Cardinals wide receiver John Brown can't corral a pass in last year's loss to the Seahawks.
It’s hard to take outcomes from three separate seasons and tie them together with one tidy bow, but Bruce Arians’ gift of gab rivals his football acumen.
The Cardinals’ coach was asked Wednesday if there was a common thread linking together the annual home losses to the Seahawks since his hire.
“Yeah,” Arians said. “They beat the (expletive) out of us.”
The Cardinals have ascended to lofty heights in Arians’ tenure, but one persistent issue has been defending their home turf against the Seahawks.
It began in 2013, when an out-of-sync offense couldn’t keep up in a 34-22 loss. It continued in 2014 with the NFC West title on the line, when a Ryan Lindley-led group faltered, 35-6. The Cardinals had an outside chance at the top seed in the NFC last year, but that hope was quickly distinguished as the Seahawks ran away with a 36-6 laugher.
There are caveats for each one of the losses – new coach; third-string quarterback; lack of motivation – but it hasn’t made the outcomes any easier to stomach.
“When you watch film on an opponent that you’ve played in the past, you have to watch that old tape from last year,” linebacker Alex Okafor said. “Nothing makes you cringe more than seeing your head get beat in.”
The Cardinals have fought their way back to 3-3 this season and can pull within a half-game of the Seahawks in the NFC West with a win on “Sunday Night Football.” But in order for that to happen, there must be a significant shift from recent history.
The Cardinals have been impressive in Seattle under Arians, winning 17-10 in 2013 and then 39-32 last season. In those games, the Seahawks’ brash confidence was matched. For whatever reason, the games at University of Phoenix Stadium haven’t unfolded the same way.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson said the Seahawks have come out aggressively early in the Cardinals’ three home games, and after they threw a good first punch, “we didn’t know how to get back up from the canvas.”
The message this week is to match their physicality.
“We have to come out and fight for 60 minutes,” Peterson said. “We have to be the most violent football team on the field.”
Primetime road matchups like these don’t faze the Seahawks. They have been the model franchise in the NFC for the past half-decade – making a pair of Super Bowls and winning one – and are used to raucous opposing crowds and bright lights.
“Our guys aren’t old, but they’ve been together for a long time, particularly the core guys,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “So we have been through a lot of experiences and a lot of stadiums and a lot of situations and matchups. That always helps. We have a pretty good reservoir of experiences that we can draw from and guys are pretty poised. They really like the big atmosphere and the big challenge and the big games. Playing Sunday night is fun and they’ll get a kick out of that.”
The emotion emanating from the Cardinals’ locker room on Wednesday didn’t portend a jovial affair from their side on Sunday. Safety Tyrann Mathieu swayed back and forth during his customary weekly interview, looking more amped up than usual.
The Cardinals are back in the thick of the playoff race and can move close to the divisional leaders with a win, but in order for that to happen, they’ll need to solve their home struggles against the Seahawks.
“It’s personal,” Mathieu said. “We’ve just got to take pride in it, take it as a challenge. We’ve got to understand that they’re going to come in here and punch us in our mouth. We’ve just got to be ready for it.”
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during the Week 6 home game against the Jets