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Effort Of Branch, Defense Not Enough

Notebook: Hightower's potential big day derailed by fumble in Seattle loss

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Defensive end Alan Branch celebrates one of his two sacks Sunday.




SEATTLE – Alan Branch shook his head.

He had been praised earlier in the season for his good play, but it was after a loss in San Diego, and so Sunday – in which Branch had two sacks, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble – he wasn't ready to enjoy much.

"I'm pretty much my hardest critic," Branch said.

That's how the defense felt as a whole after dropping a 22-10 decision to the Seahawks. Good, but not good enough.

"We kept them out of the end zone, but even when they didn't get field goals, they still ate up the clock," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said.

The Seahawks did run for 144 yards, and at the end of the game – when the Cards were trying to mount an improbable comeback – Seattle had drives of 14, 12 and 12 plays. But for 10 straight drives in the heart of the game, the Seahawks didn't have a drive gain more than 13 yards, and twice the Cards held Seattle to field goals after turnovers gave the Seahawks the ball inside the Arizona 20-yard line.

"That's the only reason we had a chance to win the game, because of the defense," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We took some lumps earlier this year defensively. But I think we are coming out of it a little bit."

The Cards had five sacks total, including one each from defensive end Calais Campbell and linebackers Joey Porter and Daryl Washington.

"We had some new players and it takes time for everybody to get on the same page," Branch said. "I think we finally did. We took a good step in that direction, at least."

HIGHTOWER'S FUMBLE


Running back Tim Hightower was off to a great start Sunday, ripping off carries of 7, 13 and 24 yards to single-handedly jump-start the Cards' first good drive of the game early in the second quarter and Arizona trailing only 3-0.

His next carry was good too – 13 yards – but it ended with another lost fumble, Hightower's seventh lost fumble in his last 22 regular season games. Hightower had gained 59 yards on just six carries, but Whisenhunt didn't entrust him with another rushing attempt the rest of the game.

"It was at a critical point in the game," Whisenhunt said. "Momentum had started to turn. That's something that can't happen. That is a concern and something we will talk about with Tim. We can't live with that going forward."

Hightower wasn't going to disagree.

"It was one of those things where I think it was more me than them," Hightower said. "It hurts a lot. We needed a big play. To do something like that … you kind of self-destruct. It's just something you can't do."

ONE-HANDED ROBERTS


Andre Roberts got his first start as a receiver Sunday, and looked good on his first two punt returns – taking one back 22 yards. The third, however, was disaster. Roberts muffed the catch, and instead of falling on it, he picked it back up and tried to run – but held it like a loaf of bread in one hand.

He was quickly stripped, and the Seahawks recovered, leading to the Seahawks' only touchdown of the game.

"Andre is growing. He is making some plays for us. Unfortunately that punt return was something you can't have, not so much (the muff) as grabbing it with one hand and having it stripped. But he made a couple of really good catches on the punt returns today and he was close to really splitting it out of there a couple of times.

"We have a lot of young guys, a lot of new guys and we are struggling with that a little bit. But we're not going to give up on them."

BREASTON SITS


After he warmed up in the rain before the game, wide receiver Steve Breaston was held out of the game as an inactive instead of making his first appearance since knee surgery.

"We put Steve down because of the (wet) surface," Whisenhunt said. "That was my biggest concern. I think Steve is very close. I would hope he will be ready to go."

Whisenhunt left rookie Stephen Williams inactive and Onrea Jones active because Jones had more experience as a slot receiver.

Roberts started in Breaston's place, making two catches for 40 yards. Early Doucet played for the first time since the season opener after sports hernia surgery, catching two passes for 33 yards.

INJURY UPDATE


Besides Hall, the Cardinals also had linebacker Clark Haggans and nose tackle Dan Williams leave the game with groin strains. Both will be reevaluated, Whisenhunt said. Porter also tweaked his groin but remained in the game.

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