Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu and his defensive teammates look at the scoreboard late in Thursday night's 22-16 loss.
The night, for so many reasons, was hard.
The Cardinals were not only beaten Thursday night at University of Phoenix Stadium but battered and bruised, exactly the kind of game that has become typical when playing the Seahawks. A 22-16 loss exacted a harsh toll in itself, dropping the Cards two games behind second-place Seattle.
The news got worse. Left tackle D.J. Humphries has an ACL injury, coach Bruce Arians said, and safety Tyvon Branch went down with his own knee injury. Tight end Ifeanyi Momah may have broken his ankle, and Arians said all three very well could end up on injured reserve.
Had the Cardinals (4-5) been able to pull out a victory, perhaps that pain would have been mitigated. Instead, the message was a simple one after such a difficult evening.
"Win next week," coach Bruce Arians said. "Come to work, and win next week. There is no other option."
For a second straight year it was a vicious game against their NFC West rival – another "battle of attrition" as quarterback Drew Stanton said – that threatens any Cardinals' hopes. Last year, it was a 6-6 tie the Cardinals should
have won. This year, short-handed, on a short week, there was a win to be had.
"Guys were down," defensive lineman Frostee Rucker said of the post-game locker room. "We take a lot of pride in our work and this was a mental week. We just didn't make the plays at the end."
The Cardinals couldn't run. Adrian Peterson got his carries – 21 – but could only generate 29 yards. The Seahawks (6-3) were not going to let the veteran get going, and Arians said "we knew it was going to be hard." Still, the Cards stayed methodical, and ended up with more first downs (24-14) and yards (290-287) than Seattle.
But big plays eventually doomed the Cards, and one in particular, when Houdini himself – Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson – scrambled his way into the backbreaker.
The Seahawks were winning, 15-10, early in the fourth quarter. On second-and-21, Wilson bobbed and weaved away from both Chandler Jones and Tyrann Mathieu and flipped a sideline pass that wide receiver Doug Baldwin outleaped safety Antoine Bethea for the ball.
Bethea fell and Baldwin raced 54 yards down to the Arizona 4-yard line, setting up a Jimmy Graham touchdown catch that, as it turned out, was all Seattle needed.
"You can watch film, you can prepare for it, but then actually playing against it, it's a different beast," defensive lineman Josh Mauro said of Wilson's something-out-of-nothing scrambling.
Wilson finished 22-of-32 for 238 yards and a pair of TD passes to Graham.
Arians said the defense played "lights out" other than that play, and in fact, the Cardinals might've survived it had the offense clicked a little more. When it was over, playing from behind, Stanton threw 47 passes, completing 24 for 273 yards and a touchdown. He didn't turn the ball over, and while he missed some throws, his pass catchers had a handful of plays in which it looked like they could've made the catch.
"You want to make every play that comes in your direction," said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who had 10 catches
for 113 yards. "You pride yourself on those, and those guys get paid on the other side, just like we do."
Fitzgerald acknowledged he might've come down with a jump ball near the end zone early in the game. J.J. Nelson couldn't bring in a fourth-down bomb that he said he thought he probably should've caught, but wanted to see the replay.
That miss, right before the end of the half, was promptly turned around for a field goal by Seattle. It wasn't a death sentence, though, and the Cards always felt like they had a chance to turn it.
"When you're competing and you know there was one drive that could have switched the momentum, it hurts a lot more," Peterson said.
Even with Peterson not producing, the Cardinals played the game the way they wanted.
Down by 12 with 4:20 left, the Cards actually reached the Seattle 15 before a fourth-down pass fell incomplete. The last touchdown didn't come until 20 seconds remained.
"We knew it was going to be a low-scoring game," Stanton said. "We wanted to try and establish the line of scrimmage and take our shots. B.A. touched on it (Saturday) night, if we hit those shots, it'll be the difference in winning the game.
"Historically, in this game, if you kick field goals, you lose."
Now comes the attempt to regroup. The Seahawks suffered a slew of injuries themselves – cornerback Richard Sherman was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, among others – but the Cardinals only know that their route gets harder not only in the standings but on the roster. The IR list likely grows before the Cardinals play in Houston next week.
"It's a lot of pressure," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "You're either going to be like a diamond, or you'll bust like a pipe."
Images from the Week 10 "Thursday Night Football" affair