Wrap-up: Cardinals 23, Seahawks 20 (OT)
January, 1, 2012
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals following their Week 17 game Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, a 23-20 victory for the Cardinals:
What it means: The Cardinals finished with an 8-8 record. The Seahawks finished 7-9. That means Arizona recovered from a 1-6 start to post a record of at least .500 for the fourth time in five seasons under coach Ken Whisenhunt. Seattle rallied back from a 2-6 start. Consecutive defeats to end the season improved their draft status. The Seahawks finished tied with Kansas City for the 11th-worst record in the NFL, and both teams had a .512 strength of schedule. That means a coin toss will decide which team picks 11th overall in the 2012 draft. The Chiefs will pick 13th. Had Seattle won, the Seahawks would have lost 4-6 spots in the draft. Arizona would have picked 11th.
What I liked: This was another intense, physical battle between NFC West teams late in the season. Penalties are not something I would generally list under the "what I liked" category, but personal fouls against Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Paris Lenon, Early Doucet and Levi Brown reflected the spirited nature of this game. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch continued to punish defenders with his aggressive running, breaking free from Calais Campbell and running over Daryl Washington on two early runs. He and Leon Washington gave the Seahawks another strong team outing on the ground (170-plus yards). Leon Washington's 48-yard rushing touchdown and 47-yard kickoff return in overtime were key plays. Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling made impact plays, as well. His 39-yard run was a career long. He also saved a touchdown by tackling Sherman following an interception in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks' big corners could not stop Larry Fitzgerald, but they were not dominated physically, a change from past seasons. Competition for the ball was often fierce. Fitzgerald played like an MVP anyway. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, active despite a strained Achilles tendon, had a 42-yard punt return and also blocked a short field goal try. Seattle continued to develop young players, with undrafted rookie receiver Ricardo Lockette providing a 61-yard touchdown reception.
What I didn't like: Running back Beanie Wells was inactive for the Cardinals. He missed both games against Seattle this season. Wells' knee problems had limited him in recent weeks. His absence made it tougher for Arizona to match the physical tone Seattle set with Lynch breaking tackles and running over defenders. Both quarterbacks struggled at times. Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson twice threw too long for Ben Obomanu when the receiver might have scored touchdowns. He also missed Golden Tate open deep along the right sideline. Jackson threw what should have been an interception in the red zone when Seattle trailed 20-10, but the Cardinals' Washington dropped it. That was a bad play for both teams. Skelton's interception to Sherman came at a critical time. The Seahawks' absence of a pass-rusher beyond Chris Clemons showed up in the clutch once again, this time when Skelton had plenty of time to find Fitzgerald for a 26-yard gain over the middle in overtime.
What's next: The Seahawks and Cardinals missed the playoffs.