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Seahawks’ late rally falls incomplete
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Leon Washington was electrifying on a pair of returns that setup scores. The defense was suffocating for most of the second half.
In the end, however, the Cardinals rallied for a late touchdown and three Russell Wilson passes from the 4-yard line fell incomplete in the final 30 seconds as Arizona held on for a 20-16 victory – and handed the Seahawks one tough-to-swallow loss in their season opener at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.
But before you try to pin this one on a rookie QB playing his first regular-season game, Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson has something to say on that subject.
“The game wasn’t won or lost on the last few plays,” Robinson said in the eerie quiet of the Seahawks’ locker room. “The game was won or lost in the previous 3½ quarters. So we’ve just got to do better.”
And figure out how to do it in a hurry. The popular phrase in that same locker room was “we’ve got to get back to the drawing board” – or words to that effect – as the Seahawks must indeed put this one behind them and start preparing for next Sunday’s home opener against the Dallas Cowboys at CenturyLink Field.
After the Seahawks had taken a 16-13 lead with 9:20 left in the game, on Steven Hauschka’s 39-yard field goal that was setup by Washington’s 52-yard punt return, the Cardinals put together an 11-play, 80-yard drive in what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
At the controls was not starting quarterback John Skelton, but the QB he beat out for the job – Kevin Kolb. After Skelton got an ankle injury and had to be taken to the locker room on a cart, Kolb came on to complete six of eight passes for 66 yards – including the 6-yard TD pass to Andre Roberts.
And he did it against a Seahawks defense that had held the Cardinals without a first down in the second half before the final – fateful – drive.
“We just didn’t capitalize as a defense at a key moment there at the end of the game,” Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas said. “If we had held them to a field goal, we would have given our offense a better chance.”
But the Seahawks offense did get one last chance to pull this one out. Wilson led them from their own 20-yard line to the Cardinals’ 4. He passed to Sidney Rice (second down), Charly Martin (third down) and Braylon Edwards (fourth down), but all were incomplete.
“I felt great about the opportunities that we had,” Wilson said. “We put ourselves in a good position. We just fell short, and that’s going to happen sometimes.
“The defense did a great job. Special teams did a great job helping us out, as well. We just fell short.”
After spinning offensive magic during the preseason stints that allowed him to win the starting job, the rookie was pressured and harassed by the Cardinals’ aggressive and physical defense in comleting 18 of 34 passes for 153 yards. He threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Rice, which was setup by Washington’s 83-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.
“The main thing for me is just to stay focused on what we can control, how we can get better and just keep fighting,” Wilson said.
How close was this one? Each team generated 18 first downs. The Seahawks had one more offensive yard, 254-253. But the Seahawks ran more plays (70-57) and held the ball longer (33:34-26:26).
This wasn’t how anyone wanted the opener to close – especially coach Pete Carroll, who has worked so hard the past three offseasons to put together a team capable of winning these kinds of games.
“I thought this was just really a game indicative of the league,” Carroll said after losing for the second time in his three openers with the Seahawks. “It was really a hard game; tough game, all the way throughout.
“We had some really cool plays on special teams and a really excellent defense. We gave ourselves a chance to get down the field and win the game. The margin is so slight. It’s just a tough, hard league. And this game was all about that.”
The message to his players was as clear as the disappointment was palpable in the locker room.
“There’s some area we can all work on,” Wilson said. “That’s the focus now – just move on, and learn, and study the film and see where we can all get better.”