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Old Rivals Have New Look

Cards, Seahawks battle for first place after significant transition


The Cardinals didn't have much trouble in their trip to Seattle last season.

SEATTLE – They are the two teams that have controlled the NFC West for a few seasons now, one or the other residing at the top at the end of the year.

In some way, though, they are the same units in uniform only.

The Cardinals are clearly going through a transition, highlighted by the shift that eventually took them from Kurt Warner's retirement in January to the undrafted rookie Max Hall at quarterback. There are new pieces everywhere, from the offensive line to the linebacking corps to the secondary.

That is nothing compared to the overhaul the Seahawks have undergone, however, with a stunning 219 roster transactions since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider came aboard in January.

Maybe it doesn't matter.  Not in the big picture, not with both teams sitting at 3-2 with the winner of Sunday's game at Qwest Field to own first place in the division outright.

"A game like this, the competitor in you is going to come out whether you have been here for 10 years or one year or just one week," running back Tim Hightower said. "You know the significance of this game. It doesn't matter who they have or who they don't have. They will be ready just like I am positive we will be ready to go."

The Cardinals have won their last two trips to Seattle, a place that had meant misery for them for a long time. Two years ago, it was a solid performance in a 26-20 win – sealed by an interception by rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – that basically ushered in the changing of the guard in the NFC West from the Seahawks to the Cards.

Last year, with Seattle struggling under then-coach Jim Mora and the Cards playoff-tested, coach Ken Whisenhunt's team crushed the Seahawks, 27-3, holding Seattle to 112 total yards.

Performances like that are why Carroll is in charge now, and why the organization was transformed quickly.

"I really can't think of anything that's the same, to be honest," Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said, adding "We had two years where we weren't really together. We weren't playing. We weren't putting a good product on the field. We're doing our best to get back to where we were."

Said Carroll, "We've been through a lot to get to this point. We'll continue to grow, but I think to have a chance to be your best you have to get everybody on the same page. We're working toward that."

The fact the Cards have won twice in a row in Seattle "doesn't mean anything," Whisenhunt said.

Not when Hall is making his first road start. Not when the Cards are still trying to sort through an offense that may or may not get veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet back from injury. The Cards' last two road trips – to Atlanta and San Diego – haven't exactly gone well, either.

Both the Seahawks and Cards are different than the ones that last met. That doesn't make the stakes any less, though.

"Part of growing as a team means with all of the new guys and new faces," Whisenhunt said. "We have to go in there and handle it better than we have handled it so far this year."

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