Sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction.
The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks combined for four field goals during Sunday night's 6-6 tie, but the NFC West showdown was more about the missed kicks than the makes.
Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro had the chance to win the game with a 24-yard field goal in overtime but missed it. Seattle then marched down the field and gave Stephen Hauschka a 28-yard attempt to win it, but he shanked his chip shot. Naturally, a game that featured zero touchdowns, 16 accepted penalties, 15 punts and excruciatingly poor kicks ended in a tie.
Bleacher Report and ESPN's Scott Van Pelt effectively summarized things:
ESPN Stats & Info said it was the first tie in Seattle's history but noted this was almost business as usual for the Cardinals:
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First-place Seattle moved to 4-1-1 after the absurd game and is still comfortably ahead of second-place Arizona, which is 3-3-1.
While it was far from pretty, Greg A. Bedard of Sports Illustrated appreciated the defensive toughness required during Sunday's contest:
Despite the lack of points, Arizona received solid numbers from its offensive playmakers. Carson Palmer threw for 342 yards, while David Johnson ran for 113 and added 58 through the air. J.J. Nelson led the way with a game-high 84 receiving yards.
Palmer was fighting an uphill battle in terms of pass-catching options. Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk reported receiver Jaron Brown left with a knee injury. Michael Floyd shuffled in and out during the contest. What's more, Arizona played the game without John Brown.
On the other side, Russell Wilson threw for 225 yards, while Christine Michael added 52 on the ground. Doug Baldwin finished with a team-high 69 receiving yards.
It was nothing but defense from the start. The teams were locked in a scoreless tie at the end of the first quarter and traded punts on the opening six possessions. A Patrick Peterson return on that sixth punt set Arizona up at Seattle's 33-yard line, and Sports Illustrated commented on the lackluster state of the game:
The Cardinals couldn't cash in thanks to the athleticism of Bobby Wagner. The linebacker hurdled Arizona's snapper and blocked Catanzaro's field goal, although the officials initially threw a penalty flag. Tom Pelissero of USA Today said they were "debating whether Bobby Wagner was lined up over the snapper. If he's not on the line, it's legal."
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians threw a challenge flag but was charged a timeout for doing so on a play that wasn't reviewable.
Arizona responded on its next possession with a methodical 15-play drive that ended with a field goal to finally put someone on the scoreboard. However, it was a win for Seattle's defense to keep the Cardinals out of the end zone, and writer Peter Bukowski realized it was a familiar formula:
The Cardinals moved into field-goal range on their next drive, but the clock ran out on the half after Frank Clark sacked Palmer on a play with offsetting penalties. Seattle finished the half with a grand total of 47 total yards and five punts, and Pelissero said: "Wilson just looks jittery in the pocket. Either can't or won't step up through his creases right now."
It was more of the same for Seattle with another punt to open the third quarter, and Arizona took the consequent possession and moved into the red zone. However, the Seahawks defense stopped Johnson on a fourth down with a strong push up front.
While he didn't come through with the first down in the defensive slugfest, Johnson added to his impressive season in the third quarter, as NFL on ESPN highlighted:
That was more than Seattle's offense could say, ending the third quarter with 83 total yards. Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times underscored the struggles:
Arizona started with great field position at the Seahawks' 49-yard line after forcing another punt on Seattle's first possession of the fourth, but it failed to convert with a three-and-out. While the offense was essentially invisible, the Seattle defense deserved praise for keeping it within striking distance on the road against a team with a number of playmakers.
The offense continued to be a disaster and found itself pinned back at the 1-yard line after a Chandler Jones strip-sack. Seattle moved out of the shadow of its goal line with a completion but still had to settle for a punt, and Kent Somers of AZCentral.com noted the Cardinals were probably better off not taking any chances in the final minutes:
Even with a conservative approach, it was special teams that haunted Arizona. Tanner McEvoy steamrolled through the line and blocked a punt, setting Seattle up at the Cardinals' 22-yard line after a five-yard penalty was enforced against Arizona.
Seattle had to settle for a field goal, which gave Arizona's offense a chance to win the game with four minutes remaining. It failed to do so, and the Seahawks took over on their own 23-yard line with 1:09 left. It couldn't do anything, either, and the game went into overtime tied at three.
Kevin Clark of The Ringer put the score into perspective:
The Cardinals won the toss and effectively moved the ball but had to settle for a field goal when Floyd dropped a pass that would have given them a first down inside the red zone. That gave the Seahawks a chance to win with a touchdown, but they instead extended the contest with a Hauschka field goal after driving into the red zone.
Arizona's offense then nearly seized its chance to win when Palmer found Nelson for a 40-yard gain to Seattle's 5-yard line. Johnson almost sealed it with a run on the next play, but the Cardinals settled for Catanzaro's fateful field-goal attempt.
Stephen Cohen of SeattlePI.com summarized the proceedings:
Seattle looked poised to take advantage of the blunder when it entered the red zone, but Hauschka missed his attempt as well. A desperation Hail Mary from Arizona fell incomplete, and the game ended in a tie.
The Seahawks travel to the Superdome to face the 2-4 New Orleans Saints and then have a home game against a Buffalo Bills team that just lost to the Miami Dolphins. The next two games represent a chance for the Seahawks to create separation in the division and put themselves in position for a first-round bye in the NFC.
As for the Cardinals, they hit the road to face the Carolina Panthers and then return home for a game against the San Francisco 49ers. Those teams are a combined 2-11, which means Arizona has a golden opportunity to get back into the playoff picture after a disappointing start to the season.
The Cardinals made the NFC Championship Game last season but will need to take advantage of the upcoming soft stretch to remain close to Seattle this year.
After the game, Hauschka said, "I feel like I let the team down," per Liz Mathews of 710 ESPN in Seattle.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, per Cohen: "I don’t know what a tie means. I don’t know where that fits in the course of things."
On the other side, Arians talked about Seattle's leaping when blocking or attempting to block kicks, per Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official website: "I'll talk to the league and we'll get some kind of explanation that's all bulls--t like normal."
In regard to the wild ending, Arizona's Tyrann Mathieu said, "I’m speechless," per Kyle Odegard of the Cardinals' official website.
So were the viewers.