A furious second-half comeback by the Seahawks wasn't enough Sunday night as the visiting Arizona Cardinals surrendered a 19 point lead, only to re-take the lead late in the fourth quarter and hold on for a 39-32 victory.
The Seahawks were thoroughly dominated over the first half, losing the total yards battle 269 to just 89 and time of possession 21:17 to 8:43. Seattle scratched their way back into the game with two forced fumbles of Carson Palmer in the second half but Arizona's quarterback feathered a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham over safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas with 8:41 remaining to seize back momentum. The Cardinals took away any realistic chance at a final rally by Seattle when running back Andre Ellington scored on a 48-yard scamper down the left sideline with just 1:58 remaining in the game.
The Cardinals jammed up rushing lanes and limited Russell Wilson to just 14 of 32 passing for 240 yards. The real culprit for Seattle, however, was self-inflicted mistakes, including a safety (in which Wilson recovered his own fumble in the end zone after running into left tackle Russell Okung), failures on two two-point conversions, multiple drops by Jimmy Graham and most of all, 14 penalties for 131 yards.
The penalties were especially critical on offense, where the Seahawks had five separate series in which the team faced 1st and 20 or longer. With Marshawn Lynch and the running game all but eliminated as the offense tried to dig its way out of holes, the Seahawks essentially played into the Cardinals' hands.
Meanwhile, Palmer was delivering strikes, throwing picture-perfect touchdowns to Gresham and wide receiver Michael Floyd, who scored on passes of 27 and 35 yards, respectively.
After spotting Arizona a 19-0 lead, Seattle finally showed some sign of life on offense on its last drive of the second quarter, driving 80 yards in six plays on the strength of a well-thrown deep ball caught by Paul Richardson. The 40-yard grab seemed to energize the Seahawks and fullback Will Tukuafu barreled in from one yard out to give Seattle its first points of the game.
Shortly thereafter it was announced in the press box that Richardson has suffered an injury to his hamstring. He did not return to the game. Bruce Irvin also was injured for the Seahawks in this game. He suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter and did not return, as well.
Palmer calmly led Arizona to more points following Seattle's scoring drive, directing the Cardinals on a nine-play 55-yard drive to use up the final 1:52 of the half and put kicker Chandler Catanzaro in position to make his second field of the game, giving his team a 22-7 lead heading into the break.
After Seattle and Arizona traded field goals early in the third quarter, the Seahawks comeback began in earnest with Wilson delivering beautiful pass to Doug Baldwin down the left sideline for a 32-yard score that re-energized the team. Baldwin was Wilson's only reliable outlet for much of the game, leading all participants with 134 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven grabs.
Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard turned up the pressure as the game went on, sending more and more aggressive blitzes Palmer's way, resulting in two fumbles from Palmer which turned the game completely around.
As he'd done on multiple occasions Sunday night, Cliff Avril broke through on the first snap of the fourth quarter, violently throwing Palmer to the turf. The ball bounced out of Palmer's hand as he was tossed to the ground and K.J. Wright picked it up, nearly scoring. Lynch danced his way into the end zone on the next play to narrow Arizona's lead to just 25-23.
On Arizona's next drive, Richard again dialed up a blitz that got home, with Bobby Wagner scooping up another fumble from Palmer and returning it 22 yards for the go-ahead score.
As he'd done earlier, however, Palmer showed his veteran resiliency, directing Arizona to two fourth quarter scoring drives that may have effectively snuffed out Seattle's chances at repeating as NFC West division champs.