Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt looks concerned during his team's 42-21 loss Sunday to the Seahawks at Qwest Field.
SEATTLE – The temperature was near freezing for the Cardinals at Qwest Field Sunday.
The Cards' performance left them cold too.
In a game that could have given the Cards a healthy push toward the postseason, it was the Seahawks that ended up clinching the NFC West title with a 42-21 victory. Now, the Cardinals have likely played their way into needing to win their final three games to have a chance at the playoffs.
"It makes that scenario you almost have to win," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "You never know that for a fact, but we have to win to have a chance."
The Cards (6-7) also will need better play out of quarterback Kurt Warner, who threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns, but also had a career-high five interceptions as the Cards finished a minus-five in turnover ratio for the game.
"I feel like I let my team down," Warner said. "I take this one on my shoulders."
The Cardinals finish the season with a road trip to New Orleans next week, followed up with home games against Atlanta and St. Louis.
The Cards were helped by losses suffered by fellow wild-card candidates Detroit (6-7) and Philadelphia (5-8). Minnesota (7-6) did get an important win over San Francisco and will hold the tiebreaker against the Cards if it comes down to the two teams.
But Arizona must find a way to play better than it did Sunday.
Reasons exist – receiver Anquan Boldin (toe) didn't play, receiver Larry Fitzgerald (groin) was clearly limping around, the defense is showing symptoms of losing so many starters and tight end Leonard Pope was lost for the season after dislocating his ankle – but Seattle showed why it has dominated the division in recent years.
The Seahawks (9-4) continued to lean on their passing game, with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck playing at as high a level as he ever has. He finished 22-of-33 for 272 yards and four touchdowns.
"We knew what kind of game it was going to be," Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "Max protect, throw the ball.
"I don't think the run game was a factor but I don't think it was going to be a factor anyway."
Indeed, Seattle had just 80 yards rushing, and 25 of Shaun Alexander's 38 yards came on a single play to convert an early fourth-and-1.
But Hasselbeck sliced up the Arizona defense with surgical precision, completing 13 of his first 15 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns. The display helped the Seahawks build a 24-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
The final two touchdowns in the stretch also underscored the Cardinals' injury problems. On Bobby Engram's 15-yard TD reception in the corner of the end zone, Hasselbeck tucked the pass just beyond cornerback Michael Adams, who was on the practice squad up until a few weeks ago. On Deion Branch's 17-yard score, Branch slipped behind safety Oliver Celestin, who was third string behind the downed Adrian Wilson and Aaron Francisco when the two teams met in September.
The Seahawks had piled up 250 yards at halftime.
"(Hasselbeck) played good," cornerback Rod Hood said, "but at the same time, we didn't make the plays we should."
The game looked like it might turn late in the third quarter, when the Cards cut the lead to 27-14 and kicker Neil Rackers executed a perfect dink-and-recover onside kick to give Arizona the ball right back at their own 41.
But on the next play, Warner underthrew a pass to Fitzgerald and it was picked off by Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant – Warner's third interception up to that point.
"We had some momentum … and we throw an interception on the very next play," Whisenhunt said. "You can't do that."
In addition to the interceptions, Cardinals punter Mitch Berger also had a snap go through his hands deep in Arizona territory, leading to a safety.
With Boldin out, Jerheme Urban came through with his best day as a pro, catching six passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, while Fitzgerald gutted out a six-reception day for 79 yards and a score.
But with Trufant (three interceptions) also having his best day ever, there wasn't much room to feel good about anything afterward for the Cards.
"There are no moral victories," Fitzgerald said. "The numbers were probably deceiving. It wasn't early enough."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 12/9/07. Updated 12/9/07