Wide receiver Michael Floyd (15) is congratulated by teammates Larry Fitzgerald (11) and Stepfan Taylor after Floyd's game-winning TD catch in Seattle last season.
The win was necessary if the Cardinals still wanted to have a chance at the playoffs, but as well as the Cards have been playing into December of last season, winning in Seattle was not a simple chore.
Actually, it hadn't been done by anybody once Russell Wilson took over at quarterback spanning back to the start of the 2012 season.
But that's what the Cardinals did, in the rain and the cold, through Carson Palmer's four interceptions and the boisterous Century Link Field crowd. Palmer's touchdown bomb to Michael Floyd – and subsequent Karlos Dansby interception – sealed a 17-10 win.
It wasn't good enough to help the Cardinals to the postseason. But it was crucial to Bruce Arians' program and has bled over
into this season, when the Cards' next trip to Seattle comes Sunday with the team owning an NFL-best 9-1 record.
"I think that game was a jump start to where we are now," safety Tony Jefferson said.
Added Arians, "The belief system that everything we're doing is working solidified itself up there last year."
The Cardinals spent the season slowly learning Arians' system and watching the wins start to pile up in the second half of the year. But all season, Arians harped on the fact it was taking his players time to truly believe in themselves as a team.
As the Cardinals arrived in Seattle, a watershed moment occurred.
"It was the first road game we really went into with confidence," defensive tackle Dan Williams said. "We had the confidence here, 'OK, we can win the game.' We knew we had to expect to win."
The way it played out meant something too, with the Cardinals rushing the ball 43 times (for 139 yards), overcoming the Palmer turnovers and then rallying for the game-winning TD after the Seahawks had taken a 10-9 lead with 7:26 remaining.
Winning without playing perfectly, and winning in the fourth quarter, are signatures of this year's NFC West-leading
The game didn't mean nearly as much to the Seahawks. They were going to have home field in the playoffs. They still won the Super Bowl. Other than the ego sting of finally being beaten at home, there were no lasting effects.
"It was gritty," Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said. "I don't remember anything exceptional (compared to) any other division game. It's a grind-it-out, low-scoring, usually coming down to the last couple drives. They played some good football at the end."
The Seahawks aren't looking back at that game, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said, and neither are oddsmakers who have made the Seahawks the touchdown favorite.
To this, the Cardinals shrug. Center Lyle Sendlein said the Cardinals always play better as the underdog anyway. What can't be taken is the belief that permeates the locker room, a belief that was locked down last December in the Pacific Northwest.
"If you said we would have had four turnovers and still won the game (last year), anybody's going to take that," said quarterback Drew Stanton, this year's starter with Palmer out after knee surgery. "Because at the end of the day, that's what we're evaluated on are wins and losses.
"You never want to go up there and be negative in the turnover ratio because it doesn't allow you to win many football games, but at the same time, if the ultimate goal is reached, that's what really matters in the end."
What the Cardinals don't want is to think last year's game matters now, at least on the field. Seattle, Williams said, must still be respected.
"They are still the world champions," Williams said. "They're the best team in the league. You can't crown a new champion until you get the belt, and they are the ones holding the belt."
Arians, not surprisingly, sums it up even better than that.
"They're the world champions," he said. "We're just 9-1. We haven't done (expletive)."
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