The Seahawks have won their past two regular-season games at University of Phoenix Stadium by a combined score of 71-13.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The best regular season in Cardinals history ended with an unfamiliar sound:
A resounding 36-6 defeat against the Seahawks on Sunday was more than an ill-fitting conclusion. It did more than snap the Cardinals’ nine-game winning streak. The lopsided outcome made Valley fans wonder about the importance of momentum, and what might occur if there is a playoff rematch against Seattle down the road.
Alas, a new year begins with a new fear.
“I would love to be able to turn my attention to the playoffs with a better taste in my mouth,” Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald said. “It’s disheartening the way we performed today. But it’s nice knowing that we have a week to get everybody back healthy now, get a game plan ready for whoever we’re going to play in two weeks, and come back here with a lot more energy.”
The Cardinals already had secured a top-two seed in the NFC playoffs before Sunday, giving Arizona a bye week and at least one home game. Coach Bruce Arians said his team became too enamored with itself following an epic victory over Green Bay in Week 16, highly uncharacteristic of a team that seemed to possess great hunger, maturity and veteran leadership.
“This was a valuable lesson today,” Arians said. “You could see it coming all week. I think coaches, players, everybody fell into that reading-the-press-clippings thing, anointing us Super Bowl champs. This was a nice wake-up call. We got beat in every phase of the game.”
You can’t fake desperation or urgency in the NFL, and from the start, the Cardinals performed like a team without inspiration. The Seahawks dominated the line of scrimmage. They moved the ball at will. They pressured Carson Palmer. They exposed the Cardinals’ porous special teams, which officially is a concern entering the postseason.
Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed his fifth extra-point attempt of the season, eliciting a very candid response from the coach.
“Yeah, every time he kicks one I hold my breath,” Arians said. “So I’ll be holding my breath every time he kicks one in the playoffs.”
Still, there is little doubt the Cardinals can flush this performance and re-emerge in the playoffs as the offensive juggernaut that set all kinds of team records in 2015, a team that actually had more touchdowns than punts before the no-contest Sunday.
The fear is what this outcome might do for Seattle, a team that was missing five starters and was down to the third-string running back. The Seahawks will enter the playoffs with a hot quarterback, great confidence and no fear of a return trip to Glendale. They have won their past two regular-season games at Glendale by a combined score of 71-13.
“That game is over,” Palmer said. “The regular season is over. Now the fun begins. We’ll be ready to rock.”