GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — A sluggish start staggered the Cardinals. An inability to run the ball or keep defenders off their quarterback finished them off.
Carson Palmer was sacked seven times and the Cards had almost no run game to take the pressure off him, killing their chances of a comeback in a 34-22 loss to the Seahawks on Thursday night.
“We’ve got to figure out ways to start faster, both sides of the ball,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We came out sluggish. No excuses playing on a ‘Thursday Night Football’ and all that crap. We didn’t break a sweat all week, so we should have been fresh, and we didn’t play at the speed of the game that they played at the start of the game.”
Arians talked to his players during the short week about getting off to a good start against the NFC West-leading Seahawks (6-1).
They didn’t do it. Didn’t really come close, either.
Arizona’s offense stumbled in its first few drives, a stretch that included Palmer’s first interception on a deflected pass.
The Cardinals’ defense, the strong part of the team so far this season, had all kinds of trouble, giving up a pair of touchdown passes by Russell Wilson that put the Seahawks ahead 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Arizona (3-4) managed to claw within 17-10 by halftime, thanks to a strip sack of Wilson deep in Seattle’s end that set up a score, but couldn’t keep the momentum going.
The Cardinals’ offense continued to labor until a late drive in the fourth quarter, giving up a season high in sacks while generating 30 rushing yards on 18 carries. They finished with 234 total yards.
“Obviously, it was not our best,” Arians said. “The last few drives were OK in the 2-minute catch-up, but you have to run the football with some amount of success, and we didn’t get that done.”
Palmer had some ups and downs in his first game against his former college coach Pete Carroll.
He finished 30 of 45 for 258 yards but had two interceptions and padded his numbers during a couple of fourth-quarter drives with the defense backing off, one of which ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown.
His first interception was on breakup by Brandon Browner that Earl Thomas snagged just before it hit the ground, but his second came when Browner stepped in front of Michael Floyd and returned the pick 49 yards to the 1-yard line. That set up Marshawn Lynch’s 2-yard touchdown run that put the Seahawks up 31-13 and put the game all but out of reach.
Palmer has 13 interceptions this season, 11 in the past five games.
“Everybody needs to step up their game, mainly me being the quarterback. That’s your job,” Palmer said. “We’ve got to keep growing. Not enough things got better, obviously.”
The Cardinals defense had its own problems. They were flat early, and Wilson beat them for two touchdown passes: a 31-yarder to Sidney Rice and a 15-yarder to Miller, who made a diving catch in the back of the end zone after having missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury.
The Cardinals’ D keyed a rally late in the second half, though, when a sack by Matt Shaughnessy caused a fumble that was recovered by Calais Campbell at the Seahawks 3-yard line. Rashard Mendenhall then ran it in off right tackle for Arizona’s first touchdown against Seattle since Sept. 9, 2012.
But after Jay Feely’s third field goal, from 52 yards, cut the deficit to 17-13, the Cardinals couldn’t stop Wilson and the Seahawks.
Seattle’s agile-but-undersized quarterback kept Seattle’s first drive of the second half going by throwing as he was his falling for a 6-yard completion to Zach Miller on a third-and-3. Wilson capped the drive by throwing a 1-yard touchdown to Kellen Davis in the back of the end zone.
Wilson finished 18 of 29 for 235 yards and three touchdowns in the stadium where he lost in his NFL debut last season. Lynch finished with 91 yards on 21 carries to give the Seahawks a nice balance.
“This was a really cool night for our football team,” Carroll said. “We wanted to get on the road and get this thing done and continue to feel good about our ability to win on the road. It was a game that got tight, and we pulled away and put it in control.”
NOTES: Seattle lost strong safety Jeron Johnson and fullback Derrick Coleman to hamstring injuries in the first half. … John Abraham’s first two sacks with the Cardinals gave him 124 for his career, most among active players. … Campbell played after being carted off the field in San Francisco on Sunday while strapped down to a stretcher with what Arians said was a bruised spine.