GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Seahawks played a lot better in their second go-around with defending NFC champs, but it still wasn’t enough.
A week after overcoming an early double-digit deficit against an inferior team, the Seahawks discovered what it was like to be the inferior team Sunday, relinquishing a 14-point lead in an eventual 31-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
The loss drops the Seahawks to 3-6, three games behind the NFC West-leading Cardinals, who also hold the tiebreaker, thanks to a season sweep.
This game was not nearly as one-sided as last month’s meeting in Seattle, a 27-3 Arizona victory, but the Seahawks weren’t able to hang on after jumping to a 14-0 lead in the first half.
If there was even a shred of doubt heading into this game that the NFC West torch had been passed from the Seahawks, division champs from 2004-2007, to the Cardinals, who seem destined now for a second straight title, it is gone now.
“The bottom line is that the team we played today, they’re ahead of us,” Seahawks coach Jim Mora said after the game. “They’ve won five of the last six times we’ve played, so we’ve got to continue to try and get better, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Seahawks did indeed get better since Arizona dominated at Qwest Field earlier this year. In that game the Seahawks rushed for a franchise-low 14 yards; on Sunday they gained 164 rushing yards, their best total since the season opener. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had his best game as a Seahawk, hauling in nine catches for 165 yards. After going 0 for 11 on third down last month against Arizona, the Seahawks converted 40 percent of their chances this time around.
Yet none of that mattered in the end. The Seahawks needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, but the Cardinals rallied to outscore Seattle 21-3 in the second half.
“It doesn’t feel like it right now, but I think when we look back at this we’ll see that we did improve as a football team today,” Mora said.
Late in the first quarter, the Seahawks stopped the Cardinals on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, then marched 99 yards for a touchdown. That score came on an 11-yard run by Justin Forsett, who finished with 123 yards on 17 carries while filling in for injured Julius Jones. Two possessions later, the Seahawks made it 14-0 on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to John Carlson.
Arizona rallied with a touchdown and a field goal on its last two possessions of the half, but Seattle still led 17-10 at halftime.
The second half, however, would be a much different story. The Cardinals went 82 yards on the first possession of the second half to tie the game, beginning what would turn into a dominant second half.