Two weeks ago, the Seahawks played a Monday Night Football nail-biter against the Vikings. They failed to score in the first half and eventually clawed their way back into the contest in the second. Seattle won the game in the first two minutes on a 94-yard drive. It was a classic Russell Wilson performance. It was also part of a longstanding trend of close, wild Seahawks games—especially in prime time.
After that Week 5 win, head coach Pete Carroll was asked why the Seahawks always get themselves into such tricky situations. He seemed to suggest that it’s by design. “I like to feel like I felt in that fourth quarter, when I was chilled about the whole thing, so that I can think clearly, operate well, function well for these guys and do whatever I can to contribute,” Carroll said. “It’s the process of building a mentality of a really successful team.”
This week, on Sunday Night Football, the Seahawks discovered the downside of getting into so many close contests: Eventually your luck runs out. In one of the weirdest games of this NFL season—even for a team that is known to never play in normal games—the Seahawks fell just short against the Cardinals, losing 37-34 in overtime. The back-and-forth contest felt like the NFL’s idea of a Stefon skit. It had everything: a wide receiver chasing 90-plus yards downfield to make a tackle and save a pick-six; an incomprehensible number of circus catches; back-to-back interceptions; a coach going for a field goal on second down, that same coach icing his own kicker, and his kicker missing said field goal; two quarterbacks leading their respective teams in rushing; and three interceptions from the MVP front-runner.
Let’s start with how the Cardinals won. Quarterback Kyler Murray outdueled Wilson Sunday night, completing 34 of 48 passes for 360 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He also picked up 67 yards on the ground via a mix of designed QB runs and scrambles, and added another score with his legs.
The game demanded that Murray be at his best in the fourth quarter, when he got the ball with 4:16 left to play and his team down 34-24. Murray put together a 14-play, 75-yard drive and punched the ball into the end zone with a dart to wideout Christian Kirk. This drive was also crucially aided by a catastrophic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Seattle, which erased a fourth-and-12. When Murray got the ball back after a Seahawk punt, he drove 54 yards for the field goal. He added another 49-yard drive in overtime for another field goal attempt (this one was missed) and a quick, 19-yard drive after that to set up the game-winner. It was the most impressive performance of Murray’s career—and he had a hell of a time putting it together:
Kyler Murray saw DeAndre Hopkins in man coverage and laughed out loud. pic.twitter.com/CqE5iDH9Gn— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) October 26, 2020
Wilson’s night was nearly as impressive, but a few key mistakes doomed the Seahawks. His first notable miscue came with a little more than eight minutes remaining in the second quarter, when he threw one of the ugliest interceptions of his career (though, funnily enough, not the ugliest interception he’s ever thrown in Arizona’s end zone). The pick should have been returned for a touchdown, but the Seahawks have a 6-foot-4 wide receiver who runs a 4.33 40-yard dash. DK Metcalf sprinted down the field to catch Budda Baker from behind.
DK METCALF IS THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE pic.twitter.com/SdDkZ1ZBx9— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) October 26, 2020
Even more remarkably, this takeaway netted zero points for the Cardinals. They gained 5 yards on the ensuing possession before turning it over on downs.
Wilson threw two other interceptions, but he had his highlights, too. He connected with Tyler Lockett for 200 yards and three touchdowns, including this towering moonshot in the second quarter:
And this impossible back-of-the-end zone grab:
The weirdness of this game only ramped up in overtime. After the Cardinals tied the game with a buzzer-beater field goal, they lost the coin toss to the Seahawks. That seemed to all but guarantee Seattle victory, as both defenses had struggled throughout the game. But Wilson was sacked twice on the opening drive and Seattle got a false start penalty. Facing fourth-and-21, the Seahawks had to punt.
Murray hit Larry Fitzgerald for 7 yards on first down to start the Arizona drive, then running back Chase Edmonds—filling in for the injured Kenyan Drake—picked up 32 on the next play. The Cardinals were in business. A handful of dink-and-dunk passes later, and Arizona was at Seattle’s 23-yard line facing a second-and-15. That’s when, rather than continue to attack a defense that had let up 500 yards to that point, coach Kliff Kingsbury decided to kick a field goal before he had to. A 41-yard attempt is no gimme, and Kingsbury even iced his own kicker, Zane Gonzalez, before the attempt, calling a timeout just before the ball was snapped. Gonzalez made the practice shot—but he missed the real thing.
That set up the chance for more Wilson heroics, and exactly the type of mentality-building situation Carroll described earlier this month. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, Wilson did this:
That interception, Wilson’s third of the night, was fatal. The Cardinals picked up just 19 yards after that, but Gonzalez hit a 48-yard field goal to win the game. It was Seattle’s first loss of the season—and the weirdest contest in the league this year.
This game taught us a lot. It showed that the Cardinals, now 5-2, are a real playoff force. It cracked the race for the NFC West wide open. It gave us a glimpse of the kind of magical connection that exists between Wilson and Lockett, even when Metcalf is being taken away by an elite opposing cornerback. It showed us that Kingsbury’s late-game strategy and thinking on field goals needs a lot of work.
But the biggest lesson is for Carroll. The head coach seems to believe his team thrives in high-pressure, do-or-die situations. That’s clearly been the case for much of his tenure in Seattle—but sometimes it’s probably best to just avoid those situations in the first place. They don’t always work out.