Hawks Stomp Cards

The Cardinals entered Sunday's showdown with the Seahawks hoping to make one final push for their first ever NFC West title. Instead, Matt Hasselbeck picked apart the Cardinals secondary and Kurt Warner threw a career-high five interceptions as the Seahawks clinched their fourth consecutive title with a 42-21 win.

The Cardinals received good and bad news before the opening kickoff. The good: Larry Fitzgerald was cleared to play after missing last week's game with a groin injury. The bad: Anquan Boldin was down with a bum toe.

Boldin's absence proved pivotal, as the Cardinals were forced into pass-happy mode with 7:44 left in the first half. It was then that the Seattle Seahawks stretched their lead to 24-0, forcing Ken Whisenhunt to call for more shots downfield in hopes of sparking a frantic comeback.

Whisenhunt's game plan fell apart early on, when Warner was intercepted by Deon Grant on the opening drive. The Seahawks turned the interception into a 23-yard field goal by Josh Brown and the rout was on. Matt Hasselbeck proceeded to lead three consecutive scoring drives, finding Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram and Deion Branch for touchdowns.

Hasselbeck added another touchdown to Marcus Pollard in the fourth quarter, which essentially iced the game. It was Hasselbeck's first four-touchdown day since Sept. 24, 2006, when he threw for five against the New York Giants.

Kurt Warner played valiantly, as the Seahawks defenders pinned their ears back and abused the Cardinals offensive line. First-round pick Levi Brown suffered a particularly rough afternoon, giving up three sacks to Patrick Kerney. Warner endured five sacks in total.

Several Cardinals players enjoyed strong games. Atop that list is Jerheme Urban, who enjoyed his first career 100-yard game (six catches, 123 yards and a touchdown). Fitzgerald also caught six balls, chipping in 79 yards and his seventh touchdown of the season.

Karlos Dansby paced the defense with 11 tackles and a force fumble. Calvin Pace also enjoyed a big night with six tackles and a sack. Pace is amidst career rejuvenation in his new role as a pass-rushing linebacker, and Sunday's sack gave him a new career-high with 5.5.

The secondary sorely missed Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson, who was placed on the injured-reserve list just more than a week ago. Oliver Celestin made his fourth career start against Seattle and was badly abused. The Cardinals signed six-year veteran Bhawoh Jue on Nov. 30 and he should supplant Celestin once he is up to speed with Clancy Pendergast's schemes.

The miscues weren't isolated to offense and defense. Mitch Berger mishandled a good snap by Nathan Hodel, causing Berger to take a safety that put his team behind, 36-14. Berger just joined the team on Nov. 29th after more than a year out of the league, so the dropped snap won't help extend his second stay.

The Cardinals (6-7) fall one game behind the Minnesota Vikings for the final wild card spot in the NFC. The Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions also sit at 6-7. The Cardinals lost to the Redskins and beat the Lions earlier this season. The Vikings, Redskins and Lions all have better conference records than the Cardinals.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network.


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