Cardinals-Seahawks: What we learned

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- The Arizona Cardinals halted the coronation of the NFC's top team and kept their own postseason hopes alive while ending the Seattle Seahawks' home winning streak at 14 games Sunday afternoon.
Arizona (10-5) went into Seattle (12-3) and knocked off the team with the NFC's best record with a 17-10 victory, the Seahawks' first home loss since Dec. 24, 2011 against San Francisco.
That was not all motivating the desperate Cardinals on Sunday.
"Our coaches told us this week, 'At some point, we've got to stop being the punks of the NFC West,'" said defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who used last year's 58-0 loss in Seattle as motivation all week. "We were not thinking playoffs, at all."
Wide receiver Michael Floyd's diving, 31-yard touchdown reception with 2:13 remaining and the ensuing two-point conversion gave the Cardinals a 17-10 lead and held up as the game-winning score.
Seattle had a chance to make of heroic drive of its own over the final two minutes, but quarterback Russell Wilson's pass on the first play of the drive was intercepted by Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby after bouncing off the arm of outstretched Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin with 1:56 remaining. A replay review upheld the call on the field.
"We live to fight another day," Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after the Cardinals ran out the clock to earn their seventh win in eight games. "We still have one more tough game to go (next Sunday, against San Francisco), and this is one that we needed to have."
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer had to overcome four interceptions, including two in the opposing end zone, to keep the Cardinals in the running for a wild-card spot heading into next Sunday's game against the 49ers. Palmer completed 13 of 25 passes for 178 yards and the 31-yard touchdown to Floyd.
Arizona used a solid defensive effort and three Jay Feely field goals to build a 9-3 lead early in the fourth quarter. Feely's third field goal came with 10:39 remaining, at the end of a drive that included two costly penalties on the Seattle defense and an apparent fumble that was neither called on the field nor via replay.
Tight end Zach Miller's 11-yard touchdown reception with 7:26 remaining and Steven Hauschka's extra point -- which came only after a blocked attempt was wiped out by an Arizona penalty -- put the Seahawks ahead 10-9.
Palmer led the Cardinals right back down the field while getting a key defensive holding call on a third down near midfield, then he threw the game-winning touchdown pass on third-and-6. Floyd dove past cornerback Byron Maxwell and made a juggling catch in the end zone for the eventual game-winner.
Arizona's top-ranked run defense held Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch to 71 yards on 18 carries.
Wilson lost for the first time at CenturyLink Field after completing just 11 of 27 passes for 108 yards, with one touchdown and the lone interception.
"You've got to credit their defense," Wilson said. "Their defense has been playing really well, the last seven weeks, eight weeks -- whatever it is. But we can play better."
The Seahawks can still clinch the NFC West title before their season finale if San Francisco loses to Atlanta on Monday Night Football.
The Cardinals need a little help to make next week's season finale against San Francisco meaningful. If the 49ers lose to Atlanta on Monday night, the Arizona-San Francisco game would be for a playoff spot. If the 49ers win, the Cardinals would need New Orleans to lose next Sunday to still have a chance.
Seattle, which has already clinched a playoff spot, finishes its regular season by hosting the St. Louis Rams next week.

What the Cardinals said
"We were highly prepared for this game. We worked really hard this week. We knew we had to come in and contain No. 3 (Russell Wilson), No. 24 (Marshawn Lynch). We had a great week at practice. We just wanted to prove people wrong." -- Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett.

What the Seahawks said
"We just saw a tremendous defensive football game today. Two defenses just duking it out all day long." -- Coach Pete Carroll.

What we learned about the Cardinals
1. Nobody would want to face the Cardinals in the playoffs, and there's a pretty good chance no one will have to play them. While the Cardinals kept their playoff hopes alive, they'll need either San Francisco or New Orleans to lose over the next week to have a shot at making the postseason. Arizona is the only team to beat quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks at home, so the Cardinals are starting to look like the kind of wild-card team that could make a deep run in the playoffs ... if they get there.
2. Defense wins this time of year, and the Cardinals have the kind of unit that can do some damage. After holding one of the NFL's top quarterbacks to 108 yards on 11-of-27 passing, the Arizona defense made a claim that it might be better than the third-best unit in the NFC West. Colin Kaepernick and Co. could be in for a much different game than the 32-20 win the 49ers had over Arizona two months ago.

What we learned about the Seahawks
1. Playing at CenturyLink Field is quite an advantage, but it's not a given. The Seahawks had won 14 consecutive games there, and had never lost with quarterback Russell Wilson behind center, before Sunday's defeat at the hands of Arizona. The fan base was left in a silent state of shock when Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd made a diving touchdown catch in the final minutes, marking one of the only times this season that CenturyLink Field was lost for words.
2. The Seahawks could really use a healthy wide receiver Percy Harvin in the playoffs. He's missed all but one game with a hip injury, and it hasn't overly affected Seattle's performance -- until Sunday. The receiving corps looked desperate for a playmaker, while kickoff returner Robert Turbin fumbled twice and was eventually replaced by Doug Baldwin in that role.
The all-hands-on-deck system has worked well for the passing game for most of the season, but against top-flight defenses like those in Arizona and San Francisco the Seahawks might need an X-factor. Harvin, if anywhere close to 100 percent, could provide that, and only time will tell whether another couple of weeks off will be enough to get him back in the lineup.

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