The Jones play to open the game was fantastic. But the unit allowed the Seahawks (7-10) to answer on the very next drive to tie the game at 7, including the first of two blown coverages for long Russell Wilson touchdown passes.
Offensively, the Cardinals struggled mightily – allowed five sacks, less than 100 total yards in the first half – but came alive and, aided by Thompson, built a quick 24-17 lead early in the third quarter. But when they got the ball back with that lead, they couldn’t convert after gaining nine yards on first down, and after a punt, the Seahawks answered with a tying TD and the Cards never led again.
“Personally, I’m frustrated,” quarterback Kyler Murray said. “The mood of the team? I think everyone realizes it’s a new season. Really nothing in the past matters at this point. You have to go 1-0. It’s one-and-done. I think the guys understand that.”
Murray finished 28 of 39 for 240 yards, a TD pass and no interceptions – the Cardinals won the turnover battle 2-1 – but Matt Prater ended up having to kick three more field goals, the last two that reached the red zone.
Those are touchdowns the Cardinals need to convert.
“I feel like guys are a little more angry coming off a loss like this, guys are a little more upset, guys are a little more antsy to get back to work,” said tight end Zach Ertz, who led the Cardinals with seven receptions. “We would love to be on a two-game winning streak going into the postseason, but this could be good for us too.”
The Cardinals need some health. Breon Borders, the sixth cornerback on the depth chart who came in after Kevin Peterson suffered a concussion early in the game, was picked on. The Cardinals could perhaps still get J.J. Watt on the field too – although Watt alone won’t make everything better on a rush defense that backslid after a good game in Dallas.
Penny had 131 yards rushing in the second half alone, highlighted by a 62-yard TD scamper that all but ended Cardinals’ hopes.
“It’s a wake-up call going into the playoffs and I think guys are taking it that way,” Allen said. “I don’t think there is ‘woe is me,’ I think it’s ‘let’s get back to work and let’s fix it.’ “
The Cardinals know they were 8-1 on the road this season, and beat the Rams in L.A., 37-20. But that was back in Week 4, and a lot has happened since then. The Rams are also coming off a loss that ticked them off – the winner of Cards-Rams now might have to play at Green Bay in the Divisional Round – but at least they won a division.
“I’ve got to get over it pretty quick,” Murray said.
So do all the Cardinals. The Rams await.