Deflating loss to Seahawks brings Cardinals back to reality
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Scientists told us early Sunday that this would be longest night in earth’s history. It sure felt that way to Cardinals fans after Seattle’s 35-6 victory..
You knew in your head that it was too much to ask erstwhile Chargers’ practice squad quarterback Ryan Lindley to lead Arizona to victory in the most important game of the season at University of Phoenix Stadium. There would be no Lind-sanity against the Seahawks.
You knew in your head that without quarterbacks Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton, the Cardinals had little chance of securing the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
You knew in your head that the defense was still playing without Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington and John Abraham, not to mention Karlos Dansby.
You knew Seattle was on a sick roll, having limited its previous four opponents to 27 combined points and less than 200 average yards of offense as it chased the first Super Bowl repeat since the Patriots did it a decade ago.
But the heart wasn’t willing to listen. All it saw was a team that had overcome adversity all season to tie the franchise-high in a single season with 11 wins. All it saw were those four fourth-quarter rallies. All it saw was that 7-0 home record. All it saw was a defense that always found a way.
Unfortunately for those wishful thinkers, they didn’t see any of that on Sunday. Chandler Catanzaro’s 27-yard field goal midway through the second quarter gave Arizona a 3-0 lead and brief hope, but it lasted all of three plays. Following the kickoff, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson hit tight end Luke Willson for an 80-yard touchdown on Seattle’s second play of the drive. The Seahawks added a Marshawn Lynch 6-yard TD run on their next drive and never had an 11-point deficit looked so large.
The Cardinals added a third-quarter field goal before Seattle blew their doors off with three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"Obviously we can do some things better and we put our defense out there too long, too many times," coach Bruce Arians said of the six-plus minutes disparity in time of possession. "We had it to a one-score game and then it fell apart."
Lindley looked predictably lost against the NFL’s hottest defense, completing just 18 of 44 passes for 216 yards and an interception. That fact was compounded by the Cardinals’ inability to get the run game going (29 yards). They failed to take advantage of a pair of third-quarter drives that began outside their own 40-yard line, and in the biggest failing of the night, the defense didn’t do its part.
The Cardinals allowed 10 plays of 20 or more yards. Aside from the 80-yard touchdown pass, Russell Wilson scrambled for 55 and 22 yards, completed a 49-yard pass to receiver Doug Baldwin and a 22-yard pass to Paul Richardson, and Lynch ripped off a 79-yard TD run to seal the game in the fourth quarter.
Seattle finished with a franchise-record 596 yards of offense, tied for the second-most yards ever allowed in Cardinals franchise history. The Seahawks also had 267 rushing yards against an increasingly vulnerable run defense.
"There was a lot of miscommunication, a lot of busted coverages. It just seemed like we weren’t ready to finish the ballgame and we didn’t," said cornerback Patrick Peterson, who missed a tackle on Lynch’s long touchdown run and missed a potentially game-changing interception in the third quarter when the score was 14-3.
"I was very close. I caught the ball but I didn’t squeeze it and that’s kind of how the ball got away from me. I wish I could have that one back because I believe that could have definitely changed the game."
The good news for the Cardinals is that they are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009 — Kurt Warner’s final season. They could still win the NFC West with a win in San Francisco next week and an unlikely Seattle loss at home to the Rams, but even if they do get to the playoffs, they’ll have to iron out the issues that are plaguing them on both sides of the ball.
The Cardinals haven’t scored a touchdown since Jaron Brown’s 26-yard TD grab late in the third quarter against Kansas City on Dec. 7, a stretch of nine quarters. Meanwhile, four out of their last five opponents have rushed for 100-plus yards. This is hardly what you’d call peaking for the playoffs.
"It’s not like this is the end of the road or this is the end-all, be-all for us," Lindley said. "We have another opportunity next week to get better and then we’ll see who we play (in the playoffs) given what happens around the league."