Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald hauls in his touchdown catch during Sunday's loss in Seattle.
SEATTLE – Not once but twice the Cardinals held the ball as the clock died down Sunday at CenturyLink Field, in a game that at once felt should have been theirs yet never did.
The offense, sputtering all day, wasn't able to change anything in the most crucial of situations. A missed field goal on the outskirts of reasonable given the wind ended one opportunity, an interception the other. And the Cardinals were left with a second straight gut-wrenching road loss, this one 13-10 to the Seahawks, and a second straight chance to quietly mull what-if.
"I am disappointed in myself and our offense," quarterback Kevin Kolb said. "We – I – was not every good today.
"We don't want to go down this road."
The Cardinals (1-2) played better defensively. They created the opportunities to be in the game. And after Kolb made an improbable 12-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald into tight double-coverage to give the Cards a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter after running the no-huddle, there seemed to be a rhythm reached.
Without running back Beanie Wells, who was forced to sit with a sore hamstring, the Cards turned to inexperienced Alfonso Smith after veteran Chester Taylor was slow to get started, and Smith ended up rushing for 54 yards on 17 carries. Fitzgerald had five catches for 64 yards by halftime.
More importantly, the defense was chasing down Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackon consistently, ending up with four sacks – including a career-best 2½ by defensive end Calais Campbell.
"The stinky part is that statistically we did better but it's all about the wins and losses," linebacker Clark Haggans said. "We lost. So it doesn't matter."
Everything seemed to flip in the second half.
The Seahawks (1-2), who had just 95 yards rushing total in their first two games, ended up with 122. The Cardinals didn't get beaten up with yardage, but ultimately allowed a 14-play touchdown drive early in the third quarter ending with a Jackson 11-yard scramble for a score.
It shouldn't have been enough. In the end, though, it was.
That's because the Cardinals' first four second-half possessions gained just two first downs, giving the Cards no traction. By the time they did move the ball a little, they couldn't move it enough, leaving kicker Jay Feely – who already had the wind seem to push a 51-yard field-goal try wide left earlier in the game – with a 49-yard try into the wind. It was short.
"It's heartbreaking when you don't come through for your team," Feely said. "They are difficult kicks, but they are kicks I expect to make."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the same thing, but Feely looked like he would have another try. Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant was called for interference on Fitzgerald – who was shut out in the second half of a catch – to convert a fourth-and-1.
The Cards had a first down at the Seattle 34-yard line with 1:04 left. But Kolb threw an incompletion, fumbled as he tried to scramble – tackle Brandon Keith fell on the ball – and then tried to squeeze one into tight end Todd Heap and was intercepted by safety Kam Chancellor.
"That's two weeks in a row we had the ball in our hands with a chance to do something," Whisenhunt lamented. "And we weren't able to execute.
"We've got to grow up faster as a team."
Kolb, who was 25-for-39 for 252 yards with a score and two interceptions, clearly took the loss hard. Multiple times, he laid the blame at his own feet. With the 49ers winning in Cincinnati Sunday, it is San Francisco with an early lead on the NFC West and the Cards wondering how they let an early-season schedule that could have been in their favor get off the rails.
"You've got to sock it away and learn from it," Kolb said, "but this one is hard to swallow."