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Seahawks fall 26-24 to Cardinals, miss playoffs for 1st time in 6 years

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks came up short Sunday against Arizona. (AP)

A late Seahawks comeback attempt fell short on Sunday. And in the end, it wouldn’t have mattered anyways.

A missed 48-yard field goal attempt by Blair Walsh resulted in the Seahawks losing 26-24 to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, and even if Seattle had won, Atlanta had already clinched the NFC’s final playoff spot ahead of them just minutes earlier with a 22-10 win over Carolina.

Carroll: Loss a ‘microcosm’ | O’Neil on Walsh | Costly penalties | Reaction

So for the first time in six years, or since Seattle drafted Russell Wilson, the Seahawks will be at home when the playoffs start next week. And for the third time in those six years, Seattle’s season ended at the hands of the Falcons, who previously beat the Seahawks in the playoffs in the 2012 and 2016 seasons.

Wilson did his part on Sunday, throwing two touchdowns to Doug Baldwin, and both the offense and defense rebounded after rough starts to come back from a two-score deficit. But a late field goal by Phil Dawson pushed the Cardinals to the win as Seattle ended the year at 9-7.

Here’s a closer look at each quarter of Seattle’s loss to Arizona.

FIRST QUARTER

Cardinals 10, Seahawks 7

How do you answer giving up a 25-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of a must-win game? If you’re the Seahawks, it’s with a 99-yard kickoff return for a score by Tyler Lockett. Just moments after a hush fell over CenturyLink Field due to Arizona’s Drew Stanton connecting with Jaron Brown in the end zone, Lockett fielded the Cardinals’ kickoff at Seattle’s 1, hit an opening and showed off his elite speed by outrunning everybody for his first kickoff return for a TD since his rookie season of 2015. Arizona responded, though, with a 49-yard field goal by Dawson to move into a 10-7 advantage midway into the first quarter of a game that was widely assumed would be low-scoring due to the importance for Seattle and the team’s two stingy defenses. Wilson and Seattle’s offense finally got a chance to make their first snap about eight minutes into the game, but the Seahawks went three-and-out, preventing their defense from getting much of a chance to catch its breath early on (a trend in recent weeks). The same was the case the next time Seattle got the ball, and that series ended in a particularly disastrous fashion. On third-and-long, Wilson was gobbled up by a horde of Cardinals defenders for a sack, and Jon Ryan shanked the ensuing punt from Seattle’s goal line, giving Arizona possession at the Seahawks’ 43 just before the end of the quarter.

Carolina-Atlanta update: The Falcons held a 7-0 lead on the Panthers after one quarter.

AZ – Jaron Brown 25 pass from Drew Stanton, 8:55 (Phil Dawson kick, 7-0 AZ)
SEA – Tyler Lockett 99 kickoff return, 8:43 (Blair Walsh kick, 7-7)
AZ – Dawson 49 FG, 7:10 (10-7 AZ)

SECOND QUARTER

Cardinals 20, Seahawks 7

After two quarters, the Seahawks trailed by 13 on the scoreboard and were being outgained 140 to 24 on offense by Arizona. Baldwin did provide Seattle with its initial first down of the game, making an impressive catch near his feet on an underthrown ball by Wilson early in the second quarter. The Seahawks didn’t capitalize, however, as a holding penalty held them back and they were forced to punt for the third time in three drives. That came after the Cardinals extended their lead to 17-7 with a seven-play, 43-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 4-yard run by Elijhaa Penny. The Seahawks’ defense dug in for the remainder of the first half, however, with defensive lineman Garrison Smith having a strong series making several plays in the Arizona backfield to help force a punt midway through the quarter. Arizona got a huge break inside the two-minute warning, though, getting the benefit of a pass interference call on Seahawks cornerback Justin Coleman made by the official across the field from the play that put the Cardinals in field goal position. That gave Dawson a try from 46 yards, which he hit for his second 3-pointer of the day to push the Cards’ lead to 20-7 with 58 seconds before halftime. Seattle averted disaster before running the clock out on its last series, as Wilson was sacked and fumbled twice. The first was waived off due to offsetting penalties, and the second was recovered by Seahawks center Justin Britt.

Carolina-Atlanta update: The Panthers moved into a halftime 7-7 tie with the Falcons.

Notable: Seahawks linebacker Terrence Garvin’s return was deemed questionable as he was being evaluated for a concussion. Offensive lineman Ethan Pocic’s return was also questionable as he was in the locker room getting a left knee injury looked at. Fellow rookie Jordan Roos took over at right guard.

AZ – Elijhaa Penny 4 run, 12:19 (Dawson kick, 17-7 AZ)
AZ – Dawson 46 FG, :58 (20-7 AZ)

THIRD QUARTER

Cardinals 23, Seahawks 14

It’s been said many times before, but it rings true once again: the Seahawks are a second half team. Down by two scores in the biggest game of the season, Wilson and the Seattle offense came alive at the start of the third quarter. The first drive after halftime featured a 20-yard pass down the middle to Jimmy Graham on fourth down to get the Hawks into the red zone, and Wilson then connected with a wide-open Baldwin in the corner of the end zone two plays later for Seattle’s first touchdown of the game, cutting Arizona’s lead to 20-14. The defense wasted no time giving the Seahawks another chance with the ball, as rookie Shaquill Griffin pulled down his first career interception at the Seattle 29 on a long bomb attempt by Stanton. Nothing came of it on the next series, though, as a blitz by Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu resulted in a hit on Wilson as he threw the ball for an incompletion on third down. The Seahawks turned to Ryan to punt, and he made his third less-than-ideal punt of the day, opening the door for Arizona to move back into a two-score lead thanks to Dawson’s 53-yard field goal. Running back Mike Davis put momentum back on Seattle’s side soon thereafter, reeling off a 33-yard run with a nice cutback move, and even getting some extra yardage at the end due to a downfield block by Wilson. As has been the case many times this season, though, a penalty (unsportsmanlike conduct on Thomas Rawls for 15 yards) kept Seattle from moving forward on that drive, and they had to punt from around midfield instead of trying for a field goal had they been a bit closer. Arizona had the ball for all of 48 seconds before stalling out on its next series, and Seattle was driving again as the quarter ended.

Carolina-Atlanta update: The Falcons had a touchdown called back, but they hit a field goal then came up with an interception that led to another field goal to go up 13-7 after three quarters. Atlanta tacked on another field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 16-7, adding even more doubt to Seattle’s playoff chances.

SEA –Doug Baldwin 18 pass from Russell Wilson, 8:59 (Walsh kick, 20-14 AZ)
AZ – Dawson 53 FG, 4:22 (23-14 AZ)

FOURTH QUARTER

Cardinals 26, Seahawks 24

J.D. McKissic had an important catch on a tipped pass, but a wide-open Luke Willson couldn’t hang on to a slightly underthrown pass at the Arizona 5, a play that might have resulted in a touchdown at a time when the Seahawks really could have used it. Instead, Walsh was called upon for his first field goal attempt of the day, and he was good from 49 yards – anything but a sure thing considering his struggles this season on longer kicks – to get Seattle back within a score at 23-17. The defense got another big stop in Arizona territory, and Lockett made his second-biggest play of the day, a 27-yard punt return to Seattle’s 40. Willson then redeemed himself with a key block as Wilson picked up 31 yards on a keeper, and Baldwin bested Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson as he outstretched for a 29-yard touchdown reception on what was a two-play scoring drive. Walsh’s PAT put the Seahawks into the lead for the first time all day, 24-23. Arizona reclaimed the lead on a 42-yard Dawson field goal – his fourth of the game – that came after the Cardinals’ drive was extended by a personal foul penalty on Bobby Wagner. Seattle had one last shot at the win, but Walsh missed from 48 yards in the final minute.

Carolina-Atlanta update: Cam Newton’s third interception of the day led to an Atlanta field goal, which was enough to put the game away for the Falcons as they went on to win 22-10 and clinch the final NFC playoff spot over the Seahawks.

SEA – Walsh 49 FG, 13:04 (23-17 AZ)
SEA
– Baldwin 29 pass from Wilson, 10:24 (Walsh kick, 24-23 SEA)
AZ – Dawson 42 FG, 2:21 (26-24 AZ)