While most of us were celebrating the incredible victory for a short time running around congratulating random people, cheering, and texting friends and loved ones "David beat Goliath in his own house!", many of us were suddenly distracted, as our attentions were quickly caught wondering how much magic needs to happen for the Cardinals to take this wonderful feeling into the post season? Sitting at 10-5 and one game away from being able to literally flip the script on last season's 5-11 performance and the answer is; there are a few ways. I'm sure the other ROTB writers are huddled around a table, smoke in the air, drawing out scenarios and checking them twice in a far more meticulous fashion than Santa ever did, so we won't cover those scenarios in this article. We'll focus on ranting about that knock down performance that the defense put on the field today. The holiday season started early as Cardinals fans opened this present early! Let's rant about it.
Carson Palmer - I know, he's here again at the top, but his four interceptions on the day were like nails being driven into this season's coffin. In a game against one of the best teams in the NFL, you can't make many mistakes, and giving the ball up four times, twice in the end zone, starts eliminating the Cardinals chances to win from a statistical perspective and leans mathematically toward putting the game in Seattle's lap for the taking. Too bad for Seattle there were 11 other players on the field the Seahawks would have to get through if they wanted to take that game. (Side note: Can you believe Palmer was only sacked twice?)
Cardinals Defense/ST - Those 11 players would be one of the top defenses in the league and on Sunday they would not be denied. The Cardinals Defense played lights out in a command performance. There's days where each side of the football pick up the short comings of the other, and today the Cardinals D took on a huge burden and ensured the team walked away with a win. The stats are incredible, they forced seven three and outs. They only allowed two third down conversions out of 13 attempts. They sacked the very mobile Wilson four times, and kept Marshawn Lynch to 71 yards on 18 carries and zero touchdowns. Wilson was 11/27 for only 108 yards with an average of 4.0 yards per attempt through the air, which was Russell Wilson's worst day as an NFL passer. The stats go on and on because this Defense was dominant and they kept the Seahawks offense off of the field. The time of possession for the game is amazing, the Cardinals had the ball 37:24 leaving 22:36 for the Seahawks. The Cardinals offense was on the field nearly 2/3rds of the game and you know how they did it?
The Running Game - The Cardinals rushed 43 times in the game and averaged 3.2 yards per attempt. It's not great, but it's power football. It's drive the other team crazy football. The Cardinals were not very potent through the air and they had to milk the clock, so they did it with co-stars Juke Ellington (15 carries, 64 yards, 4.3 avg) and Old Man Mendenhall (21 carries, 63 yards, 3.0 avg, 2-PT). The duo of backs shouldered the burden and ground the clock down against a stout defense. Even with Mendenhall turning around as soon as he has contact he was still pushing backward getting inches. The Cardinals inched the ball along and kept the time ticking away setting up a do-or-die 4th quarter.
Do-or-die - The fourth quarter of this game was the most exciting football Cardinals fans have seen since recent playoff games. The stage was set, Carson Palmer had thrown four interceptions, there wasn't much time left in the game, and the score of 10-9 meant it was do-or-die time and Palmer playing on a gimpy ankle would have to play in the moment and drive the team down to win. In his second week in a row, Palmer did just that. He scrambled on a third down play and through the ball to Jake Ballard who ran for a first down after 17 yards. He took the team 75 yards in 10 plays and threw his lone touchdown to his favorite target Michael Floyd who cradled the ball like a playoff catch should be caught... like everything rested on this one catch, because it did.
This win wasn't pretty, but it was football. Two of the best defenses in the league duking it out in the rain playing hard football. The Cardinals got a few bounces their way and a few good calls, but it evened out. I think the Refs did a good job with everything but the final interception Russell Wilson threw. The review was inconclusive so the call stood, but just the fact that it was reviewed should help everyone feel better about that call. The refs did not affect the outcome of this game, the two defenses did. Well done to both teams, and here's to hoping they see each other again in the post season!
What's your rant?