SEATTLE - Dennis Green and many of his players said their Sunday visit against the NFC champion Seahawks would be a measuring stick of where the Cardinals stood against their West division rival.
The disappointing verdict was one that can’t be gauged in inches or feet. The gap remains wider than that.
“We’re not as good as them,” Green bluntly acknowledged, after the Seahawks stepped on the Cards, 21-10, at Qwest Field in a game uglier than the final score indicated.
The mistakes were eerily reminiscent of the issues that have plagued the Cardinals (1-1) for a while: not enough of a running game, too many penalties, too many big plays allowed on defense and not enough trips to the end zone.
Good teams don’t make that many mistakes and win.
The Seahawks (2-0) might be the exception to the rule after the way they played Sunday. Seattle jumped to a 14-0 lead, much to the delight of the 67,470 fans, but then sputtered the rest of the day on offense.
But the Cards’ offense had much more trouble.
“I don’t know if we ever got onto a rhythm all day long,” quarterback Kurt Warner said.
Seven of Arizona’s 11 penalties were on offense, including four false starts. Warner was the Seahawks’ personal punching bag, getting sacked five times, hit countless others, fumbling four times (losing none) and throwing an interception.
Tight end Adam Bergen lost a fumble in the fourth quarter to short-circuit any hope of a comeback. A chance to get a field goal right at the end of the half was rushed when Warner was sacked with time running down and Green decided to run kicker Neil Rackers on the field rather than try and spike the ball. Rackers’ rushed 53-yard try was wide left.
And it should have been much worse, except three Cardinals turnovers — a J.J. Arrington fumble on a kickoff return and two other Warner interceptions — were negated by Seattle penalties.
The offensive line had its issues again. Oliver Ross did not play and Green tried a new lineup, moving Reggie Wells from left guard to right tackle and Chris Liwienski from right tackle to left guard.
“It doesn’t really matter who you are as a receiver if you’re not keeping the quarterback clean — it’s going to be difficult to move the ball,” wideout Larry Fitzgerald said. “We weren’t running the football very effectively either, so it wasn’t like we could keep them honest with the running game.”
Stunningly, the Cards were still in the game when Warner connected with Bryant Johnson for a 40-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to pull Arizona within 21-10, and they were in better shape when safety Adrian Wilson intercepted Matt Hasselbeck on the next play.
Bergen fumbled away a firstdown catch four plays later. There were almost 10 minutes left, but the game was over.
“We’re all right,” said running back Edgerrin James, who had only 64 yards on 18 carries. “It’s good that it happened early. We’ve got a team that we can look at and say, ‘We have to play at this level.”
The Cardinals made reigning MVP Shaun Alexander suffer through a mostly difficult day (only 89 yards on 26 carries) but still allowed 146 yards rushing. Cards killer Darrell Jackson did it again, as the receiver had 127 yards on five catches, including a touchdown.
The tone was set on the first series, when Darnell Dockett sacked Hasselbeck on the first play, but then couldn’t stop Hasselbeck from hitting Jackson on a 47-yard pass two plays later over nickel cornerback Robert Tate, igniting the home crowd.
Wilson’s day will look good on the stat sheet — two sacks and an interception — but he was burned by Jackson’s 49-yard touchdown reception on the next series.
“We had a great game plan for them,” cornerback Antrel Rolle said. “We just didn’t execute it at times. Guys weren’t focusing on their guy — that’s what caused big plays.”
The Cardinals lost on the road for the 14th time in 17 tries since 2004, although to lose in Seattle — where the Seahawks have won 23 of 26 — isn’t disgraceful. But losing the way they did shouldn’t happen. “We ain’t got time to mope around,” Dockett said. Not if the Cardinals want to find a way to measure up.
Arizona 0 0 3 7-10
Seattle 14 0 0 7-21
Sea-Alexander 2 run (Brown kick), 10:43.
Sea-Jackson 49 pass from Hasselbeck (Brown kick), 4:51.
Ari-FG Rackers 43, 7:02.
Sea-Strong 3 run (Brown kick), 14:22.
Ari-Bry.Johnson 40 pass from Warner (Rackers kick), 11:20.
First downs 17 20
Total Net Yards 256 341
Rushes-yards 20-65 36-146
Passing 191 195
Punt Returns 4-29 4-27
Kickoff Returns 4-102 1-17
Interceptions Ret. 2-0 1-1
Comp-Att-Int 24-38-1 12-27-2
Sacked-Yards Lost 5-40 3-26
Punts 6-39.7 5-38.6
Fumbles-Lost 5-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 11-66 7-73
Time of Possession 28:07 31:53
RUSHING-Arizona, James 18-64, Warner 2-1. Seattle, Alexander 26-89, Strong 3-30, Morris 4-25, Engram 1-4, Hasselbeck 2-(minus 2).
PASSING-Arizona, Warner 24-38-1-231. Seattle, Hasselbeck 12-27-2-221.
RECEIVING-Arizona, James 7-33, Boldin 6-62, Fitzgerald 4-52, Ayanbadejo 2-17, Bergen 2-17, Walters 2-10, Bry.Johnson 1-40. Seattle, D.Jackson 5-127, Engram 4-51, Morris 1-27, Alexander 1-9, Burleson 1-7.
MISSED FIELD GOALS-Arizona, Rackers 51 (SH), 53 (WL). Seattle, Brown 30 (BL).