Four turnovers? Giving up a go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter?
Sure, the Arizona Cardinals’ stunning 17-10 road win Sunday against the Seahawks didn’t go entirely as planned, but it’s hard to be choosy about victories at CenturyLink Field, where Seattle had won a team-record 14 in a row.
“I guess that one defies the odds,” said Arizona coach Bruce Arians, who couldn’t keep from smiling after his team earned its seventh win in eight games to remain in playoff contention.
The 10-5 Cardinals host NFC West rival San Francisco in the regular-season finale next week, a must-win game. They also need help to secure a postseason berth, either with a 49ers’ loss Monday against Atlanta or a New Orleans loss next week against Tampa Bay.
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Arizona would lose tiebreakers to the 49ers (10-4) and the Saints (10-5) based on division and conference records, respectively.
“Just a chance; that’s all that we can ask for,” said defensive end Calais Campbell of the team’s playoff prospects.
The Cardinals took a 9-3 lead early in the fourth quarter Sunday, behind kicker Jay Feely’s third field goal, but the advantage was short-lived as a stagnant Seahawks’ offense finally found some rhythm on a six-play, 61-yard drive to go ahead, 10-9, with 7:26 left.
Seattle hadn’t lost at home since 2011 and with the late boost looked primed to continue the streak, which included a 58-0 whipping of Arizona last season.
Quarterback Carson Palmer, despite four interceptions earlier in the game — which matched a career worst — had other ideas. The 10-year veteran answered with a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive against the league’s top-ranked defense, converting three crucial third downs. The possession was capped by an amazing 31-yard catch in the end zone by receiver Michael Floyd, which some Seahawks described as ESPN-worthy amid tight coverage from cornerback Byron Maxwell.
A stunned crowd of 68,266 went eerily silent.
“It was one of those moments when you just lose yourself for a minute,” said teammate Larry Fitzgerald, whose team followed it up with a successful two-point conversion.
Asked if anything stood out in the winning drive, Palmer said: “Nothing, to be honest.”
“There wasn’t any fret,” he added. “There weren’t any speeches. It was just, ‘This is a drive. Let’s go down and win the game.’ … There was nothing special about it; no stories you’ll tell your grandkids. Nothing crazy. Just business as usual.”
The Cardinals outgained the Seahawks, 307-192, and Arians gave most of the credit for that to the Arizona offensive and defensive lines. Arians called the groups dominant, which alleviated being on the wrong end of a 4-2 turnover disparity (Seattle had been 26-3 when winning the turnover battle since 2010, 9-0 this season).
The Seahawks hadn’t scored 10 or fewer points at home since 2010, and the result was capped in the closing minutes on a diving interception by linebacker Karlos Dansby after the ball was judged to have bounced off the arm of Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin.
Replays showed the ball may have hit the turf, but Dansby didn’t take any chances.
“You’re taught that in little league — just run to the ball and things will happen,” said Dansby, who volunteered himself as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. “I ran to the ball and magic happened.”
As the final seconds ticked away, a couple of Cardinals were shown on the Fox broadcast enjoying some Skittles, widely known as the preferred candy of Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.
The treat was certainly well-earned.
|Division of favor|
|The NFC West, which was clinched by Seattle with a 7-9 record in 2010, has emerged with three 10-win teams for the first time since the current divisions were set up before the 2002 season.|