Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald looks at the scoreboard Sunday during a 19-3 loss to the Seahawks, a game in which Fitzgerald missed with a knee sprain.
SEATTLE – The challenge was difficult enough, facing the vaunted Seahawks secondary on the road with a backup quarterback. Ninety minutes before kickoff, the next feared wrinkle was made official: the Cardinals would be without Larry Fitzgerald as well.
Although the team's leading receiver was able to return to last week's game against the Lions after suffering an MCL sprain, it
came before the adrenaline wore off and the knee puffed up. Fitzgerald couldn't practice this week and the 'game-time decision' before Sunday's 19-3 loss to Seattle wasn't much of a decision at all.
"He couldn't run," coach Bruce Arians said.
Fitzgerald missed only the fifth game of his career and the first since Dec. 2, 2007 against the Browns, a span of 110 games. Rookie wide receiver John Brown took his place in two-receiver sets and Jaron Brown took over the role as the third receiver.
John Brown led the team with three catches for 61 yards, including a pair of high-difficulty grabs on the sideline.
"It was all still the same," Brown said. "When I practice I make sure I know what everyone has to do in case a situation comes up like this."
Jaron Brown finished with three catches for 24 yards but dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone on third-and-goal which would have made it a 9-7 game at the half. The Cardinals settled for a field goal and wouldn't score the rest of the way.
"All you've got to do is catch the ball," Arians said. "Don't jump up for a ball at your waist. He got too excited."
He also fumbled in the fourth quarter, though the ball rolled harmlessly out of bounds.
MISSING PLAYER ON PUNT LEADS TO BLOCK
Arians called the blocked punt in the third quarter the turning point of the game. The Cardinals were within six points and were set to pin Seattle deep after losing the field position battle badly in the first half, but Seahawks cornerback DeShawn Shead
got to punter Drew Butler before he could get the kick away.
"I'm not sure exactly what happened, but he came in there untouched and I didn't even see him until he took the ball off my foot," Butler said.
Seattle took over at the Cardinals' 24 and tacked on another field goal for a 12-3 lead. Arians said there were only 10 players on the field for the punt because running back Stepfan Taylor forgot to join the unit.
"It turned the whole game around," Arians said. "It was strictly a guy who just didn't go out there. We as coaches did not find it in time. That was huge because our defense had just set up some nice momentum for the second half."
Butler's net yardage for the game was only 27.3 on six punts. Additionally, Chandler Catanzaro missed a 49-yard field goal on the team's first possession, his second straight miss after starting his career by hitting 17 in a row. Catanzaro finished 1-for-2, hitting a chip shot from 23 yards after Jaron Brown's drop.
COOPER SEES THE FIELD
Guard Jonathan Cooper played five offensive snaps, lining up as a sixth offensive lineman in jumbo formations. The Cardinals ran the ball four times – often directly behind him -- and went with one play-action when he was on the field.
"It means the world to me to finally be able to showcase a little bit of what I can do and to get those live reps," Cooper said. "You can't improve without playing with the live bullets. I feel like I'm improving, and that's helping me steadily see an increase in the number of plays. I'm grateful for the opportunity and hopefully can see some more."
Cooper, last year's first round pick who went into training camp as the projected starter at left guard, hasn't been able to win a starting spot ahead of either Paul Fanaika or Ted Larsen. He noticeably moved a defender out of the running lane on one play and thought he did a good job overall.
"I was nervous because they were emphasizing the importance of this opportunity I had and me making the most of it," Cooper said. "I feel like I was able to capitalize. Would I have traded a win for my performance? Absolutely. But I am grateful that when given the opportunity I felt like I did OK. Now when we go over it, I'll see if that's different, but I'll take it."
MAURO MAKES NFL DEBUT
The Cardinals selected defensive end Josh Mauro off the Steelers practice squad nine days ago and didn't take long to work him into the game plan.
Mauro finished with two tackles, including one for loss, and batted down a pass attempt by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in his first career game.
"There were a lot of emotions before the game, obviously, especially with the standard this team has set – being 9-1 and being the best team in the NFL," Mauro said. "I just wanted to come out there and do my job at the level they've already set. At the end of the day, though, it is just football. It's the game I've been playing since fifth grade."