This was the game I thought the Seahawks had to have in the division -- not just to win it, but to get home-field advantage in the NFC. Seahawks may be in the drivers seat now, getting vengeance on a team that beat them earlier in the year.
What began as a defensive stalemate in the first half ended as anything but, with both the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks coming alive in the second half, but it was Pete Carroll getting the best of Kliff Kingsbury with a 28-21 win in the Pacific Northwest. The first quarter saw only one touchdown scored between both usually high-powered clubs led by MVP candidates in Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray, but things ratcheted up in the second quarter when both Wilson and Murray turned on the stove -- the latter helping the Cardinals tie the game before the former hit Tyler Lockett on an 11-yard toss to remind everyone he can cook, too.
They'd miss the extra point attempt though, and in a game this close, that loomed largely, but wound up not mattering because it was forgiven by a fourth-quarter safety fueled by a controversial offensive holding penalty in the end zone by J.R. Sweezy. That gave the Seahawks a four-point lead and some much-needed breathing room, after seeing Murray connect with running back Chase Edmonds for a wide-open touchdown that shrank the Cardinals deficit to only two-points to start the fourth session.
In the end, and despite the Cardinals landing three sacks on Wilson -- who's night was more efficient than it was eye-popping -- the Seahawks avoid the 2020 sweep in the series and regain the No. 1 seat in the NFC West.
Why the Seahawks won
Russell Wilson was sacked on the first play from scrimmage and a second time in the first quarter. He was hit a total of eight times on the night and still found a way to make the plays that needed to be made, and precisely when the Seahawks needed them most. His stat line won't make anyone write home to mother on Monday morning, but he was extremely efficient and, most importantly, he didn't give the ball away -- despite having two fumbles to his register (one being a bad connection on a snap). After throwing a combined four interceptions in the last two games, he avoided giving the Cardinals one, but instead hung two timely touchdowns on their neck, often using his mobility to keep the pass rush honest in the second half.
To that point, he added 42 rushing yards on 10 carries to his bottom line -- more than Kenyan Drake delivered for Arizona (29). And to make things that much more difficult for the Cardinals defense, Wilson made sure Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf weren't the only ones seeing targets. The contest began with an air of jeopardy for Wilson but wound up being a wheel of fortune.
Why the Cardinals lost
If you can't force Wilson into giving the ball away, it'll probably be a long day.
It's not simply that the Cardinals couldn't get the suddenly turnover-prone quarterback to lob them a gift, but there were also mistakes made in the second half that helped nudge the Seahawks closer and closer to victory. The biggest will be a controversial one debated from now until eternity, namely the aforementioned holding penalty that led to a safety and extended the Seahawks lead to four points, which then turned into seven points when Seattle added a field goal with under seven minutes to play in regulation -- the free two points becoming quite a big deal when you also factor how the Seahawks missed an extra point in the first half. In a game that was close throughout, every point matters, as the Cardinals were reminded.
Down seven with not much time remaining to steal the win, all eyes went to Murray and DeAndre Hopkins to see if they could mount another mystical comeback win in the waning seconds of a game for the second time in only five days. Hopkins had been bottled up for most of the game though, and it wasn't the perennial All-Pro getting the downfield targets on the Cardinals' final drive. Instead, Murray found himself constantly under duress as he tossed passes to Larry Fitzgerald and Andy Isabella, both being off just enough to set up the play that would nail Arizona's coffin shut: Carlos Dunlap burying Murray on fourth down to split the series at 1-1 and put the Seahawks back atop the division.
This safety thrust all of the remaining momentum into the lap of the Seahawks.
Play of the Game
Carlos Dunlap is out of Cincinnati and closing coffins.
Dunlap called 'game'
"Wow -- walk-off sack!!! Carlos Dunlap." - NFL insider Jay Glazer
The Cardinals will look to bounce back when they visit the New England Patriots in Week 12, while the Seahawks travel across the country to take on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Check out the live blog below for highlights and analysis from the final regular season clash between these two fiery rivals.