All but doomed with a loss, the Seahawks responded Sunday with their best performance since beating Denver in Week 3, a 19-3 victory over the division-leading Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field that keeps them relevant in the NFC West. Russell Wilson produced another batch of improbably clutch plays and Seattle’s defense dominated — finally — in the manner of a year ago.
The Seahawks (7-4) sliced a game off Arizona’s (9-2) lead in the NFC West, snapping the Cardinals’ six-game winning streak, the club’s longest since 1974.
“They came in with a lot of confidence and we really wanted to knock them off,” said linebacker Bobby Wagner, who returned from a five-game injury hiatus to make eight tackles. “We did a great job of stopping the run and making them pass the ball, and we stopped that too.”
“It was a clear demonstration of good Seahawks ball,” said head coach Pete Carroll. “It took us a while to find our way. I’m happy we made the most of a big opportunity. Defensively, this was the best feeling we’ve had all year with our focus and intensity.
“Russell (Wilson) played really well. He was very resourceful. He was a under a big rush, but was able to make plays. He played a really good game all around.”
Although sacked a career-high-equaling seven times and denied touchdowns four times in the red zone, Wilson made a variety of plays, passing and running, that set up four Steven Hauschka field goals. But the key was a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive late in the third quarter that put away the Cardinals for good.
After hitting TE Tony Moeaki for 11 yards and WR Kevin Norwood for 10 to begin that drive, Wilson remarkably escaped a sack and found RB Marshawn Lynch alone in the flat for 23 yards. Following a signature, 15-yard scramble, Wilson threw a short pass to TE Cooper Helfet, who tightroped his way down the right sideline for a 20-yard touchdown.
When he wasn’t getting buried behind the line of scrimmage (Wilson has been sacked 11 times by the Cardinals the last two meetings), Wilson was the model of efficiency. He completed 17 of 22 for 211 yards — a 121.6 passer rating — and added 73 rushing yards on a day when the Cardinals, No. 3 in the NFL against the run, held Lynch, battling a stomach disorder, to 39 on 15 carries.
The Seahawks gained 293 yards, including 124 rushing, but held the Cardinals to 204 (a season low), including 64 rushing, a veritable swamping. So dominant were the Seahawks that quarterback Drew Stanton finished with a 54.8 passer rating and Arizona had only two plays that went for more than 20 yards.
“There were two great defenses out there on the field,” added Wagner, “and we knew that whichever offense came through would win it.”
The Seahawks might have been able to put the Cardinals away earlier than they did had they been able to convert in the red zone.
After holding Arizona to a three-and-out on their opening drive, the Seahawks went 40 yards in nine plays to take a 3-0 lead on Hauschka’s 27-yard field goal. Wilson kept the drive alive with a 17-yard completion to Moeaki, but the Seahawks missed a TD chance when a Wilson third-down completion to Lynch came up a yard shy of a first down.
Arizona had an opportunity to tie following a 37-yard interference penalty on Byron Maxwell, but Chandler Cantanzaro shanked a 29-yard attempt.
Following a 22-yard Bryan Walters punt return, Wilson threw an expertly placed bomb 48 yards down the right sideline to Rickardo Lockette that set up Hauschka’s second field goal, from 32 yards. The Seahawks missed a second TD opportunity when Deone Bucannon, the rookie from Washington State, sacked Wilson.
But on Arizona’s next series, Maxwell intercepted Stanton and, following an 19-yard pass from Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, Hauschka kicked his third field goal, a 52-yarder. The Seahawks lost another TD chance when Wilson was sacked for the third time.
The Seahawks experienced their most frustrating scoring opportunity late in the second quarter when they took over on the Arizona 48. Wilson bamboozled the Cardinals with a 49-yard read-option keeper and dove into the end zone. But a holding penalty on Kearse on a downfield block canceled the TD but provided a first down at the Arizona 19. Consecutive sacks forced a 49-yard Hauschka field attempt that the Cardinals blocked.
Although the Seahawks led 9-3 at halftime, Wilson was sacked five times, negating the fact that the Seahawks ran 20 of his 25 plays in Arizona territory.
The Seahawks received a major break when Jaron Brown let a touchdown pass from Stanton skip through his fingers in the end zone.
Seattle had another break in the fourth quarter when a 23-yard catch by Brown, which would have given Arizona a first down inside the Seahawks 20, was wiped out with a penalty.
“It was a great battle,” said Wilson. “We found ways to make plays and our defense made plays. We have so many competitors out there who never stop.”
Hauschka’s 40-yard field goal in the third quarter was set up by Deshawn Shead’s blocked punt . . . Wilson is 31-12 as a starting quarterback . . . The Seahawks have won 27 of their last 33 regular-season games and 20 of 22 at CenturyLink Field . . . They are 14-11 all-time against Arizona . . . While the Seahawks ceded seven sacks, they also recorded three, including two by DE Cliff Avril . . . Larry Fitzgerald, the great Arizona receiver, sat out with a knee injury, missing his first contest after 110 consecutive starts . . . The Cardinals have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 consecutive games.
The Seahawks play the first of two against the San Francisco 49ers Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara (FOX). The Seahawks and 49ers play Dec. 14 at CenturyLink Field.
1st Qtr. (Seahawks 3-0): Steven Hauschka 27 FG, 8:53. Drive: 9 plays, 40 yards in 4:36. Key Plays: Tony Meoaki 17 pass from Russell Wilson; Marshawn Lynch 9 run.
2nd Qtr. (Seahawks 6-0): Hauschka 32 FG, 12:52. Drive: 5 plays, 42 yards in 2:38. Key Play: Ricardo Lockette 48-yard pass from Wilson.
2nd Qtr. (Seahawks 9-0): Hauschka 52 FG, 10:09. Drive: 5 plays, 14 yards in 1:52. Key Play: Byron Maxwell interception; Jermaine Kearse 19 pass from Wilson.
2nd Qtr. (Cardinals 9-3): Chandler Catanzaro 23 FG, 0:14. Drive: 15 plays, 74 yards in 5:14. Key Plays: Jaron Brown 22 pass from Drew Stanton; John Carlson 19 pass from Stanton to Seattle 9; Brown dropped TD in end zone.
3rd Qtr. (Seahawks 12-3): Hauschka 40 FG, 8:44. Drive: 4 plays, 2 yards in 2:30.Key Play: Blocked punt by Deshawn Shead.
3rd Qtr. (Seahawks 19-3): Cooper Helfet 20 pass from Wilson (Hauschka kick), 0:52. Drive: 9 plays, 75 yards in 5:41. Key Plays: Lynch 23 pass from Wilson; Wilson scramble for 15 yards.