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Cardinals show road to NFC West title goes through Glendale

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, left, greets Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, right, after an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Seattle. The Cardinals beat the Seahawks 39-32. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Through 25 minutes and 58 seconds, the Arizona Cardinals looks as though they were going to go into Seattle and not only beat the Seahawks, but destroy them.

Michael Floyd had just scored on a 35-yard catch — his second touchdown of the night — and the road team had taken what looked like a commanding 19-0 lead.

But of course, you knew it would not be easy. You had to. And if you didn’t, shame on you.

The Seahawks would go on to outscore the Cardinals by a 29-6 margin over the next 21 minutes and two seconds, with a pair of Carson Palmer fumbles aiding the collapse, and just like that all the good vibes the team had generated were gone.

It wasn’t quite Waterboy “Oh no, we suck again” territory, but it seemed close.

Then, something amazing happened.

Palmer and his teammates rallied and put together a 10-play, 89-yard touchdown drive that featured an amazing catch by Jaron Brown and a touchdown reception by Jermaine Gresham that gave Arizona the lead. The defense got another stop, Andre Ellington scored on a long touchdown, Drew Stanton danced and the Cardinals left the Emerald City with a 39-32 win as well as a 7-2 record and a three-game lead in the NFC West.

Exactly how they drew it up? Doubtful, but in the end, the end is all that matters.

“I can’t be prouder of a bunch of guys the way we won it and how we won it,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “We go down and take the lead and finish them off. We got the onside kick and ice it out. To come back after some disastrous drives, basically giving them 14 points. To come right back speaks volumes about the character we have in that locker room.”

Volumes? The speakers were blown and must be replaced.

Prior to the game there was plenty of talk about how the Cardinals had yet to beat a winning team and were not nearly as good as their record may have indicated. Technically they still have not yet beat a winning team — the Seahawks were .500 entering the game — but there should be no doubting just how good this team can be.

Not that they are without flaw, as the Cardinals turned the ball over three times, were just 1-of-3 in the red zone, struggled to run the ball and couldn’t keep Palmer upright for much of the game. But in the glow of Sunday night’s win little of that matters.

The Cardinals went into Seattle and beat the two-time defending NFC champions in their own building, serving notice that the road to the NFC West title may now run through Glendale.

“We wanted to show the nation that we’re for real this year,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “We thought this was an opportunity for us to come in here and show the world that we are a contender, not a pretender.

“For the most part, we did what we needed to do to come out on top today. The game plan was awesome. We got to get back home and look forward to playing Cincinnati. Definitely, wasn’t just another game.”

No, it was not.

A glance at the box score would show what you probably would have gathered from watching the game Sunday night: the Cardinals were the better team.

“They played really well, they’re a good football team,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “I thought Carson was phenomenal, and their receivers did great. They’re in good shape right now, I know they’re feeling good about it, and they should. That was a good ballgame for them, a good win.”

Arizona gained more yards, was significantly better on third down and possessed the football for nearly 39 minutes. That the Seahawks were even in the game was a testament to how talented they are and, of course, the Cardinals’ own miscues. But it’s the NFL and rarely does a team play a perfect 60 minutes, especially when you are facing an opponent who is also, you know, playing hard.

And the schedule does not get any easier, as Arizona’s next game will be at home against a Bengals team that is a perfect 8-0 entering their Monday Night Football matchup with Houston. But if the Cardinals are really the Super Bowl contender they appear to be, then, well, that should not be a problem.

Besides, at least it gives them a chance to finally beat a team with a winning record, right?

“What’s our reward?” receiver Larry Fitzgerald asked, rhetorically, after talking about how big Sunday’s win over the Seahawks was. “Another game on Sunday Night Football next week against undefeated Cincinnati. It’s the NFL. We love it.”

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