By TIM BOOTH
AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) — Considering where the rest of the teams stand in the NFC West five games into the season, Seattle coach Pete Carroll sounded almost appreciative that no one has run away with the division.
That seems unlikely to continue. Which adds a little bit more importance to what happens on Sunday when the Seahawks host the Arizona Cardinals, with one team guaranteed to be sitting in the division basement afterward.
“It’s been hard for teams to get up on top of the schedule here. It’s fortunate for us,” Carroll said. “The first quarter of the season is over, that’s hard to imagine. … We are within striking distance of doing something really special, so we are going for it.”
Both the Seahawks and Cardinals are 2-3, one game behind San Francisco and tied with the Los Angeles Rams in the division, and each coming off painful losses last week.
Seattle’s run defense continued to get run over in a 39-32 loss at New Orleans, despite another strong performance by Geno Smith, the league leader in passer rating through five weeks. Arizona had a chance to end Philadelphia’s undefeated start, but some execution issues by Kyler Murray in the final moments and a missed field goal that would have forced overtime sealed a 20-17 loss to the Eagles.
“It was a hard-fought game and to lose in that nature was tough, but I was just really proud of the effort,” Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “A lot of those O-linemen were banged up and powered through, so I just wanted to make sure they knew we appreciated them.”
TWO GAMES, SHORT REST
The Cardinals have had a slightly easier week of practice because they have an upcoming game on short rest — they play the Seahawks on Sunday before playing the Saints at home next Thursday.
Instead of the usual full-contact Wednesday practice, Kingsbury opted for a walkthrough.
“Felt like we could just use some mental reps, having everybody out there, even the guys who have got some nicks. It was good to have everyone out there and detail things up,” Kingsbury said.
The Cardinals are banged up, especially at running back. James Conner (ribs), Darrel Williams (knee) and Jonathan Ward (hamstring) all left last week’s game against the Eagles with injuries, leaving Eno Benjamin as the lone healthy back.
Ward was put on injured reserve Wednesday.
Arizona also hopes starting center Rodney Hudson can return for Sunday’s game after he missed the Eagles game with a knee injury.
Seattle’s beleaguered run defense could benefit from the Cardinals’ injury issues at running back. The Seahawks are worst in the league at stopping the run, giving up an average of 170.2 yards per game, capped by the 235 yards allowed to New Orleans last week. Seattle watched Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara each run for more than 100 yards, the third time in Seahawks history they’ve allowed two 100-yard rushers in the same game.
Seattle has allowed 851 yards rushing, the most by any team through five games since 2012.
“We just got to do our jobs and whatever our responsibilities are we just got to stay true to them,” Seattle defensive lineman Shelby Harris said. “We got to stop making so many mistakes on our end.”
It’s sort of a miracle that the Cardinals have two wins considering they’ve trailed basically the entire season.
Arizona hasn’t scored in the first quarter, getting blanked 38-0.
“I think it starts with me, making sure those first 10 scripted plays are on point, everyone’s in sync and we know we can be effective,” Kingsbury said. “Then we just have to go and execute. What we’ve seen all week in practice hasn’t been showing up those first few series for whatever reason. I don’t know if we’re too excited or hyped up or whatever. But it’s gotta change. We’ve led 10 minutes in five games and that’s no way to survive an NFL season.”
Seattle rookie running back Kenneth Walker III will be stepping into a more prominent role beginning this week because starter Rashaad Penny is out for the season with a lower leg fracture. Walker had a season-high eight carries for 88 yards including a 69-yard touchdown run last week against New Orleans. His workload is expected to increase significantly as Seattle is thin at the position. Deejay Dallas will be Walker’s primary backup and Seattle signed Tony Jones off waivers from New Orleans.
“I’m excited. I’m always excited to play,” Walker said. “I feel comfortable with it as well, just preparing for the week as we always do.”
The start of Sunday’s game will be delayed if the Seattle Mariners are still playing in the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros on Sunday. If a Game 4 is needed of the baseball series, the Seahawks-Cardinals game will move back by about 90 minutes and kick off at 2:30 p.m. local time (5:30 p.m. Eastern) to try and mitigate traffic and crowd issues with the two adjacent stadiums. If there is no Game 4, kickoff will stay at 1:05 p.m. local time.
“Let’s hope it gets moved back,” Carroll said.
AP Sports Writer David Brandt contributed to this report.
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