Cardinals and Rams lose, setting up Wild Card playoff game
A potential home playoff game and an NFC West division title smoldered all game long for the Arizona Cardinals as they wrapped the regular season against the Seattle Seahawks.
Entering with an 11-5 record on Sunday, the Cardinals needed a loss by the 12-4 Los Angeles Rams to claim both.
As the final seconds ticked off a 38-30 loss at State Farm Stadium for Arizona, the San Francisco 49ers led the Rams 27-24 with just over two minutes left in overtime before an interception sealed their victory.
A San Francisco win sent the No. 5 Cardinals to face the No. 4 Rams in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles, which built a 17-0 lead on the 49ers after the same 2:25 p.m. kickoff as Arizona, let all the possibilities linger. That Rams-Niners game was even, 24-24, by the end of regulation, which came with more than six minutes left in the Seattle-Arizona game at State Farm Stadium.
The Niners sealed it after going ahead by a field goal and picking off Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford minutes after the Cardinals’ loss became official.
The Cardinals were outgained in net yards 229-89 at halftime and trailed 17-10 even though their defense spotted them a touchdown 12 seconds into the game. Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones’s strip-sack of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was picked up and returned 16 yards by Arizona defensive end Zach Allen.
Within less than three minutes, the Seahawks answered with a touchdown of their own as Wilson hit Tyler Lockett on a 43-yard touchdown.
Arizona grinded for a 41-yard field goal on a 19-play, 66-yard drive, to take a 10-0 lead — but that was about all the offense could muster in the first half.
Lockett scored another touchdown reception midway through the second quarter, and Seattle tacked on a field goal before the halftime break.
That break, or something in it, woke up the Cardinals.
They went on a four-minute drive over six plays to open the second half with a 20-yard James Conner touchdown catch-and-run. Conner then scored on a 1-yard run less than two minutes later after Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson picked off Wilson and returned it into red zone territory for his team.
Seattle tied it after Arizona took that 24-17 lead on a five-play drive that knocked less than three minutes off the clock toward the end of the third quarter. Then, Seattle went ahead 31-24 after the Cardinals gave them a 10-yard field when punter Andy Lee fumbled on a botched punt deep in Arizona territory.
The Cardinals scored a field goal to make it a four-point game before a 62-yard run by Seahawks back Rashaad Penny made it a 38-27 game that would stick.
The Cardinals’ trip to the playoffs marks the team’s first since 2015. That year after beating the Green Bay Packers in overtime in the NFC Divisional Round, Arizona fell to the Carolina Panthers with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Arizona’s visit to Los Angeles will mark the Cardinals’ first game on Wild Card Weekend since the 2014 playoffs, where they lost on the road to the Panthers, 27-16.