The last time quarterback Carson Palmer played in Seattle, he led the game-winning touchdown drive in a 17-10 Cardinals' victory.
The day after the 2014 season ended with a playoff loss, Bruce Arians was asked about the task of getting past the Seahawks in the NFC West.
"I'd like to play them with a first-string quarterback," the coach said.
When the Cardinals play the Seahawks on "Sunday Night Football" this weekend, Carson Palmer will indeed be behind center. Palmer himself shrugs off the impact it might make beyond the passing game, but with the Cardinals' knowledge their last Palmer-led trip to Seattle ended with a win, no one else will undersell this point.
"I guess it's the difference between a win and a loss," Arians said Wednesday. "If you have your quarterback, you
have a chance."
The Cardinals' 19-3 loss in Seattle a year ago wasn't all about backup Drew Stanton having to play. The Cardinals had a punt blocked when they only had 10 men on the field. Wide receiver Jaron Brown dropped a wide-open touchdown pass from Stanton.
But Arians said the confidence in the locker room is "totally different" with Palmer available.
"It gives us confidence to go out there knowing we have all our bullets in the gun," safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "It's time to go out and execute."
Palmer said he doesn't sense such things. Perhaps, he said, guys might realize it "in the back of their minds," but generally, players are too focused on what they have to do to worry about who might be playing at a different position.
Then again, maybe that's just modesty talking.
It's not just that Palmer is having an MVP-caliber season. It's that Palmer won there before, in 2013. That's the genesis of Arians' post-2014 quote, understanding that when Arians and Palmer have teamed together at Seattle, it ended in victory.
Palmer was not great that December day. He threw four interceptions and it was the Cardinals' sublime defensive effort that deserved the bulk of the credit for a win. But it was the calm Palmer who shook off all those turnovers to lead a gutsy fourth-quarter drive – covering 80 yards in 10 plays – culminating in a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd with a little more than two minutes left.
"It felt really good for it to go from so loud to so quiet fast," Palmer said.
The trip down memory lane isn't worth it to Palmer, however. "That was a different team," he said. "We're 10 times better than we were the last time I went there. They're a different team. I don't compare from year to year.
"I just don't really put too much credit into what happened two years ago."
The argument can easily be made that the Cardinals' offense is much better. Palmer's 178 passing yards that 2013 day were built on two big passes – the Floyd toss, and a 63-yarder to Brittan Golden. The Cardinals actually ran the ball 43 times for 139 yards, easily outdistancing Palmer's 25 pass attempts.
With rain in the forecast and a good run game with Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, the Cardinals could do the same this year – although Palmer and the passing offense are light years from where they were.
"Carson looks great, the best I've ever seen him in all the years he's been out there playing," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who coached Palmer in college at USC.
If the Cardinals' defense can play like it did two years ago, that would change things too. Palmer struggled that day but Russell Wilson did too, completing just 11-of-27 passes for 108 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Running back Marshawn Lynch never got going either.
Then again, having Palmer means the belief that defensive margin for error is just a little bit bigger.
"Knowing we have Carson, there are no excuses now," wide receiver John Brown said. "Last year is last year and Drew did a great job. But now it's time to show what we can really do with Carson."