Posted December 22, 2013

Raising Arizona: Cardinals prove they’re for real with win over Seahawks

Arizona Cardinals, NFC West, Seattle Seahawks
Michael Floyd's amazing fourth-quarter touchdown proved to be the difference in Arizona's win.

Michael Floyd’s (15) amazing fourth-quarter touchdown proved to be the difference in Arizona’s win. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

The Arizona Cardinals know that they could go 11-5 and miss the playoffs. They’d have a legitimate argument against the NFL’s current division-favored postseason seeding if that happened, especially considering that they’ve been one of the league’s hottest teams over the last two months.

The Seattle Seahawks knew that if they beat the Cardinals in their home stadium on Sunday, they’d wrap up the NFC West and take the conference’s No. 1 overall seed. That would have been their reward for their status as the league’s hottest team throughout the season.

But in Arizona’s 17-10 win over Seattle at CenturyLink Field, the Cardinals were able to play Seattle-style defense better than the Seahawks from start to finish. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles put together a masterful plan that had his defensive backs covering Seattle’s receivers so well, his linemen and linebackers could go after Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson with impunity. Wilson was harassed perhaps more than he’s ever been in two NFL seasons, and the result was Seattle’s first loss at home with Wilson at quarterback. Wilson finished with just 11 completions in 27 attempts for a career-low 108 yards, one touchdown and an interception near the end of the game that was the subject of some debate. What was not open for debate was the extent to which Arizona’s defense affected what Wilson wanted to do.

This was an especially impressive effort for a Cardinals team that, under different management in 2012, lost 58-0 in this same stadium.

“I guess we are 65 points better than we were last year,” head coach Bruce Arians quipped.

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Well, on defense they certainly were. On offense, Carson Palmer became the second quarterback in the last three seasons — Philly’s Michael Vick was the other — to throw four interceptions and still log a win on the road. As much as Arizona’s defense perplexed Wilson, Seattle’s secondary had Palmer on lock for most of the game. Even the game-deciding touchdown pass to Michael Floyd with 2:13 left in the game saw Palmer put up a high fade to the left side of the end zone, where Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell had near-perfect coverage on Floyd. The second-year receiver simply made the better play, which was the theme of the entire game. Seattle, perhaps the NFL’s most physically impressive team on a week-to-week basis, was outmanned by its own methodology.

“The Cardinals did a nice job,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “They hung with their approach and got it done and put together a really good win. They played really well on defense — they were harder and tougher than we wanted them to be. You’ve got to give them credit. This is seven out of eight now, and it’s no surprise. We went in with great respect with what they’re doing, so I don’t have any problem with that.

“It was a slugfest today, and they won out.”

The Seahawks went three-and-out on seven of their drives, and Arizona did the same on six of theirs. Arizona averaged 4.4 net yards per play to Seattle’s 3.8, and there were only 26 first downs in the entire game. Six of those first downs for the Cardinals came via Seattle penalties, a major deciding factor in the game. Seattle came into the game as the league leader in penalties, and the Seahawks proved that when “out-physicaled,” their chippy style is not of optimal benefit. They were flagged nine times for 106 yards, and as the Cardinals kept the ball with consistency (Arizona won the time of possession battle, 37:26 to 22:36), Seattle started to run out of air.

Some will argue that the one interception Wilson threw should not have been called as such — the ball thrown from Wilson to Doug Baldwin with 2:06 left in regulation appeared to hit the ground before it bounced into the air and into the hands of linebacker Karlos Dansby. That ended a Seattle drive that could have changed things in the last few seconds, but it wasn’t the difference — Wilson threw at least three other passes that could easily have been picked.

In the end, it was a serious statement by a Cards team that has won seven of its last eight games, and dropped that one loss by three points. Whether they make the playoffs or not, Arians’ team has established that it’s going to be around for the long haul.

All the Seahawks can do, on the other hand, is recalibrate for the regular-season finale against the St. Louis Rams. They still have the league’s best record at 12-3, but they’re 3-2 in the division, and the Rams could open up a large can of uncertainty in the Emerald City next Sunday.

50 comments
Arthur7
Arthur7

Glad to see Maxwell's excellent coverage of the AZ TD pass acknowledged.


He made not one but two heroic attempts at cleanly dislodging the ball. As the writer said, near perfect.

jnurella
jnurella

In all fairness to the Seahawks, their Adderall had not kicked in yet...

michael.f.passe
michael.f.passe

Surprising people haven't dismissed the Cards' victory at Seattle, which is still the team to beat in the NFC, by saying Arizona had more to play for than the Hawks, who've already clinched. It's as if admitting that the Cards are good is more than fans can wrap their minds around.  In the pre-season, I heard fans arguing over whether the Cards or Jets would be the worst team in the NFL, apparently ignoring the strong defensive team Arizona had become over the last couple of seasons. The questions were about the offense and whether old Carson Palmer was a real upgrade over the qb-by-committee system they has been using. Palmer may not be quite what he was physically before he got hurt in the playoffs back at Cincinnati, but he has certainly been good enough. As for the NFC West, it appears the former "NFC Worst" division is arguably the NFC Best, and that means whichever teams emerge will be battle-tested come playoff time. Hopefully that will include Arizona; it would be a shame to see the marvelously gifted, classy Larry Fitzgerald go without a championship ring.

IndependentsDay
IndependentsDay

Us Cards fans can't complain about the playoff format given that in 2008 the Cards got that same benefit when "the worst team in playoff history" made the run at the super bowl.  The Cards got in because they won the NFC west and left other 9-7 teams out.  

JDT
JDT

As a 49ers fan, I was happy to see Seattle lose. Though game, congrats to the Cardinals for the win. Lesson learned from Seattle, dont count your chickens before your eggs hatch. On last shot for the title. Does Seattle want it? or has Seattle been overachievers all season? Seattles trouble spots sure have been showing alot as of late. 

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

Statement win by cards . How good is that division at 10-5 zone is still not in the playoffs

MichaelO'Donnell
MichaelO'Donnell

Carroll coaches the defensive secondary to foul if when needed and dare the officials to call it on nearly every play.  The officials are starting to figure this out and are calling a lot more penalties.  Doesn't it seem strange that it doesn't seem to matter who they throw onto the field in the secondary, they always seem so dominant.  Q up that last Cardinal touchdown and you'll see the DB all over the receiver before the ball arrived.

niner_rey64
niner_rey64

Only sad thing is the she-hawks, who are playing their worst ball at the worst time, losers of two of their lasr three, may not even make it to the NFC championship game where the whole country can see them get crushed by the niners.

Mike26
Mike26

It's too bad the bowl games are picked so early in December - Arizona would be a great choice for a BCS game about now!

Mike26
Mike26

Seattle has nothing to be ashamed about.  Arizona is an NFL legacy that has decades of history and tradition...it's not like Seattle still doesn't have the world's loudest fans!


Perhaps too many of the 'Hawks have been enjoying the Mary Janes?  Better be careful - even Seattle only has so many good backups to replacers the tokers on the field!

Nathan16
Nathan16

I could have sworn the Packers beat them in Seattle...

TrevorFitzGibbon
TrevorFitzGibbon

The Niners couldn't hit water if they jumped out of a boat - esp in Seattle!

John299
John299

Down goes Seattle!!  Down goes Seattle!!


So much for the media experts that thought Seattle was unbeatable at home. Just wait until the Niners come to town in the playoffs. 


JDT
JDT

ooppss - As a 49ers fan, I was happy to see Seattle lose. Though game, congrats to the Cardinals for the win. Lesson learned from Seattle, dont count your chickens before your eggs hatch. One last shot for the title. Does Seattle want it? or has Seattle been overachievers all season? Seattles trouble spots sure have been showing alot as of late. 

johnvas49
johnvas49

@MichaelO'Donnell Definitely agree with that assessment.  You see receivers jersey's being tugged on almost every replay.  Makes it a little easier to stay with your guy when you can do that :-)

tlm773458
tlm773458

@niner_rey64 So the Niners won in SF 19-17 but got crushed 29-3 in Seattle.  Hmm. I'd wait and see what happens next week to find out where they game, if they meet again, will be played before talking smack.

misterkesslerinlondon
misterkesslerinlondon

@Mike26 what would that make the Seahawks? The team with the best record in the NFL, right? But the team with the best record in the NFL couldn't have just lost to a team that would make a great choice for a BCS game, right? Maybe...

DannyRohde
DannyRohde

@Mike26 "Arizona is an NFL legacy"


Ahahahahahahahahaha that's a good one. 

Mike26
Mike26

@Nathan16 Nope - Seattle won on a last-second TD to Golden Tate.

The_Hybrid
The_Hybrid

@TrevorFitzGibbonLMAO. Uh...Seattle has three losses. One of them is to who? Oh yeah, 49ers. You couldn't hit a good comment in this section with a nuclear bomb.

FranciscoGarcia
FranciscoGarcia

@John299 Arizona beat there butt in there own home Seattle didn't no what hit them but BIG RED SMASH THEM GO CARDINALS


AaronBlasingame
AaronBlasingame

@John299 I seem to remember a football game full of bad calls.  The refs came back later and admitted such.  I just saw one bad call cost a team a comeback.  Now, as far as your Niners go.  Gimme a break.

Arthur7
Arthur7

@JDT 


As a Seattle fan, I was happy to see SF come within a whisker of losing their final home game at Candlestick to the 4-12 Falcons. Things got AWFULLY quiet before Douglas bobbled that last pass.


How did Seattle do against the Falcons? 33-10 

The_Hybrid
The_Hybrid

@johnvas49@MichaelO'DonnellLMAO. As if Seattle doesn't do the same exact thing, including their "chippy" style of defense where they bump and bump until called for the penalty. It's amazing how much you guys cry and whine when it happens back to you, but if you do it, you justify it. Shut up, you lost. Very simple. A better, more dominant team beat your "road to the Super Bowl goes through Seattle" team. Man up, accept the L, and move on and hope you don't lose to St. Louis.

Jules de la Zazette
Jules de la Zazette

@Mike26 @Nathan16 That was NOT a TD last season, and one of the worst calls I've ever seen in all my years of watching football.  Every replay showed the GB corner with the ball, but the idiot replacement back judge called it a TD. Even the linesman or umpire (whoever came in second) called it a pick and touchback.  

GB was robbed, plain and simple. 

Nathan16
Nathan16

@Mike26 @Nathan16 Just pointing out an actual, 100% bogus call that actually, 100% cost a team a game.

misterkesslerinlondon
misterkesslerinlondon

@Mike26 @Nathan16 The Packers had beaten them  but I too had forgotten that the Packers lost the game. As for a last second TD to Golden Tate, I would argue that never happened. Instead, a mistake was made that allowed the mighty Seahawks to win.. although they had in fact been beaten. See, you are both correct. Except for the whole TD thing.

Arthur7
Arthur7

@The_Hybrid @TrevorFitzGibbon 


The 49ers have 4 losses, one of them is to who? Oh yeah, Seattle.


If you took Seattle and the points, you won the 19-17 game in SF


If you took SF and the points, you were blown out of the water 29-3 in Seattle.

misterkesslerinlondon
misterkesslerinlondon

@AaronBlasingame I seem to remember many games like that. You know what they all had in common? A fan of the losing team complained about the questionable calls and it changed nothing... their team still lost.

misterkesslerinlondon
misterkesslerinlondon

@Nathan16  I was trying to be funny... I agree that call was one of the worst ever. Anyone who denies it was bad lives outside of reality. But my point was, the Seahawks won although they were beaten. I know, I know it is pretty lame...

MatthewMinor
MatthewMinor

@misterkesslerinlondon @Mike26 @Nathan16 The Packers were gifted a first down on a 3rd and long on a phantom pass interference call the previous drive. Had they been forced to punt the game would be over. Even Jon Gruden thought it was a bogus call.


A game never comes down to one play. The Seahawks sacked A.R. something like 7 times in the first half. If Packers fans want to blame someone for they not winning the game, blame your O-Line.


Also, since when are defensive backs supposed to try and intercept the ball on the last play of a game? Just swat the ball down and game over. Instead he tried to make the Sports Center top 10 plays. 


It was over a year ago. The Pack received the better end of more than it's fair share of "questionable" calls. Quit whining and focus on the here and now.

VaeVang
VaeVang

@misterkesslerinlondon@VaeVang

Chyeah,

And while I don't doubt Seattle's ability to comeback and win or their offensive abilities, they got completely shutdown the entire game. Wilson had the worst game of his career AND AT HOME.

The running game got completely shutdown as well. That was all throughout the entire game, something tells me that the outcome wouldn't have changed.

However, I would have loved to see Seattle's attempt. Sucks to have games be decided by retarded calls.



VaeVang
VaeVang

@AaronBlasingame

That call was a sketchy one but because the play was originally ruled as an Interception, they needed more than those specific shots that they had to overturn it. To me, it was incomplete but because it looked like it still only hit the arm.. they stuck with the rulebook.

The game itself had a lot of bad calls but that's how the Officiating has been in 2013. Just bad.

That being said, 4 INTs, and the Seahawks not taking advantage of it was what lost the game. I'm almost pretty sure that had that last BS call not been made, the Cardinals probably would have stopped the Seahawks anyway. 


misterkesslerinlondon
misterkesslerinlondon

@AaronBlasingame I did see the last call. It would be strange if a ball actually did bounce off of an arm like that... but hey, ya win some ya lose some. Cards played a great game.