SEATTLE – Chandler Catanzaro has been the punching bag all season.
This time he was the boxer, and couldn’t help but flex after the knockout blow.
The Cardinals’ kicker was the target of fan vitriol after several critical misses earlier in the year, but he flipped the script on Saturday night, connecting on a 43-yarder as time expired to give his team a 34-31 upset victory over the Seahawks.
“That,” he said afterward, “is where the ball is supposed to go.”
Catanzaro rushed onto the field in the game’s waning seconds and had to hurry through his pre-kick routine with the Cardinals out of timeouts. Once the snap came, he coolly knocked the ball straight down the middle.
A season full of pent-up emotion seemed to spill out, as the usually-mild-mannered Catanzaro stared at the Seahawks’ sideline, causing a minor dust-up after the win.
“I was just enjoying the moment,” Catanzaro said. “Sometimes I kind of just go into blackout mode and whatever happens, happens. Like back at Clemson I tripped over myself and fell down running away from the guys. I don’t mean to. It might be my soccer celebrations from when I was younger. Like I said, I’m in that zone and I really don’t know why I did it. I was just having fun in the moment. I was just thankful I got it done today.”
Catanzaro missed a potential game-winner against the Patriots in the regular season opener, and missed a chip shot in overtime in the first meeting with the Seahawks. He’s experienced the worst season of his career, but it seems to have steeled him.
“It’s been a tough road, but the one thing I’ve learned this year is, I don’t know how long it’s going to last, but I’m going to enjoy it,” said Catanzaro, who finished 2-for-3 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points. “It’s those moments that you live for as a kicker.”
“I’m just proud of him,” Palmer said. “A lot of guys would have buckled by now.”
Catanzaro’s game-winner punctuated an impressive day for a special teams unit which has been much-maligned this season. Defensive tackle
Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka missed a critical extra point in the final minute, which coach Bruce Arians said was the impacted by the Cardinals’ pressure.
Gunter, who added a sack on defense on fourth-and-goal from the 1, said he got a nice push up the middle before sticking his hand in the kicking lane on Hauschka’s first-half attempt.
“I told myself, ‘I’ve got to make that play,’” Gunter said. “I made a couple plays. I’m proud of myself.”
Okafor, one of the team’s better pass-rushers, said he used his defensive prowess to get to Seahawks punter Jon Ryan before he could get the punt off.
“I said, ‘I’m going to go full speed like I’m rushing a tight end or a tackle,” Okafor said. “That’s what got me home.”
In several games this season, the special teams unit cost the Cardinals dearly in close margins. This time, it helped tilt the scales in their favor.
“We’re a resilient unit, man,” Okafor said. “We never get down on ourselves. We’ve got playmakers all over the field. We just all had to do our part to continue to get better.”