Heading into the game Sunday, the biggest fear among Seahawks fans was how the defense would handle the absence of CB Brandon Browner, who began serving his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy just in time for the arrival of Larry Fitzgerald, one of the game’s premier receivers.
Turned out the worry was more overblown than Y2K. Well, at least it was against the woeful Arizona Cardinals, whose offense had regressed to the equivalent of a hand-crank phone in the age of the iPhone.
Also missing was veteran CB Marcus Trufant due to injury, so the Seahawks deployed into the void third-year vet Walter Thurmond, second-year vet Byron Maxwell and rookie Jeremy Lane. They helped pitch a shutout, although the 58-0 outcome was as much about team-wide negligence by the Cardinals.
“I was as fired up about that as anything,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “I was really pleased with play of those guys.
“Walter played really well. He was consistent, aggressive and he played with good
confidence. He had a lot of different stuff to do, moving around playing inside and outside. Jeremy and Byron l did really well. They both looked disciplined, they played confident technique-wise.
They both looked just about the same and, for their first outing, they really handled it well. There were very few plays that they didn’t get graded on the positive side. They both played well enough that I couldn’t tell the difference in play — if one came out ahead of the other — so that’s a really good sign for us.”
All three youngsters had what amounted to assists on three turnovers. In the first quarter, after teammate K.J. Wright ripped a pass from the hands of Fitzgerald, Thurmond dove for the ball and tipped it up to where Bobby Wagner made the interception and big return.
Later on special teams, Maxwell stripped punt returner Patrick Peterson of the ball that the Seahawks recovered, and Lane, tumbling on the ground, kept alive another Peterson return muff to where teammate Malcolm Smith made an airborne snatch in the end zone for a defensive touchdown.
The youngsters’ game action beyond special teams was a key development if the Seahawks are to work around the loss of Browner and possibly CB Richard Sherman, who is working to have his appeal postponed regarding the same suspension imposed on Browner. The appeal was to be heard Friday, but the Seahawks hope it can be pushed back to avoid simultaneous absences at the same defensive positions.
“This is a little bonus for us to get these (younger players) some live action and get tested,” Carroll said. “Everybody needs to play; you can watch them practice all you want, but they need to go out there and show you that they can carry the whole process of game time. So for the long haul, this is really good. I’m really enthused about the fact that we have depth and there is competition, and guys look the part.”
On another topic, Carroll brushed off some media criticism that he appeared to be running up the score when backup QB Matt Flynn had his first game action of 2012 and went deep on a couple of throws when the outcome was long decided.
“Getting Matt out there was the number one consideration,” Carroll said. “I wanted to make sure he got the plays he needed. We talked the whole way through every situation. You’re trying to get first downs and keep the football.
“With the sensitivity of the situation, you know you’re going to run the football like crazy, and we love to do that. It’s unfortunate on the (Arizona) side of it. But it was a positive day for us.”
Carroll reported no new injuries, but was uncertain whether Trufant will be available Sunday in Toronto, where the Seahawks play the Buffalo Bills. For the second week, Smith started at outside linebacker for Leroy Hill, who was dressed and available but didn’t play as a precaution.