GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Seattle Seahawks’ 2008 season ended Sunday in a fashion similar to the way it began: With a demoralizing loss.
The only difference between that setback in Buffalo four months ago and Sunday’s 34-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals is that their 12th loss of the season served as resounding evidence that changes need to be made in the organization in order to get back to an elite level.
Had the Seahawks actually ended their worst season since 1992 on a three-game winning streak by defeating the Cardinals, their division rivals who won the NFC West for the first time, they might have been enticed to think this unexpected season was an aberration that needed only a new beginning to correct.
But now that the Seahawks have been swept by the Cardinals (9-7) for the first time and thoroughly abused by Arizona’s wide receivers for the second time this season, it is clear that Seattle is going to have to make significant upgrades to its roster if it wants to get back a division title it controlled for the previous four seasons.
“You have to analyze how we did and where our deficiencies are,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said.
Not that Holmgren is going to be around to make those decisions.
After an emotional farewell tour that seemed to last for weeks, Holmgren coached his final game for the Seahawks on Sunday with the same aplomb and verve with which he came to Seattle 10 years ago.
Afterward, he said he was too emotional to address his players in the locker room, a chore he said would be better left until today, when he is able to compose himself.
He also reiterated that he was committed to taking some time off, even if at the same time he acknowledged that next July, when training camps begin, will be a difficult proposition.
He said no teams have yet called inquiring about his services, but he fully expects them to.
“I’ll just try to be honest with guys and explain to them how I feel,” Holmgren said. “It’s fun to listen to and it’s flattering. But I’m pretty committed to this (one-year sabbatical).”
If Holmgren stays retired from coaching, he will have finished his career with a 161-111 record. His 161 regular-season victories rank 11th in NFL history.
His Seahawks record is 86-74, making him first in franchise history, just ahead of Chuck Knox’s 80 regular-season victories.
He was philosophical and resigned to the circumstances of his final loss, where yet one more offensive lineman, Kyle Williams, went down with a concussion, joining the other six who have been placed on injured reserve.
In the end, too much was stacked against the Seahawks facing a team with too many weapons – even if one of the key ones, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, was out with an injury.
“I think we gave it a go for a while,” Holmgren said. “But we got beat by some really fine players. I told (Arizona coach) Ken (Whisenhunt) and (assistant) Russ Grimm … they’ve worked really hard to get to this point and I wish them well in the playoffs.”
The Seahawks served as a welcome tonic for a Cardinals team that had clinched the division on Dec. 7 but had lost four of its prior five games.
The Cardinals, who will have a home playoff game Saturday – their first since 1947 when they called Chicago home – against Atlanta, were desperate to get back the rhythm that made them one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the NFL.
The 63,874 fans at the University of Phoenix Stadium also were impatient, booing the Cardinals early when things didn’t go well.
Turns out, all they ultimately needed was Seattle’s defense. Quarterback Kurt Warner was 19 for 30 for 263 yards and four touchdowns before being pulled after three quarters to preserve him for the playoffs.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who had 10 receptions for 151 yards in the teams’ first meeting, added five catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday.
“We were going to need some guys to step up and make big plays with Anquan out,” Warner said. “Obviously the next guy you turn to is No. 11. He definitely did not disappoint.”
The Cardinals’ third receiver, Steve Breaston, had five catches for 91 yards, putting him over 1,000 yards for the season. Arizona became only the fifth team in NFL history to have three receivers with more than 1,000 yards in a season.
It was too much for a Seattle team that, though it took an early 7-0 lead, made too many physical mistakes and had too many mental errors.
In a characteristic that doesn’t usually bedevil Holmgren-coached teams, the Seahawks were penalized 11 times for 82 yards, with facemasks, false starts and holding calls costing them valuable yardage.
They also had three turnovers, with Seneca Wallace throwing two interceptions after going 183 consecutive attempts without one, and Maurice Morris setting up an Arizona touchdown with a fumble deep in his own territory.
“The way the season went and with it being over and ending the way it did, there are a lot of players who have a bad taste in their mouths and are excited to get back out there,” said running back T.J. Duckett, who scored the Seahawks’ first touchdown on a 1-yard run.
“It wasn’t the type of year that any of us expected. It’s something that you learn from and hopefully this will help us in the future.”