GLENDALE, Ariz. -- What a fitting way for the Arizona Cardinals to finish their season.
They win, in overtime of course, with Larry Fitzgerald's spectacular plays making the difference.
Fitzgerald had two such catches in the game-winning drive, leading to a 28-yard field goal by Jay Feely that gave the Cardinals a 23-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Arizona's fourth overtime victory -- all at home -- in the last nine weeks of the season. The four overtime wins in a season are an NFL record.
"I wish we could play more games in overtime," Fitzgerald said. "If we play 16 games in overtime next year, we might go 16-0."
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Fitzgerald made a leaping grab against two defenders early in the drive for a 26-yard gain, but he saved the best for last, a diving, one-handed catch for 8 yards that got the team within field goal range and eventually set up the winning score.
"I actually thought it was too far," quarterback John Skelton said of his throw. "I just saw his arm stick out, stick it, and stick the landing. We come to expect that from Larry. It's almost like it's not even a shocker anymore because he does it so often."
Skelton didn't mention it, but he fainted in the locker room before the game after getting fluid drained from a knee.
"Pre-game he scared us all. He fell out and he had a little fainting issue in the locker room," Fitzgerald said. "We were all nervous about him being ab le to play today and he fought through that and was able to go out there and perform and get our team a win. That shows the kind of toughness he has."
Arizona (8-8) finished the season 7-2 after a six-game losing streak left it 1-6.
"We're 1-0 in 2012," coach Ken Whisenhunt said, hoping that the strong second half of the season will propel the team into a successful 2012 campaign.
|Seattle got a 48-yard TD run from Leon Washington, a 61-yard, fourth-quarter TD catch from WR Ricardo Lockette and a steady effort from RB Marshawn Lynch, but a red-zone INT proved costly, so did a blocked FG. QB Tarvaris Jackson's inability to lead his team to a late victory showed up again as well. Seattle's defense was decent statistically, but it couldn't sustain pressure on QB John Skelton and it allowed Arizona a 131-yard rushing day despite the absence of RB Beanie Wells.|
|Arizona's offense sputtered again, making numerous mistakes with backup QB John Skelton at the helm, including a costly, fourth-quarter INT that helped Seattle rally from a 10-point deficit. The defense, which played so well over the second half, gave up several big plays, including RB Leon Washington's 48-yard TD run and Ricardo Lockette's 61-yard TD catch. Thank goodness for a special teams unit that blocked its fifth FG of the season and the unmatched talents of WR Larry Fitzgerald (32nd career 100-yard game).|
|By Craig Morgan|
Seattle (7-9) had rallied to tie the game after trailing 20-10 early in the fourth quarter.
Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 149 yards after one reception for 2 yards in the first half. It was his 32nd career 100-yard receiving game, sixth this season.
"The performance of Larry Fitzgerald, he is an incredible football player," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He is as good as you can get in this game and he showed it. I just marvel at the things he does. He has done it before and he did it again and it proves who he is."
Fitzgerald joined Jerry Rice, Randy Moss and Marvin Harrison as the only players to top 1,400 yards receiving in four seasons.
Skelton completed 22 of 40 for 271 yards and a touchdown with one interception for Arizona. Tarvaris Jackson was 21 of 35 for 222 yards and a touchdown with one pick for the Seahawks.
The Cardinals earlier had overtime victories over St. Louis, Dallas and Cleveland. The Seahawks finished with the same record as a year ago, when 7-9 was good enough to win the NFC West.
"We know we have a better team this year," Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. "We are young but the experience that we got this year and all the plays we made we can build on that next year."
Arizona's Patrick Peterson, who made the Pro Bowl on special teams as a rookie, returned a punt 42 yards to set up a field goal, then blocked Steven Hauschka's 24-yard field goal attempt. It was the NFL-leading fifth blocked field goal for the Cardinals, two of them by Peterson.
Seattle won the toss heading into overtime, and Leon Washington's 47-yard kickoff return gave the Seahawks the ball at their own 40, but they failed to move it and had to punt.
Arizona's game-winning drive started at the 19. On third-and-3 at the 26, Skelton threw over the middle to Fitzgerald, who caught it between two defenders for a 26-yard gain to the Seahawks 48. Skelton's quarterback sneak on fourth and less than a yard gave Arizona a first down at the Seattle 37.
Arizona had it second-and-9 at the 36 when Skelton threw toward but not particularly close to Fitzgerald, who somehow gathered in the ball with one hand and cradled it as he fell to the ground. A review confirmed that it was a catch. LaRod Stephens-Howling, filling in for the injured Beanie Wells, rushed three times to the Seattle nine, and Feely's third field goal of the game gave the Cardinals the win.
Down 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, Seattle tied with a pair of big plays by two rookies, Richard Sherman and Lockette. First, Sherman stepped in front of intended receiver Andre Roberts for an interception that set up a chip shot field goal by Hauschka, then Jackson lofted the long pass to Lockette, who beat cornerback Marshay Green, and it was 20-20 with 7:47 remaining. Green had just been activated from the practice squad on Saturday.
After Washington's 48-yard touchdown run tied it at 10-10 with 10:56 to go in the third quarter, the Cardinals went 80 yards in eight plays. Skelton was 6 for 6 for 70 yards, capped by a 13-yard TD toss to Todd Heap, the tight end's first score in an injury-plagued first season with Arizona, putting the Cardinals up 17-10.
Skelton's 42-yard pass to Fitzgerald led to Feely's 43-yard field goal that boosted the lead to 20-10 12:18 to play.
Seattle responded, driving from its 20 to the Arizona 6. But the offense stalled, and Peterson rushed untouched from the end to block the short field goal try.
Peterson, who had been slowed in practice all week by a strained Achilles tendon, nearly broke free for what would have been an NFL record fifth punt return for a touchdown. Instead, punter Jon Ryan tripped him up at the Seattle 31. Still, the 42-yard return set up Feely's 41-yard field goal that put Arizona up 10-3 with 3:28 left in the first half.
Wells was a surprise inactive. He had been listed as questionable but had played through the pain in his left knee through the season.
Skelton finished 5-2 as a starter, 6-2 if you count the San Francisco game.
Quarterback Kevin Kolb missed the final three games of his frustrating first season with Arizona because of a concussion, the result of a knee to the head on the Cardinals' third play of the game against San Francisco on Dec. 11. He missed four games earlier in the season with a right turf toe injury.
Marshawn Lynch's string of 11 straight games with a touchdown came to an end. ... Peterson set an NFL rookie record for punt return yards (699), the second-most of any player in league history. ... Seattle's Doug Baldwin became the first undrafted rookie free agent to lead his team in receptions and yards receiving since Bill Groman of did it for the Houston Oilers in 1960. ... The University of Phoenix Stadium roof was closed even though it was sunny and 83 degrees outside. ... The stadium already had extra seats installed for Monday night's Fiesta Bowl matchup between Oklahoma State and Stanford.