The Arizona Cardinals had a chance to back up all the growing, glorious talk about them on the primetime stage of “Thursday Night Football” against the division rival that’s been their primary nemesis for years now.
The question on everyone’s minds following their thrilling, Hail Mary victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday was, could they topple the NFC West’s long-standing old guard, the Seattle Seahawks, for the second time this season?
All the dramatics were set in place after the Seahawks got a safety and then a 41-yard field goal by Jason Myers with 2:19 left in regulation to increase their lead to 28-21. All the Cardinals had to do to validate their ascension was find a way to tie the score and either win it with a two-point conversion or take their chances in overtime.
All hope, however, ended for the Cardinals on Seattle’s 32-yard line. Kyler Murray, despite a gutsy performance while playing with a sore right shoulder, got sacked by Carlos Dunlap on fourth and 10 and the Seahawks hung on for a 28-21 victory.
Murray, who injured his throwing shoulder after getting sacked by L.J. Collier in the first quarter and kept getting repeated heat treatment on the sideline between possessions, had moved the Cardinals downfield to have a shot at another late-game heroic finish.
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But it wasn’t meant to be, as Murray threw three straight incompletions to Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald and Andy Isabella and then Dunlop penetrated the line for a game-saving 5-yard sack. Murray finished the game completing 29 of 42 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns.
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Arizona (6-4) could have staked at least a share of first place in the NFC West with a victory, but now trails Seattle (7-3) and will also be behind the Rams (6-3) if they beat the Buccaneers on Monday night.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 23 of 28 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, avoiding his first ever three-game losing streak since coming to Seattle in 2012.
The Cardinals have had a ton of recent success in Seattle, having won four of their last five visits there and five of their seven overall. But the fact they lost Thursday night on the same day the Seahawks changed the name of their stadium from CenturyLink Field to Lumen Field wasn’t the difference.
It was their sloppy play throughout the game, which included a staggering 10 penalties for 115 yards. Mental mistakes have been a problem all season for the Cardinals and coach Kliff Kingsbury is probably hoarse now after barking at his players all night long.
There we four false-start flags by the offensive line, a 46-yard pass interference call on Patrick Peterson that led to a score and holding call by guard J.R. Sweezy in the end zone that resulted in a safety for the Seahawks in the fourth quarter.
But the biggest blunder might have come in the third quarter during a deciding point in the game.
Trailing by just two points, Cardinals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick let his temper get the best of him after Arizona had stopped Seattle on third down and during a confrontation with the Seahawks’ DK Metcalf, got hit with a costly 15-yard taunting penalty that changed the entire complexion of the situation.
The flag gave the Seahawks an automatic first down and after a 22-yard reception by Metcalf, Seahawks running back Carlos Hyde scored from 2 yards out as Seattle increased its lead to 23-14 with 5:20 remaining in the third quarter.
The Cardinals were able to get a touchdown of their own on their ensuing possession as Murray found running back Chase Edmonds on a crossing route in the end zone for a 3-yard score, but things could have been decidedly different if Kirkpatrick doesn’t lose his cool.
The Seahawks out-rushed the Cardinals 165 yards to 57 and had a 10-minute edge in time of possession overall.
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Despite scoring 21 or more points in a franchise-record 12 straight games, including five consecutive games totaling 30 points and gaining 400 or more yards entering Thursday night’s divisional showdown, the Cardinals hadn’t been necessarily happy with their offensive output.
Murray said he “could have definitely played better” against the Bills and Kingsbury, even while directing the NFL’s top-ranked offense, was still complaining about a lack of “consistency.”.
“We have some really great moments where we we’re moving the ball, playing fast, playing downhill, and then tend to shoot ourselves in the foot,” Kingsbury had said, adding that penalties, missed assignments and the occasional turnover has been thwarting Arizona’s full potential.
“I just feel like we can be a lot better,” he continued. “I know there’s some explosive plays and some good things going on, but I just don’t think we’ve hit our stride just yet and that’s what we’re working towards.”.
Thursday night, the Cardinals wanted to make a statement. They wanted to show they could play a full 60 minutes of football perfection, if they could, even on a short rest. It wasn’t going to be easy, of course, especially with multiple defensive players out of the lineup due to injuries, especially up front.
Arizona was playing without defensive linemen Corey Peters (knee), who is done for the season, plus Jordan Phillips (hamstring), Zach Allen (ankle) and rookies Rashard Lawrence (calf) and Leki Fotu (ankle), all of whom have been placed on injured reserve.
Follow the Arizona Republic’s Bob McMananman on Twitter @azbobbymac.
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