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Cardinals Come Up Short A Second Time Against Seahawks

Offense can't sustain fast start in 31-21 home loss

Linebacker Zaven Collins races for a touchdown on a 30-yard interception return Sunday.
Linebacker Zaven Collins races for a touchdown on a 30-yard interception return Sunday.

The first drive was perfect.

OK, not perfect. It took a 21-yard scramble from Kyler Murray to save the Cardinals from a three-and-out, but that counts, and eventually Murray hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 22-yard catch-and-run touchdown, and that's what the Cardinals had sought.

A first-possession touchdown.

A first-quarter lead.

And then? Not enough. Not against the Seahawks at State Farm Stadium, not in a 31-21 loss in which the Cardinals couldn't generate a second offensive score until the fourth quarter and the defense couldn't come up with a stop to create one last opportunity.

"It felt like we were going to roll on offense finally," tight end Zach Ertz said. "Started fast, got a lead for the defense, and from there, it just felt like the wheels fell off."

The Cardinals (3-6) are now essentially four games behind the NFC West-leading Seahawks (6-3), who swept the two games between the teams. And they have gotten there each week basically the same way.

"It continues to show up," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "By Week 9, you'd hope that would've settled in somehow. But we have to get an answer to it."

The drive after the initial Hopkins touchdown started with a 3rd-and-1 – except center Billy Price snapped it too high, leading to a fumble and a 15-yard loss. The third drive had a "good playcall" according to Ertz on third-and-8, but back-to-back false starts on guards Cody Ford and Lecitus Smith foiled that.

The Cardinals had 12 penalties, Murray lost a fumble right before the half that likely cost the Cardinals a field goal and a little halftime momentum, and Hopkins had just two catches (for eight yards) after the two he had on the first drive.

"The first drive was easy, on time, on schedule," Murray said. "That second drive, third-and-1, kind of the story of the day.

"I couldn't give you the answer why or what. We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot."

The Cardinals did have a second half lead, rebounding from a three-and-out to start the second half when linebacker Zaven Collins read perfectly a Seahawks screen pass from quarterback Geno Smith and raced untouched 30 yards with an interception return for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead.

But the Seahawks grinded out a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to answer – Kingsbury said he thought the Cardinals defense wore down in the second half in part because the offense didn't possess the ball enough – and the Cardinals never could recover.

Murray threw a scoring pass to Ertz with 3:32 left to pull within 24-21, but again, the defense allowed a scary-fast 85-yard touchdown response.

"Real devastating, because we wanted to win the game," linebacker Markus Golden said. "But you've got to give those guys credit. They made some big plays at the right time."

Kenneth Walker ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns and Smith was good as he's been all year, going 26-of-34 for 275 yards and two touchdowns.

Murray's stats were good -- 60 yards rushing, and 25-of-35 and two touchdowns, although he threw for only 175 yards as the Seahawks played two-high safeties and dared the Cardinals not to make mistakes on long drives.

That was difficult on this afternoon.

"We think we're past certain things and they show up in critical situations," Ertz said. "We've just got to be better. I'm at a loss, really."

"We've got to give ourselves a chance," Kingsbury said.

The Cardinals now go to Los Angeles to play the defending Super Bowl champion Rams, who had a heartbreaking loss to the Buccaneers Sunday and who themselves have fallen to 3-5 on the season. After that, a trip to Mexico to play the 49ers.

The chances are dwindling to make this a season worth remembering.

"It's been the story of the year – one step forward, two steps back," Ertz said. "We're too talented to be that, but at the end of the day, you are what your record says."

Game action photos from the Cardinals' matchup against the Seattle Seahawks during Week 9 of the 2022 NFL regular season