GLENDALE, Ariz. — Lofty expectations and visions of a playoff run in Pete Carrolls third season met the harsh realities of the regular season when the Seattle Seahawks suffered a 20-16 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals in the season opener Sunday.
Although Seattle turned the calendar on a new campaign, some of the issues that cost them games last season cropped up again.
Mainly, this young team still has not figured out how to win games in the fourth quarter, even with the switch at quarterback from the much-maligned Tarvaris Jackson to rookie Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks were 0-for-4 on potential game-winning drives last season.
Extend that to 0-for-5.
Down four points and needing a touchdown, Wilson drove Seattles offense inside Arizonas 10-yard line with 38 seconds remaining.
But Seattle failed to get into the end zone on four opportunities from there, with Wilsons throw to Braylon Edwards on a slant route on a fourth-and-goal play from the 4 going through the eight-year veterans hands.
The Cardinals got the ball back on downs and took a knee.
The Seahawks sit at the bottom of the NFC West standings at 0-1 with St. Louis, 27-23 losers at Detroit. The Cardinals and San Francisco, 30-22 winners at Green Bay, are tied atop the NFC West at 1-0.
Its a very difficult first game to have to go home with a loss, Carroll said, because we had a chance to win this football game, and we should have got out of here with that.
But they did the things they needed to do, and they did a very good job of that.
Wilson had a rough debut, finishing 18-for-34 passing for 153 yards, a touchdown and an interception at the end of the first half. He also turned the ball over on a throw to Marshawn Lynch that was ruled a backward pass and fumble after a video review.
Wilson was under pressure most of the afternoon. He was sacked three times, hit another seven times and finished with a 62.5 passer rating.
I played all right, Wilson said. You know, I definitely believe that I can improve and get better. There are some areas that we can all work on. Thats the focus now. Move on, learn and study the film and see where we can all get better.
Wilson earned the respect of at least one Arizona player defensive end Darnell Dockett.
Hes only like 5-7 or so, Dockett said of Wilson, who is listed at 5-foot-11. It was just one of those things, we had to bend down to go get him. We contained him very well today, but he is going to be an athletic, dynamic quarterback in the future. Today, we just got the best of him.
Seattle opened the scoring after linebacker K.J. Wright stripped Arizona running back Ryan Williams of the ball and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane recovered the fumble on Arizonas 42.
However, the Seahawks stalled in the red zone after seven plays and had to settle for a Steven Hauschka 27-yard field goal, taking a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
That was a recurring theme for Seattles offense. The Seahawks started four drives on Arizonas side of the field but could muster only one touchdown.
The Cardinals answered with a 13-play, 77-yard drive, tying the game at 3 on Jay Feelys 21-yard field goal. Arizona took a 10-3 lead with 5:58 remaining in the first half on a LaRod Stephens-Howling 1-yard plunge up the gut of Seattles defense.
The Cardinals pushed the lead to 13-3 in the third quarter after linebacker Paris Lenon recovered a dropped pass intended for Lynch that, after video review, was ruled a backward pass. Arizona settled for a 31-yard field goal by Feely.
Lynch, who was questionable because of back spasms, finished with 85 yards on 21 carries.
On the ensuing kickoff, Seattles Leon Washington raced 83 yards to Arizonas 24.
Five plays later, Wilson threw the first touchdown pass of his career, a 10-yard slant route to Sidney Rice, and Seattle trailed 13-10 with 7:51 left in the third quarter.
After an impressive interception by cornerback Richard Sherman in which he tapped his toes on the sideline, the Hawks tied the game at 13 with 5:13 left in the third quarter on Hauschkas 47-yard field goal.
Washington had another big return in the final quarter, bolting 54 yards on a punt return to once again give Seattle great field position at Arizonas 16.
But the Seahawks failed to get to the end zone, settling for Hauschkas 39-yard field goal and a 16-13 lead with just over nine minutes left.
The Cardinals promptly marched 80 yards on 11 plays, going up for good on Andre Roberts 6-yard touchdown reception.
The surprise was which quarterback was leading the drive backup Kevin Kolb.
Kolb replaced starter John Skelton two plays into the drive after the Fordham University product suffered what appeared to be a sprained ankle when Brandon Mebane fell on his leg after Skelton complete a 17-yard pass to Roberts.
Skeltons leg was placed in an air cast. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said the injury was a sprain. Kolb, Arizonas high-priced free-agent quarterback who lost his job to Skelton during the exhibition season, was greeted by boos from the Arizona faithful.
But he finished 6-for-8 for 66 yards on the drive.
The Seahawks now must prepare for their home opener against Dallas on Sunday.
We have to get back on Monday, watch film, put this behind us and move on Wednesday to Dallas, Rice said. Theres a lot of things we can learn from this game. We had ample opportunities to make plays, and its just on the players to execute.