Cardinals vs. Seahawks: Score, Grades and Analysis

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IDecember 23, 2013

Dec 22, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall (28) carries the ball against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

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. 

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:

GIF courtesy of Bleacher Report

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:

Seahawks After Carson Palmer's 1st-Half Interceptions
Drive StartPlaysYardsResult
SEA 7421Punt
SEA 211370Field Goal
ARI 343Missed 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:

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 - DECEMBER 22:  Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks throws against the Arizona Cardinals on December 22, 2013 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

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:

GIF courtesy of Bleacher Report

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:


Player Grades

Carson Palmer, Cardinals: C-

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 22:  Brandon Mebane #92 of the Seattle Seahawks pressues Carson Palmer #3 of the Arizona Cardinals on December 22, 2013 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

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-

Dec 22, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) passes against the Arizona Cardinals during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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 pocketescaping 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

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 08:  defensive end Calais Campbell #93 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game against the St. Louis Rams at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Rams 30-10.  (
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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+

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 22:  Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks runs against the Arizona Cardinals on December 22, 2013 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

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. 


What's Next

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. 


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