Cardinal defenders Gerald Hayes (54), Paris Lenon (51) and Adrian Wilson (24) try to change direction with Seattle running back Justin Forsett during Sunday's 36-18 loss to the Seahawks.
The Cardinals heard the boos, and they understood.
The second half of the season was supposed to provide a fresh start for the Cardinals, but then the Seahawks came into University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday and walked out with a 36-18 win, much to the chagrin of not only the coaches and players but the 61,904 in attendance.
"They deserve good football, they come and support you every week," running back Tim Hightower said. "You can't get upset at (the fans), they pay a ticket to come see good football and when you're not doing that, they are going to be upset.
"We have to stay true to who we are. We have seen some ugly losses here in our stadium and we got booed, and we have come back and won."
A win is certainly what the Cards need now. They came into the day right in the pack of the NFC West, knowing a victory could have catapulted them into first. Instead, the Cards' fourth loss in a row – the longest streak since 2006 – dropped them to 3-6, tied with the suddenly surging San Francisco 49ers, who knocked off St. Louis Sunday in overtime.
Making it harder is that the Cards are now two games behind the Seahawks (5-4), but because Seattle swept the season series, the deficit is essentially three games behind with seven weeks remaining in the season.
And while the loss itself was difficult, it was the way the Cards lost that affected the fans. Defensively, the Cards struggled with tackling and slowing what had been a pedestrian Seattle offense. Offensively, a hot start – the Cards scored a touchdown on their opening possession for the first time in 16 games – faded in a third quarter as the Seahawks slowly pulled away.
"There were so many mistakes out there today, it's too hard to talk about them all," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "These are tough times for us.
"What we have to do is continue to work as we have been working and have our guys step up. That's all you can do. It's easy to say that, but our guys will work, we will continue to put the time in, and hopefully we will improve. Right now, that's the only thing we can do."
The day started with the Cards out of sorts when defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was forced to sit out because of the shoulder injury he suffered the previous game in Minnesota – the first game Dockett has missed as a pro after playing 104 straight.
His presence was missed, but it couldn't have explained everything that happened. Seattle wide receiver Mike Williams had another huge game – 11 catches for 145 yards, most of them against cornerback Greg Toler, who was eventually benched in favor of nickel back Michael Adams.
"We are all trying to figure out what's going on," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said.
No Dockett didn't explain how Seattle receiver Deon Butler managed to get free from three Cardinal defenders to catch a bomb down the field and then run the last 20 yards or so for what was a 63-yard touchdown and a lead the Seahawks never did relinquish.
"Not much you can do to explain it – it was very poor," Whisenhunt said of the defense's first half. "We lost a lot of one-on-one battles, we didn't tackle well, we didn't do very much well."
The defense did turn a bit late in the game, a small positive in a game with few, by keeping the Seahawks out of the end zone five straight times in the red zone. Still, four of those trips ended with field goals, and as the points piled up, the Cardinals couldn't keep up.
The first touchdown drive for Arizona looked so promising. But the next two Cardinal offensive possessions had first down situations at the Seattle 40- and 33-yard lines, yet the Cards couldn't convert either to points.
Then the third quarter provided the potential turning point. With the Cardinals down, 17-10, the crowd let loose some boos after Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch broke multiple tackles for a 22-yard gain. On the very next play, Rodgers-Cromartie stepped in for his second interception of the season, running it out to the Arizona 44. Cheers returned.
But the Cards' offense was dormant. It went three-and-out after the turnover, and for the third quarter, the Cards were unable to complete a pass and ended up with negative-five net yards. Running back Beanie Wells was inactive with his bad knee, and the Cards were down to one healthy running back -- Hightower – by the middle of the third quarter.
"We just have to find a way to make yards," quarterback Derek Anderson said of the crucial 15 minutes. "I don't think anyone is coming over and pouting and going, 'Oh dang, we went three-and-out again' We need to find a way to keep our defense off the field. If I knew the answers, we wouldn't be 3-6."
Anderson finished with 322 yards passing and led the Cards to a late touchdown. But turnovers reared up again – an interception and a fumble after a sack -- that led to a pair of field goals. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw for 333 yards despite missing some time with a hand injury as Seattle played a much better game than the first time the teams met a month ago.
The Cards play in Kansas City next week, but the next home game will be on "Monday Night Football" against the 49ers. The team usually has responded in such situations, and the Cardinals know that's what is going to be expected.
"It's hard not to hear (the boos)," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "The fans pay a lot of money to come in here and watch a good product. They've expected good things from us over the last three years and we're not giving them the show they deserve."