For Cardinals, ending home losing streak to Seahawks is personal
Oct 22, 2016, 4:00 PM
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
TEMPE, Ariz. — The last time the Cardinals beat the Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Russell Wilson was making his first NFL start.
It was 2012, and Arizona escaped with a 20-16 victory after denying Wilson and the Seahawks on a fourth down play from the Arizona four in the final minute.
The Cardinals finished that season with a 5-11 record and subsequently fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt, but although they have improved significantly since then, their battles with the Seahawks have not. Since that win at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cardinals have dropped three straight home games in the series, and the games have not really been close.
In 2013, Arizona lost 34-22, and in 2014 the score was 35-6. Last season, Seattle came to Arizona and left with a 36-6 victory. The cumulative score of 105-34 belies just how close the teams have been over that span, as twice in the last three seasons the Cardinals have gone up to Seattle and won.
So, is there a common theme to be found within the defeats?
“Yeah, they beat the [expletive] out of us,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.
Any particular reason for that?
“They scored a lot more points than we did,” the coach added.
He’s not wrong, though even a cursory glance at each of those games would reveal at least a few obvious reasons.
In 2013, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer was sacked seven times while he and the offense were still learning Arians’ system.
In 2014, both Palmer and his backup, Drew Stanton, were out with injuries, which led to Ryan Lindley getting the start and the Cardinals mustering just 216 total yards of offense.
In 2015, the game was played in Week 17 when the Cardinals had little to play for, and it showed when the Seahawks jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and were up 30-6 by halftime.
The games have also featured the Cardinals struggling to stop the run while failing to get their own ground game going, while at the same time having a tough time containing Wilson. There were also turnovers, missed tackles and a host of other things that generally cause one team to soundly beat another.
Really, Arians said it best.
That the Seahawks have had their way with the Cardinals in Arizona is not lost on anyone within the organization, as in the locker room just minutes after finishing off the New York Jets, cornerback Patrick Peterson brought that fact to the attention of his teammates in part of a locker room speech.
“Hey great win, but let’s make sure we understand this: We ain’t beat these [expletive] in our backyard the last three years, so have it on your mind come Wednesday,” Peterson proclaimed.
Whether he needed to say it or not, it has definitely been on their minds.
“Yeah, there’s no doubt,” Palmer said. “Aside from all the other factors that go into this game, that’s another small kind of outlier that’s in the back of our minds.”
“They’ve kicked our butt the last two times we’ve played here,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said, pointing to the scores. “It’s been ugly. So, we have to do everything we can to rectify that and make sure we just come out and start fast and play hard the whole game.”
“It’s personal,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “We’ve just got to take pride in it, got to take it as a challenge. We’ve got to understand that they’re going to come in here and they’re going to try to punch us in our mouth. We’ve just got to be ready for them.”
Perhaps more than any of the previous three losses, the Cardinals are. They have experience in the offense, their quarterback and a defense that seems to be finding its stride.
Their focus, too, seems to be there, though it’s fair to wonder if perhaps they might be too amped up for this matchup, for a variety of reasons.
“No, no,” Arians said. “It’s just a divisional game that’s important this time of year. It’s not make or break, but it can obviously help set you up better.”
At 3-3, a victory would put the Cardinals back in a good spot with regards to winning the NFC West. A loss, however, would put them 2.5 games back of Seattle, who would improve to 5-1 and appear poised to reclaim the division that was theirs in 2013 and 2014.
“Our goal has to be to win the division, and you can’t win the division losing division games, especially at home,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. “So, this is just a step in the right direction towards our goal.”
Odds are it will be one of the two teams playing in Glendale Sunday who wins the division, and the Cardinals know that as of this week, the NFC West goes through Seattle.
“That team has been to the playoffs many, many times,” Fitzgerald said. “They’ve won Super Bowls, played in back-to-back Super Bowls. So this is a team that, if you want to be a contender, this is a team you have to be able to beat because you know where they’re going to be come December.”
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– The Cardinals currently lead the NFL in takeaways with 14, two ahead of the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.
– Under Bruce Arians the Cardinals are 9-3 in primetime games, with a 3-2 mark on Sunday Night Football.
– A victory would make the Cardinals the first team to win primetime games in three consecutive weeks since both New England and Washington accomplished the feat in 2007.
– With one catch, Larry Fitzgerald would have a reception in 186 consecutive games, tying him with Hines Ward for the fourth-longest streak in NFL history. If Fitz catches a touchdown pass, he would have 12 in his career against the Seahawks and become just the sixth player in NFL history with at least a dozen touchdown catches against three different teams.
– If David Johnson gains at least 67 yards from scrimmage, he would become the first player in franchise history with 900 or more yards from scrimmage in the first seven games of a season. With a touchdown, he would have nine for the season and tie a franchise record for touchdowns in the season’s first seven games.