SEATTLE — When Arizona came to Seattle and beat the Seahawks last season, it felt like a changing of the guard.
The way the Cardinals did it again on Sunday, it doesn’t look like it will be changing back any time soon.
Arizona’s 27-3 victory Sunday in an NFL game at Qwest Field was as clear a signal as you could ever see that the Seahawks’ dominance of the NFC West is over.
“We feel like that, personally. You don’t say it outright, but we feel like that,” Arizona nose tackle Bryan Robinson said. “You have to take it away from us. We earned it. I know it’s a new year, but you have to take it away from us.”
“I think for the next couple of years, I think Arizona — hopefully for longer than a couple of years — I think Arizona will be a team to be reckoned with,” Robinson said.
There will be no argument from these quarters.
For four seasons, from 2004 through 2007, Seattle ruled the NFC West, and the Seahawks beat the Cardinals here five straight times dating back to 2003.
Meanwhile, Arizona hadn’t made the playoffs since 1998, and the Cardinals hadn’t won a division title since 1975, when they were based in St. Louis.
So, last season, after Arizona beat Seattle 26-20 at Qwest Field, several Cardinals said it was one of their biggest road victories in a long, long time.
They went on to win the division and the NFC championship, and very nearly the Super Bowl.
Sunday, the Cardinals bolstered their standing as the new neighborhood bully.
“To come up here and win up here two years in a row, that’s saying something,” Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner said. “(Seattle) has been so good and so good at home, and this place is so tough to win in. Then, to win like we did today was definitely a building block for us.”
Warner helped set the tone early, completing all nine of his pass attempts on Arizona’s opening drive. The Cardinals went 80 yards in 15 plays and used 10 minutes and 42 seconds en route to Warner’s 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Then Arizona recovered the ball on the ensuing kickoff and scored again three plays later. Twelve minutes into the game, the Cardinals led 14-0 and the Seattle offense had yet to set foot on the field.
In other words, Arizona came into Qwest Field, punched the Seahawks flush in the nose and dared them to fight back.
“Fourteen quick points, and that was all she wrote,” Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell said.
The game was over, and so is Seattle’s run as division bad boys. The Seahawks dropped to 2-4 while Arizona improved to 3-2, tied with San Francisco for first place in the division.
“Plain and simple, we feel confident playing against the Seahawks,” Robinson said. “That’s no knock on them, but when you play a team twice in your division you know what they’re going to do, you understand their technique, and you put a little bit more into your division games.”
“We’re just a confident team,” he said.
Seahawks apologists will point out that, like last year, Seattle has been ravaged by injuries, and several Cardinals were gracious enough to mention that after the game.
“I don’t know if we got their best shot today, but I’ll take a win any way I can get it,” said Fitzgerald, who had 13 receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. “Seattle’s been the leader in this division for a long time. We were finally able to get over the hump last year, but these guys still play with the heart of a champion. We’re fortunate to come in here and get a win.”
No, the Seahawks were fortunate to get out of Sunday’s game with anybody still standing.
Warner torched them for 276 passing yards and two touchdowns. The Arizona defense held Seattle to a team-record low 14 rushing yards and a pitiful 128 yards of total offense.
No amount of healthy Seahawks would have made a difference in the outcome.
Last year was not a one-time thing. There is a new order in the NFC West, and it starts with the teams in red, Arizona and San Francisco.
“Right now, you know that when you play the Cardinals it’s not an easy win,” Robinson said. “Bring your lunch pail. Bring it, because it’s going to be a long day.
“It’s not where you see Arizona on your schedule and you already chalk it up as a win,” he said. “Those days are gone. Those are gone.”