Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald gets hit by Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner on a deep pass during Thursday night's 34-22 Seahawks victory at University of Phoenix Stadium. Seattle safety Earl Thomas intercepted the ball on the play.
Carson Palmer was composed as usual as he took his turn at the podium after Thursday night's 34-22 loss. The Cardinals' quarterback doesn't see how he could be any other way.
"This game, if you get frustrated that's when you get beat," Palmer said. "You've got to continue to fight and continue to get better. As soon as you stop doing that, you stop playing."
That didn't mean there wasn't frustration at University of Phoenix Stadium as the Cardinals (3-4) lost an eighth straight NFC West game, this time to Seattle (6-1) on national TV. Everything the Cards feared from the Seahawks – the relentless pass rush, the talented secondary and the playmaking of quarterback Russell Wilson – came into play.
So too did the Cards' own slow start and an offense that remains, simply, not good enough.
Coach Bruce Arians was asked if he was frustrated, and his answer was brief. "Very," he said. "Doesn't it show?" And there was no
hint of a smile.
The Cardinals had only 234 yards of total offense, and 115 of those came on the last two drives with the game all but out of reach. Defensively, the Cards allowed 83- and 72-yard drives on the first two Seattle possessions, putting them in a 14-0 hole from which they could never recover.
"I thought we came out sluggish," Arians said. "No excuses as far as 'Thursday Night Football' and all of that crap. We didn't break a sweat all week, so we should have been fresh."
Instead, Wilson threw for three touchdowns and efficiently completed 18-of-29 passes. Marshawn Lynch ran for 91 yards on 21 carries, not spectacular but more than three times the amount of yards the Cards gained on the ground as a team.
Still, the Cards had life at one point, even after the poor start. The defense made an impressive stop of a Wilson quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches. Jay Feely booted a 49-yard field goal, and on the next Seattle possession linebacker Matt Shaughnessy drilled Wilson on a sack that forced a fumble.
The Cards jumped on the ball at the Seattle 3. The next play, Rashard Mendenhall ran the ball in for a touchdown, and suddenly it was a game. At one point, Arizona pulled within 17-13.
The Seahawks responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive remarkably kept alive when Wilson – seemingly sacked by linebacker Daryl Washington – managed to get a pass way to tight end Zach Miller for a six-yard gain on third-and-3.
Washington thought he was down – "I have to look at the tape," he said afterward – but the drive continued. On the ensuing Arizona possession, Palmer was intercepted for the second time in the game, and while Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner should have had a touchdown on the return before he tripped inside the Arizona 10-yard line, Seattle scored two plays later and the game slipped away.
"The first drive of the game, defensively, we had a bust on every single coverage that was called," safety Yeremiah Bell said. "It wasn't disciplined at all. Defensively, we didn't play like we know how. We didn't play together. We are out there busting assignments and doing uncharacteristic things putting ourselves in a hole."
That's a hole the offense isn't going to be able to climb out of right now. The turnover battle was even – Palmer threw the two picks, while Wilson lost two fumbles – but there were no Cardinal drives that picked up more than 27 yards prior to their final two possessions.
"(The offense) is not really complicated at all," said wide receiver Andre Roberts, who five catches were two more than the previous four games combined. "We just have to study harder."
Palmer, under duress all day (he was sacked seven times), completed 30-of-45 passes for 258 yards, and his lone touchdown pass went to rookie Jaron Brown. Arians said he gave no consideration to replacing Palmer.
Palmer, meanwhile, was matter-of-fact going forward.
"You can't let it take a toll on you," Palmer said. "You can't let it get you down. I won't go to sleep tonight, I never do after games, and I'll lay in bed and think about every play, every third down and every red zone opportunity. You don't sit there and sulk, you think … what if you would've done this and try to problem-solve it.
"That's just what you do. It's what you have to do."
The Cardinals do get a long week to prepare for their next game, at home a week from Sunday against the Falcons. Then they get a bye before playing at home against struggling Houston and then comes a road game against the now-winless Jaguars. There are chances to right the season, Palmer said.
But the Cardinals still have many things to fix. That was the biggest message delivered Thursday night.
"Even when both sides weren't playing well, there was a feeling you're still in the game," Washington said. "That's the thing. When we're not playing well as we should we still are having opportunities."