Cardinals running back Andre Ellington speeds past Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor on a 48-yard touchdown run to seal Sunday night's 39-32 win in Seattle.
SEATTLE – Andre Ellington sprinted down the sideline in front of his own bench, his teammates erupting in jubilation even before he scored his game-clinching touchdown, because they knew what it meant.
The Cardinals were going to win against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field – 39-32 was the final score – to beat back their main NFC West rival. They were going to take a three-game lead in the division over both the Seahawks and Rams with just seven games to play. And they were going to cap a night that was emotional for multiple reasons with the best of all endings.
"I can't be prouder of this team," coach Bruce Arians said. "The way we won it, how we won it."
Twice, quarterback Carson Palmer directed fourth-quarter touchdown drives to earn the win, while the defense did enough to stop the always-scrambling Russell Wilson from pulling off an improbable rally of his own. The Cardinals (7-2) had lead 19-0 at one point, before falling behind, 29-25, early in the fourth quarter.
On a night when starting left guard Mike Iupati suffered a scary neck injury and had to be taken by ambulance off the field – Iupati turned out to be OK, and was in the locker room with his teammates after the game was over – falling apart late was not what the Cards needed.
First-half domination offensively had faded hard. Palmer twice fumbled the ball away deep in his own territory on sacks, with one returned for a touchdown and the other allowing the Seahawks (4-5) to need just three yards for a another TD.
The Cardinals were behind. Yet, "our confidence didn't waver," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
First came a 10-play, 83-yard drive that ended with a Palmer 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham. Then the Cards' defense – which had allowed 16 second-half points – hunkered down to give Palmer and his crew a chance to ice it.
"The last couple of weeks, Coach has been preaching about playing a 60-minute football game," safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "In a place like Seattle, you have to believe in the person next to you."
Palmer rewarded that belief.
"We're a resilient group," Palmer said. "It trickles down from the head coach. I think good teams and really good teams – hopefully great teams – take on their coach's mentality. I think that's what B.A. brings and we've figured out how to let that trickle down to our minds by the way we work, by the way we prepare to play and ultimately, the way we play."
The Cards didn't have Michael Floyd, who had two first-half touchdown catches but suffered a hamstring pull in the fourth
quarter. They did have backup Jaron Brown, who came up with multiple clutch catches, not the least of which gained 10 yards on a tipped pass that seemed certain to be intercepted on the Gresham TD drive.
The Cards had the three point lead and the ball with 6:02 left. Brown's 8-yard catch converted a third-and-3 to start the drive. And then, just ahead of the two-minute warning and the Cards with a third-and-4, Arians dialed up a draw play to Ellington against the Seattle blitz.
The play had been there earlier, Arians said, but the Cards instead threw a bubble screen. This time, Ellington took the ball just outside left tackle Jared Veldheer, and sprinted toward the sideline.
After going out of bounds on a crucial late play against Baltimore a few weeks ago, that mistake wouldn't happen again.
"All I thought was 'I have to get the first down,' " Ellington said. "Once I cleared the corner and saw the end zone – and I saw (wide receiver) Britt (Golden) with the block, I saw I could score."
"A lot of people were saying, 'Stay inbounds,' " Arians said with a grin. "I was like, 'Go score. (Expletive)."
He did, 48 yards later. The Cardinals had their most important win of the season.
"We knew it would be a battle for four quarters," Floyd said. "It didn't go as planned, but we stuck together."
The Cardinals pounded the Seahawks for 451 yards. Their 39 points were the most allowed by the Seahawks in their current "Legion of Boom" era. The Seahawks had been 15-2 in primetime games under coach Pete Carroll, including 9-0 at home.
Those were the kind of stats that made Sunday night that much better.
Palmer completed 29-of-48 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception. Fitzgerald (10 catches for 130 yards) and Floyd (7-113) each surpassed 100 yards. While running back Chris Johnson never really got started, the Cards never abandoned the run (he had 25 attempts for a mere 58 yards) and Ellington's final burst pushed the Cardinals to 117 rushing yards.
The Seahawks eventually moved the ball a little bit too – quarterback Russell Wilson had 240 yards passes and another 52 rushing – but the Cardinals, because of the turnovers, came away with the feeling they put themselves in the position to have to rally.
"I can't say enough about the resiliency of our team," Arians said. "A lot of things went wrong for us for about seven or eight minutes."
Then again, that meant something in the final analysis too.
"It's a confidence-builder," Mathieu said. "It's a great divisional win. But we've got to keep truckin' away."
Images from the Cardinals' Week 10 game against the Seahawks