Seahawks can’t miss opportunity against division-leading Cardinals

Nov 22, 2014, 12:23 PM | Updated: 1:16 pm
Seattle can gain precious ground with a win over Arizona, which leads the NFC West by three games. ...
Seattle can gain precious ground with a win over Arizona, which leads the NFC West by three games. (AP)
(AP)

It isn’t a last stand so much as a best chance.

Seattle’s opportunity to dig in its heels, jut out its chin and make a stand to defend the title it won a year ago not just in the league, but in the division that the Cardinals now sit on top of.

Yes, the Arizona Cardinals. The team that was a punchline for a good 20 years until it emerged as a contender, first winning the NFC West in 2008 and again in 2009 and now having won 16 of its last 19 regular-season games. The Cardinals hold the best record in not just the division, but the conference. By two games.

That makes Arizona a great opponent for Sunday’s game at CenturyLink Field, according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

“There’s no better way than to go against the best,” Carroll said. “And they’re on top of it. We’re looking forward to this matchup.”

It’s a chance to see if Seattle can recapture the success of last season. To find that pass rush that has been missing so often this year, Seattle ranking second-to-last in the NFL with 13 sacks. To locate the finishing touch that was clearly absent last week in Kansas City, where Seattle had three different possessions needing a touchdown to take the lead in the fourth quarter and never did get into the end zone.

And despite all that, Seattle is 6-4 with five division games over the next six weeks and a wide-open range of possibilities for this season.

“There’s so much at stake coming up here in the next month and a half,” Carroll said. “Everything’s still out there.”

It won’t be if the Seahawks are beaten at home by the Cardinals. If the defending champions are going to make a stand, they needs to start on Sunday.

“There’s a time and place to be big right now,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “And we just have to make those plays and we’re going to. I believe that we’re going to capitalize.”

Seattle has to. A week ago in Kansas City, the Seahawks were just six feet from away from the go-ahead touchdown with 9 minutes to play. That’s as close as Seattle got to the lead in the fourth quarter, though, and coming close offered little consolation.

Not in a game where Seattle scored a touchdown on only two of the five possessions in which it drove inside the Chiefs’ 20. Not in a season where Seattle has been in every game until the final 2 minutes and has yet to lose by double digits yet still finds itself three games behind the division-leading Cardinals.

It’s no mystery how the Cardinals have climbed this high. This is a team built upon a defensive policy of unrelenting aggression, a blitz-happy approach that puts the onus on the opponent to make plays downfield against one of the league’s top secondaries.

“We’re going to have to get the ball out on time and make sure that we get those completions, get those first downs,” Wilson said. “It comes down to making big plays.”

And while this game won’t be the Seahawks’ last chance to steer this season toward the playoffs, it is their best chance.

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Seahawks can’t miss opportunity against division-leading Cardinals