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Originally published Monday, November 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Seahawks' loss sets them up to turn over division title

The Cardinals, the heir apparent to the division throne, were good enough on offense that the return from injury of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and wide receiver Deion Branch couldn't make enough of a difference.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Game as their effort was Sunday at Qwest Field, the Seahawks must now face the reality that winning the NFC West for a fifth straight season is out of reach after their 26-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Not that the Seahawks didn't make it interesting in fighting back from a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Rather, the Cardinals allowed the rally to happen with a couple of ill-timed penalties and turnovers, setting the game up for a thrilling finish. The Seahawks got the ball with 2:05 left to play with a chance to score the go-ahead touchdown.

Their final drive was stopped after one play, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck being picked off by Arizona's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and the Cardinals ran out the clock.

"Too little too late, but I love them," coach Mike Holmgren said of his players. "Now our goals have changed. We came into the season with very high expectations. It's been a difficult season."

One that will fall short of the Seahawks' expectations. The Cardinals, the heir apparent to the division throne, were good enough on offense that the return from injury of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and wide receiver Deion Branch, while uplifting, couldn't make enough of a difference. The Seahawks lost their fourth home game and dropped to 2-8.

Seattle hasn't had this bad a record since they were 1-9 after 10 games in 1992, when they finished 2-14. The two worst records in team history were 2-12 in 1976, the inaugural season, and the 1992 season.

"That's something that we had got accustomed to," left tackle Walter Jones said about the Seahawks' four straight NFC West titles. "You take your hat off to Arizona. They've been trying for a long time to get over. ... All we can do now is keep fighting."

So it will go for the rest of this season — the Seahawks fighting to salvage pride and get some wins. There were moral victories Sunday, but the victory on the scoreboard didn't come in what Holmgren called a must-win game at the end of last week.

Quarterback Kurt Warner sizzled in the first half, completing 22 of 27 passes for 251 yards and leading Arizona (7-3) on scoring drives with their first two possessions. All Warner had to do was get the ball in the vicinity of his two favorite targets, wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, and the star tandem did the rest.

Boldin and Fitzgerald took advantage of the Seahawks' soft coverage in the middle of the field and on short sideline passes, not to mention their major size advantage over Seahawks cornerbacks Josh Wilson and Kelly Jennings. Warner finished with 395 yards and Boldin and Fitzgerald combined to catch 23 passes for 337 of those yards.

"They make good plays and then you have to make great plays," Wilson said.

The Seahawks didn't make enough. They trailed 13-0 and couldn't stop the Cardinals offense until late in the second quarter, when Wilson jumped the route on a pass for Jerheme Urban, got the interception and ran it back 58 yards.

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That set up Hasselbeck's short touchdown pass to Maurice Morris, who zigzagged his way into the end zone. But the Cardinals managed a field goal as the first half ended and led 16-7.

The Cardinals' lead bulged to 19 after three quarters, then the Seahawks surged into the game. Trailing 26-7, the Seahawks had third-and-goal from the Arizona 3. Hasselbeck's pass for Koren Robinson was intercepted in the end zone by the Cardinals' Karlos Dansby, but tight end John Carlson knocked the ball out of Dansby's hands and Jones recovered for Seattle. Given another chance to score, the Seahawks did, T.J. Duckett doing the honors with a 1-yard run.

Moments later, Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane sacked Warner and forced a fumble that Darryl Tapp recovered. It took the Seahawks five plays from the Arizona 14 to score another touchdown.

The Seattle defense rose up and gave the offense two more cracks at a drive, one at the 5:38 mark of the fourth and the other at 2:05. But the Seahawks couldn't take advantage.

"It kind of went our way in the second half, but somebody had to win or lose," linebacker Julian Peterson said. "They found a way to close it out."

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Catching on
Anquan Boldin had the third-largest receiving game ever against Seahawks.
Yards Player, team Date
243 Wes Chandler, San Diego Sept. 15, 1985
195 Al Toon, New York Jets Nov. 2, 1986
186 Anquan Boldin, Arizona Nov. 16, 2008
173 Marcus Allen, L.A. Raiders Oct. 7, 1984

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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