Quarterback Ryan Lindley tries to get off a pass under pressure during the Cardinals' 35-6 loss to the Seahawks Sunday night.
The Cardinals did not clinch the NFC West Sunday night, nor grab the NFC's No. 1 seed for the upcoming playoffs.
Not only did they not win, they didn't even play well in their big Sunday night showdown at University of Phoenix Stadium, getting knocked around by the Seattle Seahawks, 35-6, as new quarterback Ryan Lindley struggled all evening.
But, Lindley said, "We're in the playoffs. It's not like this is the end of the road."
Now, the Cardinals (11-4) are a wild card. Their spot is all but assured to be as the NFC's fifth seed, unless they can get some help. The Cardinals have to beat the 49ers (7-8) and hope the Rams upset the Seahawks (11-4) in Seattle. That would still give the Cardinals the NFC West crown, and – depending on other outcomes – could still get the Cardinals the No. 1 overall seed.
"We'll lick our wounds," linebacker Larry Foote said. "We need a little help to win the West."
But that seems so far away with the Cardinals' current quarterback situation. Drew Stanton was inactive with his knee injury. Rookie
Logan Thomas came in to throw one (incomplete) pass early in the game. And that left Lindley, who wasn't able to produce much more than some of his 2012 starts as a rookie.
"The buck starts and stops here," Lindley said. "For me, that's not how I wanted to play."
Lindley finished 18-for-44 for 216 yards and an interception, with 102 of those yards coming in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. The Cardinals could only convert 3-of-15 third downs.
Coach Bruce Arians said he felt Lindley needed more help from the rest of the offensive unit.
"Points were going to be a premium for us," Arians said. "But overall, he did about as well as I expected."
Lindley still does not have a touchdown pass in his career after five NFL starts. It looked like he had a shot at one early against the Seahawks, when the Cardinals had a semblance of control in the game at the outset of the second quarter.
The Cards turned the first of a surprising three field-goal misses by Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka – one more than he had missed all season – into a drive that reached the Seattle 6-yard line on first-and-goal. But the drive stalled, and the Cardinals settled for gaining a 3-0 lead. The sellout crowd was whipped into a frenzy.
Then on the second play of the Seahawks' next possession, quarterback Russell Wilson lofted a perfect pass to tight end Luke Willson, who got behind the defense for an 80-yard touchdown. It was a gut punch from which the Cards never truly recovered.
In a game where the Cardinals needed to dominate defensively given their offensive shortcomings, the Seahawks ended up with 596 yards of offense, including a unreal 267 yards rushing. Wilson ran for 88 yards, including a 55-yard scramble. Running back Marshawn Lynch, who didn't even play in the first quarter due to an upset stomach, only had 10 carries but had 113 yards, including a spectacular, multi-tackle-breaking 79-yard touchdown romp.
Wilson also had 339 yards passing on 20-of-31 throws. The Seahawks ended up with a whopping nine plays of at least 20 yards.
"Playing against that ballclub, we know we can't let them score just because of how great their defense is and we're playing with a third-string quarterback," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "We're not making excuses by any means. We just know as a defense, it is a premium that these guys can't score touchdowns."
For all the problems, the Cardinals did have a brief flicker of a chance midway through the third quarter and the Seahawks unable to extend a 14-3 lead at the time. With Seattle at their own 11, Wilson threw a pass that Peterson nearly picked off a pass inside the Seahawks 20. Had he held on, the game might've turned. But Peterson couldn't squeeze it.
The Cards later scored a field goal to make it 14-6, but for a second time, the Seahawks answered with a Wilson-to-Willson touchdown pass. This time it went for 20 yards, and it was all Seattle needed the way the Cards' offense scuffled.
"I'm trying to put this to bed as soon as possible," said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who had 11 targets but only four catches for 33 yards. "I just want to erase this from the memory. We're a playoff team. But we have to get this taste out of our mouths."
The Cardinals only ran for 29 yards themselves on 15 carries, and Arians said the Cardinals probably should've run the ball more. But Lindley refused to say the lack of a run game impacted his play, saying there were open chances the Cardinals – and he – needed to capitalize on.
"I don't know if the timing was off or what but obviously it wasn't working," Fitzgerald said.
The Cardinals lost for the only time at home this season. Arians made sure the postgame message was plain – there is a game left against the 49ers, and another opportunity to regain the division. And if not, the Cardinals will travel for a wild card game and attack the postseason like that.
"Have no choice," defensive end Frostee Rucker said. "That's part of ball. We've got to move on. This is going to be in the back of our head. Lost two to (the Seahawks) this year, and hopefully we can get them back in the playoffs and square up one more time."
Images from the Sunday Night Football game against Seattle