I have long been a harsh critic of the Arizona Cardinals, but what they did today by going up to Seattle and beating the Seahawks 17-10 is simply incredible–a resounding victory marking the greatest in the franchise’s history since a playoff win nearly four years ago.
Over the past two years, Seattle’s status of near-invincibility has grown from on its home field, to seemingly away from it in light of its dominating 2013 campaign. Prior to Sunday’s tilt against division rival Arizona, the Seahawks triumphed in their last 14 contests at CenturyLink Field (dating back to the onset of 2012 season), as well as sporting a 23-7 home record during head coach Pete Carroll’s tenure in the northwest. Rookie and now sophomore sensation Russell Wilson had not only yet to lose at home in the NFL, but also extended this streak into his college career, last tasting defeat at home exactly 1,177 days ago.
With all of that well-established before attempting to keep their slim playoff hopes alive–and seeking to avenge a 58-0 embarrassment of a loss at the same locale a year back–the Arizona Cardinals proceeded to shock the NFL world in thoroughly outplaying Seattle on its home turf.
At times on Sunday, the Cards appeared on track to regress to their old ways of squandering a potential victory, and never making the leap to a team worth legitimately considering. In three red zone attempts (one of which coming from the most fortuitous of events: a recovery on a unforced kickoff fumble) the Cardinals failed to convert for a touchdown on any. When Seattle snatched a 10-9 lead on Wilson’s 11-yard strike to Zach Miller (oddly enough a native Arizonan) with 7:26 remaining in the fourth quarter, Arizona seemed headed for a devastating finish, after having arduously built up a lead out of field goals over a span of three quarters.
But Carson Palmer responded emphatically, and in doing so atoned for a miserable four-interception, sub-.500 CMP% performance beforehand. The Cardinals quarterback lead his team on the ensuing possession 80 yards down the field–a reaction to a pressurized situation highly uncommon for signal-callers visiting Seattle–and pushed the Cards ahead 17-10 on a 31-yard touchdown bomb to receiver Michael Floyd, topped by a two-point conversion run by Rashard Mendenhall. The score rendered the once-raucous “12th man” practically mute, sending shockwaves throughout the nation as well. When linebacker Karlos Dansby intercepted a Russell Wilson pass on the Seahawks’ next drive, the momentous and perhaps franchise-altering win was sealed.
Yet despite the most unprecedented of victories at Seattle, the Cardinals are still not in control of their own destiny. To reach the playoffs, Arizona would need to beat San Francisco–which becomes considerably more manageable being at home in Glendale–as well as hope for either the 49ers (tomorrow against the Falcons) or the Saints (next Sunday against the Bucs) to lose, both results unlikely because of significantly inferior opponents.
Nevertheless, even if the Cardinals miss out on the postseason for a fourth consecutive season, it would not diminish the job Bruce Arians has done in his first year as head coach of this team. I, for one, was not entirely on board with firing Ken Whisenhunt, and even less content with hiring Arians over former defensive coordinator Ray Horton. But as the 2013 season progressed, and the Cards developed a sense of rhythm under the helmsmanship of Arians, the organization’s bold decision back in January was clearly vindicated. Arians has extracted the best out the offense passed down to him, while allowing the defense to retain its efficiency of 2012, and has began to construct a winning culture–all in a season the Cardinals can surely build upon moving forward.