This is where the Arizona Cardinals knew the NFC West would be won or lost.
In this building, among this nose, in this chill.
The Cardinals came to Seattle, knowing the road to the NFC West prominence would go through CenturyLink Field. For the first half of Sunday night’s marathon game — which ended just a few minutes shy of four hours with a 39-32 Cardinals win — the Cardinals looked as if they were on cruise control at 70 mph. They coasted to a 22-7 halftime lead behind two touchdowns from quarterback Carson Palmer to wide receiver Michael Floyd.
“I can’t be prouder of a bunch of guys the way we won it and how we won it,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.
Carson Palmer completed 29-of-48 for 363 yards and three scores. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
But like any journey, especially one to the top, it’s never a smooth ride.
The bumps in the road came early and often for the Cardinals in the second half. Blitzes. Fumbles. Touchdowns. At every turn, the Cardinals had to fend off the Seahawks while their offensive line tried to figure out life without left guard Mike Iupati, who left the field in an ambulance late in the first half because of a neck injury.
But the Cardinals had jumped out to enough of a lead in the first half that even 19 unanswered points by Seattle wasn’t enough.
The Cardinals took the Seahawks’ blows and held their ground. There was the four-play 69-yard drive in the third that cut into Arizona’s lead 25-17, followed by back-to-back drives that ended with strip sacks of Palmer, one that led to a touchdown on the ensuing play by Seattle and the other that was recovered and taken into the end zone.
The Cardinals, even down 29-25, didn’t flinch with a 10-play drive to regain the lead, which they didn’t give up.
They showed, despite Seattle’s best attempt in the second half, that the road might not go through Seattle this season. That road may have moved a little farther South.
“It wasn’t one of those things in the past where we let those guys keep scoring touchdowns,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “We were able to put a stop to it. I think when those guys made their plays, we came back and made our plays. It’s a great confidence builder for us.”
What were they thinking? Palmer tried to force a touchdown pass to Floyd in the first quarter, but Floyd was essentially boxed out by two Seattle defensive backs, including Earl Thomas, who intercepted Palmer in the end zone. On the replay, it was clear Floyd was behind the defensive backs for the duration of the play.
One reason to get excited: The Cardinals were able to stave off a massive Seahawks comeback, although most of it was self-inflicted by not being able to handle the Seahawks’ blitz and letting rushers get to Palmer.
One reason to panic: The Cardinals’ defense let the Seahawks back in the game with chunk plays. On their two scoring drives before recovering a fumble at the 3 in the fourth, Seattle had plays of 33 yards, 32 yards (for a touchdown) and 30.
Fantasy watch: Floyd went off in the first half for two touchdowns and finished with 113 yards on seven catches.
Ouch: Iupati left the game in the second quarter in an ambulance because of a neck injury. He did not return. Defensive lineman Cory Redding suffered an ankle injury.