The Seahawks will be back on the practice field Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. This is going to be a brutal week for some of these guys. The defensive line is pretty banged up. Darrell Jackson hurt a toe today. The Seahawks will have the home crowd on their side Thursday night, and they might need it. This team can't be trusted on the road, even against middling teams such as the 49ers and Cardinals. I still thought Seattle would win this game today, mostly because I expected Matt Hasselbeck to play well. He played well, but three lost fumbles were two much to overcome. Full coverage below -- 2,300 words strong.
GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Seattle Seahawks fumbled a chance to win a third consecutive NFC West title Sunday.
They remain prohibitive favorites to win the division, but a 27-21 loss to Arizona sharpened distinctions between this Seattle team and the one that played in Super Bowl XL.
"Nothing has come easy this year," coach Mike Holmgren said after falling to 8-5. "It might continue to be that kind of year …
"We're not dead. We lost a tough ballgame, but we still have everything laid out in front of us."
It was Holmgren who laid out everything plainly for his players late last week. If the defense prevents big plays against Arizona, he told them more than once, the Seahawks win. If the offense is careful with the football, the Seahawks win.
What happened Sunday?
The Seattle defense allowed a 56-yard touchdown pass on the Cardinals' first offensive play. The Seattle offense lost fumbles on two of its first three possessions.
"As soon as you play somebody and they turn it over once, you say, 'OK, that's lucky,' " offensive coordinator Gil Haskell said. "But when it keeps happening, they go, 'You know what? We can beat that team.' That's the bad thing about today."
The Seahawks lost the turnover battle, 3-1, but they still had a chance to prevail in the final seconds. The Cardinals could relax only after Seattle receiver Deion Branch fell short of a first down on a fourth-and-20 pass play to the Arizona 7-yard-line.
"Somebody had to miss a tackle," Branch said. "They did a good job."
Matt Hasselbeck completed passes of five, 23 and 16 yards as Seattle moved to the Arizona 27-yard-line at the 2-minute warning.
Shaun Alexander carried for a 12-yard gain on first down, but a 2-yard loss and an 8-yard sack set up fourth-and-20 from the 25. In between, receiver D.J. Hackett flashed open in the end zone, but Hasselbeck's pass under pressure eluded his reach.
"It was a great play call," Hasselbeck said. "We had it. That's the one I'm replaying in my mind right now.
"That is really Darrell Jackson's play. It's too bad. It's too bad. We had an opportunity for a play there. We were just a little off."
Jackson's 2-yard scoring catch had lifted Seattle into a 21-17 third-quarter lead, but a toe injury kept him from playing late in the game.
Hackett made a diving effort on the second-and-12 play Hasselbeck couldn't get out of his mind.
The Seahawks' generosity with the football made the near miss to Hackett more important than it otherwise might have been.
Seattle's second drive ended with Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett beating tackle Sean Locklear for a sack and forced fumble. The Cardinals recovered. Seattle's third drive ended with Alexander losing the ball after a 5-yard loss. The Cardinals recovered.
The second turnover led almost immediately to Edgerrin James' 7-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 Cardinals lead. James carried 26 times for 115 yards as Seattle's defense wore down.
The Seahawks were more aggressive defensively, as promised, but many of their blitzes failed to reach rookie quarterback Matt Leinart.
The first-round draft choice from USC completed 21 of 34 passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns and an 89.3 rating.
Hasselbeck was more efficient. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. His passer rating of 133.5 was the second-highest of his career and the highest in defeat.
On another day, the short touchdown pass to Jackson in the third quarter might have sent the Seahawks on their way. The Seattle defense followed the touchdown with a three-and-out series. The Seahawks had the ball - and a 21-17 lead - at their own 32.
Hasselbeck dumped off to fullback Mack Strong on the left side. Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby hit Strong and forced a fumble. Chris Cooper, released by Seattle earlier in the season, made the recovery.
Arizona retook the lead with a seven-play, 36-yard touchdown drive. Leinart's 5-yard pass to Fitzgerald gave the Cardinals all the points they would need.
Seattle failed to get past its own 32 on its next two drives. Given one more chance, Hasselbeck got the Seahawks close.
Replay official Al Hynes even challenged the spot on Branch's fourth-down reception. Branch had gained 18 yards when he needed 20, referee Gene Steratore determined, and Arizona ran out the clock.
The Seahawks won't have much time to stew over the defeat. They can win the division with a home victory over San Francisco in three days.
"It boils down to our Thursday night game," Holmgren said. "If nothing else, this team has proven to be pretty resilient."
By Mike Sando
The News Tribune
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Seattle Seahawks rookie Rob Sims takes pride in being ready when called upon.
His inexperience might have betrayed him during a 27-21 defeat to Arizona on Sunday.
The Seahawks were trailing 24-21 early in the fourth quarter when Matt Hasselbeck found D.J. Hackett for a 7-yard gain on third-and-8.
Seattle had converted all seven third-and-1 rushing attempts this season, but the Seahawks missed this one.
The Cardinals shifted their personnel up front. The adjustment called for Sims to block Darnell Dockett instead of executing a double-team block with left tackle Walter Jones.
Left unblocked, Dockett shot through and dropped running back Shaun Alexander for no gain.
"(Arizona) moved somebody into another formation, which I would have been singled up," Sims said. "They do a good job of making the calls for me to get set up. We had a miscommunication and they got me.
"Everybody else pretty much had their man. They got me with moving and I just have to keep learning."
Sims is playing left guard in spot duty. Floyd Womack is the starter, but Sims generally comes off the bench for a quarter or two. Coaches are grooming him for a starting role.
Sims has played well most of the time. He cleared the way for Shaun Alexander's 1-yard touchdown run against Denver last week. The mistake against the Cardinals hit him hard.
"It's unfortunate," Sims said. "There were a lot of things that happened in the game, but that was my little mistake."
Fun in the sun
Seattle receiver Nate Burleson unveiled an elaborate touchdown celebration in which he pretended to wipe on sunscreen.
Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson took offense and came after Burleson, drawing a 15-yard penalty.
"We've been playing in some cold weather the last couple weeks, so I was acting like I was putting on some sun-block because of the sunny weather," Burleson said. "He didn't like that too much."
Apparently, no one comes into Wilson's house and applies SPF No. 15.
"You get to talking back and forth," Burleson said. "It's just football. At the end of the day, I respect him. Hopefully, he respects me as a football player and we just live to play another day."
Okeafor finally celebrates
The Seahawks had won four consecutive games against Arizona and seven of eight in the series.
Defensive end Chike Okeafor had gone 0-3 against Seattle since leaving the Seahawks for Arizona in free agency.
Okeafor celebrated Sunday after his fourth-quarter sack helped preserve the Cardinals' victory.
"They're at the top of our division and it means a lot," Okeafor said. "When you get a chance to go out there and stack up against the best team in your division, guys who went to the Super Bowl last year, that's a great test.
"That's why we play this game, to see how we stack up against the best. So, that makes it real sweet."
Replay it again, Denny
Cardinals coach Dennis Green dropped to 1-7 in instant-replay challenges this season.
He tried to reverse Matt Leinart's first-half interception, but referee Gene Steratore ruled that Julian Peterson caught the ball legally.
Receiver Larry Fitzgerald also had his hands on the ball.
Alexander held in check
Shaun Alexander had rushed for at least 135 yards in four of his last six games against Arizona. The Cardinals held him to 76 yards and a 3.5-yard average per carry.
"We know he's a big part of their offense and that he likes to cut the ball back a lot," Wilson said. "We just wanted to come out and play well."
Alexander's longest run covered 12 yards. For Alexander, the run preserved a streak of 61 consecutive games with at least one run of 10 yards or longer.
This was Alexander's fourth game back after missing six games with a foot injury.
"I think he is still trying to find his stride," coach Mike Holmgren said. "And I think they just did a better job against him.
"Typically, we've popped a couple long ones (against Arizona). They played us a little differently. They didn't blitz us quite as much as in the past and as a result, it was tough getting big plays in the running game."
GAME IN REVIEW
Sunday - The Arizona Cardinals claimed a 27-21 victory over the Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Where they stand - Seattle leads the NFC West with an 8-5 record. The Seahawks stand fourth in the NFC playoff race.
A look ahead - San Francisco visits Qwest Field for a Thursday night game on NFL Network (nationally) and Ch. 13 (local market only).
Star of the game - Cardinals RB Edgerrin James carried 26 times for 115 yards and a touchdown. There was nothing flashy about his play, but he ran hard and helped Arizona sustain drives.
Key play - The Seahawks were moving briskly into position for the winning touchdown when coach Mike Holmgren called a second-down handoff to Shaun Alexander. Alexander had gained 12 yards on the previous play, but the Cardinals were ready for him this time. The 2-yard loss killed Seattle's momentum. The next play became an obvious passing down, and the Cardinals collected an 8-yard sack.
Best play - Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck risked his health by diving head-first into a scrum to recover Darrell Jackson's fumble 9 yards downfield. The gutsy play prevented a fourth-quarter turnover deep in Seattle territory after Arizona took a 24-21 lead.
Worst play - Veteran FB Mack Strong lost a fumble after Seattle had jumped back into the lead, 21-17, in the third quarter. The miscue set up an Arizona touchdown.
Personnel notes - RT Sean Locklear struggled in his first game back in from an ankle injury. He committed a holding penalty on the Seahawks' first play. He also allowed a sack. … CB Jimmy Williams appeared in the nickel defense at times. … TE Will Heller replaced Strong at fullback briefly. Strong was coming off an ankle injury. … Rookie LG Rob Sims replaced starting LG Floyd Womack for a stretch as the Seahawks continued to groom Sims for a starting role. … WR D.J. Hackett replaced starting WR Darrell Jackson in the base offense after Jackson suffered a toe injury. … WR Nate Burleson remained the third receiver in the one-back, three-wide offense, which Seattle used on 14 snaps. Burleson caught a touchdown pass. … TE Bennie Joppru, signed two weeks ago, made a tackle on a kickoff return.
Medical report - DE Joe Tafoya, DT Craig Terrill and WR Darrell Jackson suffered injuries of unknown severity. DE Bryce Fisher also left the game for a stretch. Holmgren was expected to address the injury situation in greater detail at his press conference today.
SIDEBAR -- DEFENSE
By Mike Sando
The News Tribune
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Seattle Seahawks defensive end Bryce Fisher was seething after this one. Intensity radiated from his eyes.
"You play a young quarterback and it's very simple," Fisher said following a 27-21 defeat to Arizona on Sunday. "If you knock him down, he'll find a way to lose. If you don't knock him down, he'll look like he's on his way to the Pro Bowl."
Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart does appear to have Pro Bowl potential, but the Seahawks could have made him work harder. They failed to sack him, becoming the Cardinals' first opponent in 19 games to finish without a sack. The defensive stat sheet showed a meek little zero under the "QH" column tracking quarterback hits.
The hardest hit Leinart took might have come when he bumped into running back Edgerrin James during a second-quarter handoff. Or was it on that high five he delivered less than three minutes into the game?
Leinart's first pass produced a 56-yard touchdown after Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant slipped and struggled to close enough ground in defending Bryant Johnson.
Leinart's final pass set up a 40-yard field goal.
He completed 21 of 34 passes overall for 232 yards and two touchdowns. His only interception hit receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the hands. Seattle linebacker Julian Peterson ripped the ball away, resulting in the lone blemish on Leinart's stat line.
"We went out there and made him look like the second coming of Joe Montana," Fisher fumed. "He dropped back, threw the ball where he wanted to and we didn't knock him down."
Leinart wasn't the only problem for Seattle.
Cardinals running back Edgerrin James rushed for 115 yards and a 4.4-yard average.
Fitzgerald caught seven passes for 79 yards. Anquan Boldin caught four passes for 47 yards. Johnson caught three passes for 81 yards.
Arizona converted 46 percent of its third-down chances.
Seattle middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, a Pro Bowl participant as a rookie last season, finished with four tackles and zeroes in six additional statistical categories.
"They did a good job," Tatupu said. "Any time you get the run game going, it opens up the pass.
"Sometimes he caught us in an 8-man front and threw the slant or he threw the fade and we put our corners in some difficult positions."
Seattle's defensive line is hurting.
Marcus Tubbs is on injured reserve. A foot injury is preventing Rocky Bernard from practicing. Fisher appeared to bang up a shoulder Sunday. Darryl Tapp was slow to get up on another play.
The Seahawks won't have much time for healing. They play Thursday night at home against San Francisco.
"You don't want that bad taste in your mouth," Tatupu said. "You want to get back out there."