The NFC just got a lot more interesting.
Bruce Arians and the Arizona Cardinals went into Seattle and handed Russell Wilson his first career home loss on Sunday of Week 16, beating the Seahawks, 17-10.
Cardinals upset Seahawks at CenturyLink, 17-10. Loss snaps 14-game home winning streak for Seattle. Arizona is 7-1 in last 8 games.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 23, 2013
The Cardinals defense, which helped overcome four Carson Palmer interceptions, was the story of the day, as it held Wilson and the 'Hawks to just 192 total yards and snatched a controversial late interception to seal the victory.
Calais Campbell, who led the charge with two sacks and countless pressures in the backfield, spoke about the upset win after the game:
Arizona keeps its playoff hopes alive by moving to 10-5. Seattle drops to 12-3, but will get another chance to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in Week 17.
Adding insult to injury, Arizona celebrated with Skittles, AKA Marshawn Lynch's favorite snack:
Despite three interceptions by Carson Palmer in the first half, the Cardinals entered the locker room tied at three behind the strength of their defense.
Here's how Seattle's drives following those takeaways went:
|SEA 21||13||70||Field Goal|
|ARI 3||4||3||Missed FG|
Three turnovers. Three points, the last of which was obviously the most important.
Malcolm Smith's interception set the 'Hawks up at the Cardinals' 3-yard line, but after a couple of impressive goal-line stands from Arizona, the normally ultra-reliable Steven Hauschka sent a 24-yard attempt clanging off the post to keep the game tied.
Grantland's Bill Barnwell and ESPN 710 Seattle noted the rarity of the miss:
Steven Hauschka straight-up shanks a 24-yard FG. Excluding blocks, teams are 2071-for-2106 (98.3%) on kicks inside the 6 since 1999.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) December 22, 2013
That ends a streak of 22 consecutive field-goal conversions for Steven Hauschka, 2nd-longest in #Seahawks history.— Danny 710ESPNSeattle (@BrocknDanny) December 22, 2013
Both defenses continued to dominate in the second half.
In the midst of a seemingly endless stream of three-and-outs from both sides, the Cardinals were able to add two field goals—one on a six-play, 27-yard drive, and another on a five-play, 44-yard drive that was helped by 36 penalty yards—to take a 9-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.
When the air was quickly deflating from a normally raucous Century Link field, though, the Seahawks finally found a way past Arizona's defense, which was muzzling for most of the night.
After Jermaine Kearse saved the game by recovering a Golden Tate fumble following a 28-yard reception and proceeded that with a marvelous 13-yard grab, Wilson found Zach Miller in the back of the end zone for the first touchdown of the game with 7:26 left.
Seattle missed the ensuing PAT, but because Arizona was hit with an illegal formation penalty, the 'Hawks got a second chance and converted for the 10-9 lead.
However, the Cards bounced right back, going 80 yards on 10 plays and finding the end zone on this astounding 31-yard grab from Michael Floyd, his first catch of the game:
A two-point conversion from Rashard Mendenhall made it 17-10 with 2:13 remaining.
Wilson's first throw, however, was intercepted by Karlos Dansby. It appeared as though the ball ricocheted off the ground, but the referees reviewed the play and said it came off Doug Baldwin's arm, completing Arizona's massive, crucial victory.
That inspired this comment from Yahoo! Sports' Brad Evans:
Probably a good time to start a Bruce Arians for Coach of the Year petition. What a gutsy, hard-fought win where few ever emerge victorious.— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) December 23, 2013
Carson Palmer, Cardinals: C-
Carson Palmer owes his defense a nice steak dinner or seven.
Entering the game questionable with an ankle injury, the veteran QB looked slow and immobile (well, more so than usual) in the pocket and wasn't able to get much zip on the ball.
The result wasn't pretty. He completed 52 percent of his throws for 178 yards (115 if you take out a 63-yard completion to Brittan Golden) and turned the ball over four times, including once in the end zone on a terrible decision.
Palmer deserves credit for his beautiful game-winning touchdown throw, but he never would have had a chance for it if his defense didn't keep him in the game.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks: B-
A look at the box score will tell you that Wilson was pretty dang mediocre on Sunday: 11-of-27, 108 yards, one touchdown, one interception.
Sometimes, box scores lie.
The second-year QB was his typical dynamic self in the pocket—escaping pressure, creating plays with his legs (two rushes for 32 yards, including a 27-yarder) and throwing accurately on the run.
This time around, however, he was at times plagued by drops that killed drives, and at other times, was forced to throw the ball away because of relentless pressure.
Again, Wilson's stats aren't anything special, but that was more of a result of Seattle's receivers and offensive line struggling against Arizona's stifling defense.
Calais Campbell, Cardinals: A
It was another monster game from Campbell, which will probably once again fly under the radar.
There may not have been a better player on the field on Sunday. Not only did Campbell have two sacks (the Cardinals took down Wilson four total times), but he was also disruptive on seemingly every play and was at the center of Arizona's stout defense.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks: B+
Going up against one of the best run defenses in the league, Lynch didn't see many running lanes. As such, his 71 yards on 18 carries wasn't all that much of a surprise.
Still, as he tends to do, Lynch was elusive, ran downhill and racked up a lot of yards after first contact. For an offense that looked lifeless for most of the game, he was one of the few bright spots.
The Cardinals end the regular season by hosting the San Francisco 49ers in a crucial NFC West showdown, while the Seahawks also stay inside the division with a home matchup against the St. Louis Rams.