendous player and great leader for us.”
Monday was Baker’s first game as a team captain, an honor given to him after Arizona’s Chandler Jones was lost to a season-ending injury.
Baker led the NFL last season with 104 solo tackles. In August, he was rewarded with a four-year, $59-million contract extension, making him the highest-paid safety in NFL history. (That deal, no doubt, set the bar for what will probably be a starting point for Jamal Adams for his negotiations with the Seahawks next offseason.)
“Budda’s worth every penny,” Arizona defensive lineman Jordan Phillips said Monday night.
The Seahawks, of course, had a chance to draft the 5-foot-10, 192-pound Baker in the second round in 2017. But they were wary of Baker’s size, and instead took Malik McDowell with the 35th pick. Arizona selected Baker one pick later.
Baker was terrific in the Cardinals’ 27-13 victory over the Seahawks in Seattle last December, posting nine tackles and one tackle for loss.
Baker isn’t the only former UW standout showing out for Arizona. Cornerback Byron Murphy had eight tackles, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery against Dallas on Monday night. Darrell Daniels is in his third season as a tight end for Arizona, and former UW safety Ezekiel Turner is a regular contributor on Arizona’s special teams.
Arizona’s has NFL’s No. 2 defense
The Cardinals have one of the best defenses in the NFL, ranking second in the league in scoring defense (18.7 points per game) and ninth in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average.
Those are significant improvements from 2019, when they ranked 28th in scoring defense and 20th in DVOA.
On Monday night, Arizona had four takeaways and held the Cowboys to three points until late in the fourth quarter.
“They played great,” Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray said of the Cardinals defense. “Honestly, great’s not even the word. I don’t even have a word for it, but to hold them to three points for most of game with the weapons that they have over there, force three turnovers, it’s a testament to them, all the hard work they’ve been putting in.
“I deal with them every day in practice, and for them to come out here on Monday night and do what they did is a big deal.”
Arizona’s balanced attack
The No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, Murray on Monday became the third player in league history with 30 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns in the first 25 games of his career, according to ESPN. (Murray did so in 22 games to tie Daunte Culpepper the quickest to reach the mark.)
In his Texas homecoming, Murray said he “felt a little off” Monday night, when he completed just 9 of 22 passes for 188 yards. He did throw two touchdown passes, including an 80-yarder to Christian Kirk, and ran 10 times for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Kenyan Drake had 164 yards and two touchdowns against Dallas.
Arizona’s new star receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, leads the NFL with 47 receptions for 601 yards, and Murray leads all NFL quarterbacks with 370 yards rushing and six rushing TDs.
“I thought he handled himself well,” Kingsbury said of Murray on Monday night. “We were close on a couple things early, had some close throws that I think we’ll make in the future. May have been a little too revved up, but I think throughout the game he continued to make plays with his feet that extended drives, and I was proud of the way he handled himself.
“For me, it was just exciting to see our team play on the Monday night stage, and the way they embraced it and the effort and energy was what was meaningful to me.”