PHOENIX — Arizona linebacker Daryl Washington had latched onto Russell Wilson and the play was a heartbeat from being over.
Washington was twisting up Wilson’s legs while gravity was doing the rest. As he fell, Wilson shoved a throw 6 yards downfield. Tight end Zach Miller came across the field, dived and cradled the ball into his belly.
That third-down conversion was inches on both ends from failing. Instead, it was one of seven the Seahawks pulled off in their 34-22 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night.
After starting Week Six against the Titans 0-for-3 on third down, part of a 5-for-29 stretch of ineptness, the Seahawks are 12-for-22. That’s 54.6 percent, which would be good for second in the league behind Denver.
“We’ve been trying to turn the corner on that thing,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We know we can be a good third-down team and we know we have it in us. It just hasn’t happened the way to those kinds of numbers yet.
“But, that’s a big goal for us, to get a third-down game and a red-zone game, and we’ll continue to work at that. When that happens, we’re going to be really hard to stop on offense.”
Wilson was magnificent in those situations Thursday.
He was 6-for-7 passing on third downs, converting five times. One pass to Sidney Rice was complete but short of the needed distance.
Unlike prior weeks, Wilson was using his arm instead of his legs to convert third downs. He was also in better third-down situations. He moved the sticks just once in third-and-long. The Seahawks gained a first down five times when there were 3 yards or fewer to go.
“I thought we did a great job on third down (Thursday),” Wilson said. “That’s how we kept the drives alive. That’s how we separated ourselves, and that’s what we need.
“We did a great job in the red zone, too, but that (third-and-3) was just one of those plays where they made a good call and I got away from a defensive player and Zach Miller just made a huge play. We just gave him a chance.”
Despite the recent run, the Seahawks are converting just 35.6 percent of their third downs, which is 22nd in the 32-team league. Their goal is 50 percent.
As Wilson pointed out, the Seahawks were 3-for-4 in the red zone. Coming into the week, the Seahawks were tied for 15th in red-zone touchdown percentage at 50 percent. That was down from 53.9 percent in 2012.
Thursday’s efficiency elevated Seattle to 13th (with a game in hand), at 53.9 percent, the same as last season.
The Seahawks are taking these steps during the difficult portion of their schedule.
The Oct. 28 game at St. Louis will cap a run of four road games in five weeks. Seattle closes the season with four of six at home, where it has won 11 consecutive games. It plays just two teams the rest of the way, New Orleans and San Francisco, that currently have winning records.
“We haven’t played our best ball yet,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “We’re far from where we want to be.”