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Sunday, December 22, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Arizona Cardinals

By Josh Weinfuss

SEATTLE -- A few thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 17-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks:

What it means: When Arizona needed it most, the Cardinals' defense stepped up. Once Carolina beat the New Orleans Saints, the Cardinals controlled their postseason destiny: win and they would still be in the hunt; lose and they'd be done. While the offense continued to look shaky, especially behind Carson Palmer's four interceptions, the defense played one of its best games of the season. Its game plan to stop Russell Wilson worked, as Arizona's pass rush overwhelmed him and the rush defense lived up to its top-ranked billing, stopping Marshawn Lynch in the second half. All the while, the Cardinals' offense plodded along, waiting for a chance until Palmer hit Michael Floyd for a 31-yard, winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Stock watch: Arizona's defense played as one effective unit throughout the game, limiting Wilson's ability to run and make plays with his feet. But the Cardinals' secondary came to play, jelling as a unit without Tyrann Mathieu or Rashad Johnson to keep Seattle's wide receivers from getting open. While there have been many similar team efforts this season, Sunday's trumped everything because of how each facet played off the others. The pass rush got to Wilson with ease, forcing the 5-foot-11 quarterback to throw past 6-foot-8 Calais Campbell. Then the linebackers stuffed Lynch, and the secondary caused the Hawks' offense to pause because nobody was open.

Picked off: Palmer had a rare game, even by his standards. Sunday was the third time in Palmer's career that he threw four interceptions. Four is too many by anyone's standard, but it was where he threw them that hurt as much as how many. Two were thrown deep in the end zone, and a third was deep in Cardinals territory. Palmer single-handedly blew strong opportunities for the Cards to put points on the board.

End of the rainbow: All the Skittles in the world couldn't help Lynch in the second half. He had just 71 yards against the No. 1-ranked run defense in the league -- 11 in the second half. Arizona stuffed Lynch with gang-tackling, not allowing him to break loose. Arizona's defense made him a nonfactor in the second half and forced Wilson to throw the ball, which he eventually found a rhythm doing.

What's next: The Cardinals host San Francisco in their regular-season finale at 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.