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Seahawks aim to shake recent home struggles
Already in the playoffs following last week's victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, it'd be easy to understand why the Seattle Seahawks would choose to rest some of their key players in the season finale.
But taking the foot off the gas pedal isn't in head coach Pete Carroll's DNA, and with the fifth seed in the NFC still hanging in the balance, quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have plenty left to play for and won't rest on their laurels.
"We certainly want to finish this thing right," Carroll said on Wednesday. "We'd love to finish up this December and do a good job putting together some more good games here and this is an important one, leading into everything that comes up. It's a huge opportunity for us to play good and to work well and continue to force the fundamentals to get better and all that good stuff in ball so it's really how we're going about it."
Seattle (9-6) currently sits in the fifth seed in the NFC and would lock up that spot with a win over Arizona on Sunday. Suffering their seventh defeat coupled with the Vikings beating the Bears would drop the Seahawks to the sixth seed, sending them to chilly Chicago for the wild-card round instead of Dallas.
The Cardinals have only won three games all season under the leadership of first-year head coach Steve Wilks and would have the first pick in next year's draft if the season ended today. But as Carroll pointed out, the Seahawks haven't performed well against their division rivals at CenturyLink Field in recent seasons, yet another reason why his team won't be packing up early for the playoffs.
"We have not been very successful against the Cardinals here and it's important to us to make sure that we are. We've got to put together a nice game and it really goes back to the prep to get that done."
Dating back to the 2013 season, the Seahawks have lost four of their past five matchups at home against the Cardinals, including suffering a devastating 26-24 defeat in Week 17 a year ago. A late missed field goal by Seattle kicker Blair Walsh sent Arizona head coach Bruce Arians into retirement in style.
One week prior to the contest, Arians infamously told his players in the locker room, "We know that's our home field. We're going up there to kick their a."
While some took offense to his comments and he stated it was only supposed to be heard by his own players, the Cardinals indeed owned the Seahawks on their own turf while Arians roamed the sideline.
In 2016, Arians and the Cardinals flew to the Pacific Northwest and put up 34 points in a close win over the Seahawks, a loss that may have cost Seattle a first-round bye in the playoffs. Seattle stormed back from a 31-18 deficit in the second half to tie the game on a touchdown reception by receiver Paul Richardson, only for Arizona kicker Chandler Catanzaro to make a 43-yard field goal as time expired.
Back in 2015, Arians' team lit up Seattle in prime time again, scoring 39 points in yet another win at CenturyLink. After Seattle stormed back to take a 29-25 lead on a fumble returned for a touchdown by linebacker Bobby Wagner, Arizona scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pick up the huge divisional road victory.
Seattle hasn't beaten Arizona at home since 2014, when the Seahawks beat up on backup quarterback Drew Stanton and won a defensive slugfest 19-3.
With Arians no longer coaching, maybe the "Curse of the Cardinals" will be lifted playing against a different coaching staff and a dramatically different roster from years past.
But don't tell that to Carroll, who won't alter his philosophy of treating every single game like a championship encounter regardless of the record of his opponent.
"I think anytime that you back off, you stand the risk of not being able to get back on. We just keep pushing. We've been pushing for - this is 21 weeks we've been going. This is 22 coming up, I think. We've been going at it since we started playing games. That's the only way that we do it. We leave no room for error in that approach, ever. That's the idea."
Aiming to keep momentum heading into the playoffs and atone for several ugly losses to the Cardinals, Carroll isn't planning to take any chances at his team falling off the tracks and starters will play as if a playoff berth is still on the line.
"If we start doing that and trying to figure out which game is more important than another one, I don't think you can count on getting back on track. You don't know. You may be able to, but you may not so we're not going to take that chance. We're just going for it."
SERIES HISTORY: 40th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 19-19-1. Before Seattle moved to the NFC in 2002, Arizona won five of the six games between the two teams from 1976 to 1998. Since joining the NFC West, the Seahawks have held the advantage, winning 17 out of 31 games in the series. Road teams have dominated the rivalry in recent years, as the home team hasn't been victorious since the Seahawks beat the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field in November 2014. In 2017, the Seahawks edged the Cardinals in Arizona before losing the regular-season finale at home to miss the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.