SEATTLE – There are many NFL teams – dare we say 30? – that would welcome the Arizona Cardinals to town for a big game.
The Seattle Seahawks aren’t so happy to see them.
The Cardinals, who play the Seahawks today at Qwest Field in a game that could clinch a playoff spot, have dealt their share of heartbreak to Seattle over the past three seasons.
The Seahawks (7-7 this year) have had their share of success against Arizona recently, with a 3-2 record that includes three wins by a combined 77 points in NFC West battles. But the two losses were among the most heartbreaking the Seahawks have endured.
It started with a 24-13 loss to Arizona in 2002, a Week 2 game that might have ranked as insignificant if not for the fact that it was the first regular season contest ever played in Seattle’s new stadium. That loss helped send Seattle tumbling toward a 4-9 record that was only slightly tempered by a three-game winning streak at the end of the season.
The Seahawks won their next three games against the Cardinals, only to get shocked again in October. Arizona’s surprising 25-17 win dropped the Seahawks to 3-3 after they had started the year with three consecutive wins.
While Seattle has home-field advantage in today’s rematch, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Arizona can pull out another win today.
The Cardinals (5-9) played the first meeting without star receiver Anquan Boldin, who missed the first six games of 2004 with a knee injury. Boldin has caught 46 passes in eight games this year, although he’s still looking for his first touchdown.
While Arizona has added some offensive firepower, Seattle’s defense has fallen apart over the past two months. Defensive end Grant Wistrom and linebacker Anthony Simmons, arguably the two most important components on Seattle’s defense, have been lost for the regular season.
The Seahawks ranked ninth in the NFL in total defense going into the last meeting, while they have dropped all the way to 26th.
Seattle spent part of last week trying to figure out what’s gone wrong, while time was also filled looking at the game tape of the Oct. 24 loss to Arizona.
“They played a good football game against us down in Arizona,” coach MikeHolmgren said. “… Yeah, you can use the film.”
On the positive side, the Seahawks have seen better play out of Matt Hasselbeck and the passing game over the past two months. Hasselbeck had the worst game of his career in that loss to Arizona, throwing four interceptions while completing just 14 of 41 passes.
“I just remember coming off that field saying, ‘OK, at least you get to play these guys again,’” Hasselbeck said last week. “Watching them on film, they’re a good team and they’re playing well right now. But they are taking some chances, and I think that offensively it’s going to be a challenge for us to make some plays. We are going to have opportunities to make plays, and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Seahawks are eager to see the same Arizona team that beat them two months ago. They’re not so eager to see the same Seahawks team that laid an egg that day.
“This is the same team that started off 3-0,” offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson said. “It’s not like they cleaned house and got all new players. This is the same team that won the first three games and most of that game after the bye week against St. Louis. We just have to go out and play our game for 60 minutes.”