Larry Fitzgerald holds back Anquan Boldin during the Cardinals' emotional 26-20 win over the Seahawks in Seattle Sunday.
SEATTLE – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie jumped in front of Koren Robinson, and as the ball settled into his arms as the rookie cornerback dived to the Qwest Field turf, the Cardinals had done in one of their demons.
It could have been easier than it was, the Cards' 26-20 win over the Seahawks Sunday. But it couldn't have been any more significant even if the Cardinals had posted a blowout. The Cards raised their record to 7-3 by finishing a three-game sweep of NFC West opponents and won in Seattle for the first time since 2002.
"There was a lot riding on this game," quarterback Kurt Warner said, weary but happy after throwing for another 395 yards.
"A win is a win," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after tense times late for a second straight game. "In two weeks, no one will care how we got it."
Arizona's division lead, for all intents and purposes, has grown to a five-game bulge. The Seahawks and Rams are each 2-8. The 49ers are 3-7, but since the Cardinals already beat them twice, the head-to-head tiebreaker is worth an extra game in the standings.
It almost wasn't that way. The Cardinals held a 26-7 lead in the third quarter, and should have sealed a dominant performance when linebacker Karlos Dansby intercepted a Matt Hasselbeck pass in the end zone.
But Dansby fumbled on a runback attempt, giving the Seahawks the ball back at the Arizona 11. Seattle scored five plays later, the Qwest crowd was re-energized, and the Cards ended up with a nail-biter the rest of the way.
"I made a bonehead decision," Dansby said.
The Cardinals smashed the Seahawks in total yards, 458-196. But the Seahawks' defense, tied for 27th overall in the NFL coming in but 10th in red-zone touchdown percentage, wouldn't let the Cards in the end zone.
A Warner fumble allowed the Seahawks a 14-yard touchdown drive on their next possession. And while Warner shredded the Seahawks by throwing to Anquan Boldin (13 catches for 186 yards) and Fitzgerald (10 for 151), the Cards couldn't seem to create a final drive to put the game away.
"There was a little too much drama at the end for me," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
The defense – as it had done at the end of the Cards' "Monday Night Football" heart-stopper – made the plays to win.
The Seahawks, with Hasselbeck playing for the first time in six weeks, went three-and-out on their first attempt to pull ahead with a little more than five minutes left. Cornerback Ralph Brown, forced into a top role with injuries to Rod Hood (ribs) and Eric Green (knee), knocked down the third-down pass.
The Cardinals were unable to generate a first down on their next chance to burn the clock, and Boldin compounded the problem when he ran out of bounds after 12 yards of a third-and-18 play, stopping the clock with 2:05 left.
"I was thinking first down," Boldin said. "I thought I could get there but the guy pushed me out."
The Seahawks took over on their own 28-yard line after a punt. They had almost two minutes on the clock. Déjà vu was at work – until Rodgers-Cromartie nabbed the pass, his second interception of both the game and his brief career.
"That felt pretty good," Rodgers-Cromartie said.
So too did the win. Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett ran off the field bellowing, "The Best in the West. Wooo!" Defenders Chike Okeafor and Antonio Smith playfully argued with a Seattle fan holding a sign that said the Cards were going to choke.
Not this time. Not this team.
"It's fun," Warner said, "to be in the playoff hunt again."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 11/16/08.