The Cardinals responded with a dud in the desert, putting a big dent in their hopes of hosting a playoff game, much less reaching football's biggest stage back at home.
Ryan Lindley struggled in his first start in two years and Arizona's defence unraveled in the fourth quarter, leading to a disheartening 35-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.
"It just didn't come out the way we imagined," Cardinals defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said.
The Seahawks won the first game between the teams, 19-3 in Seattle on Nov. 23, and were 8-point road favourites over the Cardinals in the rematch.
It apparently should have been more.
The injury-ravaged Cardinals (11-4) had no shot against Seattle's NFL-best defence, managing 216 total yards.
Lindley, Arizona's fourth quarterback of the season, misfired all night and got no help from the ground game. He threw for 216 yards on 18-of-44 passing with an interception. The Cardinals' 29 yards rushing on 15 carries was negated by four sacks for 29 yards.
Seattle's offence chugged along early and raced away from Arizona late, using a 21-point fourth quarter to put a still-in-reach game well beyond the Cardinals' grasp.
Russell Wilson threw for 339 yards and a pair of touchdowns to tight end Luke Willson of LaSalle, Ont., and ran for 80 more yards and another score.
Marshawn Lynch missed the first quarter due what the team said was an upset stomach and made the Cardinals' bellies hurt, running for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a highlight-reel, tackle-breaking 79-yarder that he punctuated by grabbing his crotch as he leaped into the end zone.
Seattle (11-4) set a franchise record with 596 total yards and is now in control of the NFC West; Arizona's only shot is to beat San Francisco next week and have the Seahawks lose to St. Louis at home.
"It's not the end of the world," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. Obviously, we would have liked to have it they easy way, but our goals haven't changed."
Arizona had found ways to win despite a litany injuries, clinching a playoff spot with its win over St. Louis last week.
The injuries, particularly at quarterback, seemed to catch up to the Cardinals against the swarming Seahawks.
Carson Palmer went down midseason with a torn ACL and Drew Stanton injured his right knee against the Rams, leaving Arizona in the hands of Lindley.
He started four games for the Cardinals in 2012 and was their third quarterback last season, though didn't play. Lindley was cut by Arizona in training camp this season and ended up on San Diego's practice squad before re-signing with the Cardinals after the injuries.
He threw just 10 passes in the 12-6 win over the Rams and was given the starting nod over rookie Logan Thomas against Seattle.
It didn't go well.
Lindley had a hard time connecting with his receivers from the start, throwing several passes that were nowhere near the intended target or where he thought the receiver would be.
Arizona had two sustained drives the entire game and both ended with field goals by Matt Catanzaro. Lindley also threw an interception in the fourth quarter and finished with a quarterback rating of 47.2
"They're a good defence, but there are places to throw," Lindley said. "Tonight, there were some places that I missed."
Arizona's defence managed to bend through the first three quarters to keep it close before breaking in the fourth quarter.
Wilson hit Willson on an 80-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter and Lynch came off the bench to score on a 6-yard touchdown run. Arizona managed to keep it close through three quarters with some help from Steven Hauschka, who missed three field goals.
Once the fourth hit, the Cardinals wore out.
Wilson and Willson connected on a 20-yard score, Lynch pinballed off tacklers for his 79-yard, crotch-grabbing TD and Wilson punctuated the night with a 5-yard touchdown run to put the Seahawks on the cusp of the NFC West title instead of the Cardinals.
"It's tough, but it seems like as a player, it didn't seem like everyone was there," Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "A lot of miscommunication, a lot of busted coverages. It just seemed like we weren't ready to finish the ballgame and we didn't."
NOTES: Seattle has allowed 33 total points the past five games. ... Arizona can still clinch its first 12-win season as a franchise next week against the Rams. ... The Cardinals are 13-3 at home in Arians' two seasons, with two of the losses to Seattle. ... All 18 points in Arizona's last two games came by field goal.
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