The first half was a clinic on ineptitude, particularly in the second quarter when the Cardinals put up 22 points. Seattle had no answer for Carson Palmer and the Arizona attack, and couldn't get anything going on the offensive side of the ball. They went into halftime trailing 22-7.
The second half would see an uptick in energy and execution on both sides of the ball, with the Seattle defense keeping the game alive with two timely forced fumbles (more on those below). In fact, the Seahawks would even take the lead in the early minutes of the fourth quarter of this one. Unfortunately for Seattle, the Cardinals would score the next two touchdowns to put the game out of reach. Steven Hauschka would hit a field goal to bring the team within a touchdown with a minute remaining, but the onside kick attempt fell safely into the waiting arms of Larry Fitzgerald.
The Arizona Cardinals walked out of CenturyLink Field on Sunday night with a stronger grip on the NFC West, and an even clearer path to the playoffs.
1. Andre Ellington sucks the life out of the crowd.
This was the dagger. The game wasn't technically over after this run, but Seattle's last chance to steal a win effectively ended as Ellington scampered down the sideline.
2. Cliff Avril comes up big.
With the Seahawks trailing by eight points in the early fourth quarter, Cliff Avril pulled out one of his patented strip sacks, giving Seattle the ball back (Lynch would run the ball into the end zone one play later). However, Avril did start celebrating this play while the ball was in the air, so it wasn't all roses for the stud defensive end.
3. KJ Wright and Bobby Wagner combine to give Seattle the lead.
Sure, KJ Wright had a free run at the quarterback, but he forced the fumble with a flailing left hand while falling to the ground. Free run or not, that's impressive. This was the play that gave the Seahawks their first, and only, lead of the night.
Doug Baldwin: 7 catches, 134 yards, 1 TD
Nice to see Doug have such an integral role in the offense. He did everything that Seahawks fans have come to love about his game, namely finding ways to get open when Wilson improvises.
Seattle penalties: 13 for 126 yards
Were the officials a little over-anxious throwing the flags on Sunday night? Absolutely they were. But the Seahawks certainly didn't help themselves with some of these penalties, most of which occurred in the secondary.
Carson Palmer: 29/48 for 363 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
The Seahawks have been ducking the Carson Palmer-led Cardinals for a few years now, thanks to Palmer's injuries. On Sunday night, however, they saw the man who is heavily involved in MVP discussions. Palmer was magnificent for most of the night, outside of a brief period of time in the late third/early fourth quarter when he seemed shell-shocked by the multiple fumbles. He delivered some brilliant balls, some of which could have caused even more damage if caught. He was fantastic.
--Thankfully, it sounds like Mike Iupati is doing okay after his scary injury. This is great news! We're rooting for you, Mike.
--Bobby Wagner lays down the boom. This hit gave the entire team a jolt of energy when they badly needed one.
--You were just flagged for reading this sentence. Yes, you. In your living room. Or your bedroom. Or your bathroom. This officiating crew knows you were holding something, you can't hide it.
--We learned what a Will Tukuafu touchdown celebration looks like. It's kind of terrifying.
--This may shock you, so hold onto your seat. The NFL still doesn't know what a catch is.
If you watch this in real-time, it's pretty obvious that it's a catch and a fumble.
But don't worry, when you watch it in slow-motion, it becomes clear that this was actually ... still a catch and a fumble.
--Both of these teams need to hit the spa for a few days. They beat the crap out of each other on Sunday night.
--The Seattle secondary was just called for another illegal contact/pass interference penalty.
--There was a 38-yard extra point in this game. 38 yards!
--I came away from this game very unimpressed with Chris Johnson. I can only remember him running between the tackles successfully a few times. He looked like the same guy who flamed out once already because all he knows how to do is use his speed as a trump card. Against a fast defense, bouncing every run outside of your blocking is a terrible idea.
Conversely, Andre Ellington looked great for the Cardinals. He's been their pass-catching back for a few weeks now, but he should probably be their outright starter. But hey, if it ain't broke.
What it Means
It means the Seahawks are making things difficult for themselves. Barring a collapse by the Cardinals, the NFC West title is almost surely out of reach with the Seahawks now sitting at 4-5, and the Cardinals at 7-2. Seattle is also putting themselves in a difficult position to make it back to the playoffs at all. If the season ended today, the Packers and Falcons would occupy the wild card spots (both own 6-3 records). It will likely take wins in at least five of their remaining seven games to get themselves into the playoff picture, although they would have to avoid a tie with the Packers to do so, thanks to Green Bay owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The first step for the Seahawks in salvaging their season comes next Sunday at home against the 49ers.