The Arizona Cardinals knew they would need every break to go their way if they were to beat the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, a place where they suffered one of the worst losses in franchise history last year.
They got the breaks.
In a stunning 17-10 upset over the Seahawks, the Cardinals proved they can hang with the best in the NFL’s toughest division. Using stifling defense to hold the Seahawks to just 2 of 13 on third down -- including seven three-and-outs -- the Cardinals kept their playoff hopes alive for next week’s showdown against the San Francisco 49ers. Seattle, meanwhile, still needs one more win to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“It was a slugfest today, and they won out,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “What this does is turn all our focus to next week. And, like I’ve told these guys, I was going to tell them they had to win that game no matter, anyway. So here we go. We have to get this last one to try to see if we can secure our division.”
The Seahawks have had two chances to do so and have dropped both games, first against the 49ers two weeks ago and again yesterday.
As has been the case too often this season, penalties were a major issue for Seattle. They were flagged nine times for 102 yards, including a crucial defensive holding penalty on Malcolm Smith during Arizona’s game-winning drive, which was capped by Carson Palmer’s gorgeous touchdown pass to Michael Floyd, who made an even more impressive catch.
Despite the loss, Seattle once again got stellar play out of their defense, who picked off Palmer four times, including two by Richard Sherman, who remains a strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, the Cardinals matched their intensity on defense, as they limited Russell Wilson to just 89 yards in the second-year QB’s first home loss of his career.
“It was very uncharacteristic to not be able to make plays and take advantage of opportunities when they’re given to us,” said wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who saw a pass intended for him carrum off his arm and into the hands of Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby late in the fourth quarter for the game’s deciding play. “I’ve never had that difficult of a time trying to figure out what their coverages were on the back end.”
Even with the loss, Seattle is still in firm control of not only the NFC West but the conference as a whole. A win next week against the St. Louis Rams means Seattle will have the top seed in the NFC.
“The last game of the season, the last regular-season game, a championship opportunity against a very good football team that has a great defense in St. Louis. So that’s what we’re looking forward to,” Carroll said with his signature optimism. “Obviously, you want to win this game and it would have meant a lot. But at the same time, it still means the same thing next week. So that’s the good thing about it.”
Wilson was even more succinct.
“It’s a championship game next week.”