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Cards knock Seahawks out of No. 2 seed in thriller

The NFC West champion Seahawks (9-5-1) lost their grip on the conference's No. 2 seed with Sunday's dramatic loss to the Cardinals (6-8-1). Here's what we learned from Arizona's 34-31 victory in Week 16:

  1. Overcoming a horrible start and trailing 31-25 with 2:22 remaining, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks drove 45 yards over six plays to punch in the tying score with one minute left on the clock. Then -- in an event that recalled the wayward 6-6 tie these teams played to in Week 7 -- Seattle's Steven Hauschka somehow MISSED THE EXTRA POINT. From there, Carson Palmer and the Cardinals blazed 50 yards in less than a minute to set up Chandler Catanzaro's game-winning 43-yard field goal as time expired. No rivalry was more impacted by the troubles of their kickers in 2017.
  1. This game operated as a white-knuckle slugfest between two clubs that genuinely despise each other. Forget Arizona's ugly record. The Cardinals deserve credit for barreling into Seattle and laying a hurt on quarterback Russell Wilson, who was sacked four times over the game's first 17 minutes and six times overall. The Cardinals brought pressure from every angle and got just enough from Palmer, the veteran passer who completed 16 of 26 passes for 284 yards and made the most of receiver J.J. Nelson. The speedy pass-catcher hauled down three catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. It's been a rough campaign for the Cardinals, but Sunday's gritty road win felt pulled from last year's magic carpet ride.
  1. Injuries played a major factor. After the Seahawks briefly lost safety Kam Chancellor to an ankle injury, Palmer went for broke with a beautiful 80-yard touchdown strike to Nelson for the 14-0 lead. Three plays later, Wilson hit Tyler Lockett on what appeared to be a long scoring pass. Instead, the ill-fated Lockett was called down at the one-yard line and lost for the year after suffering a grisly broken leg on the play. It's a tremendous loss for Seattle's passing and return game.
  1. With eight carries over the first nine-plus minutes of play, Cardinals workhorse David Johnson (95 yards rushing and 41 yards through the air) was again the obvious centerpiece. He's now topped 100-plus scrimmage yards in each of his first 15 games of the season, an NFL record that could last for some time. Johnson punched in three rushing touchdowns and doubled as a thing of beauty in the open field.
  1. The deeply concerning takeaway for Seattle is this: Beyond the injuries, the state of this leaky offense line looms as a potential season-ending weakness for the 'Hawks. I'm not sure how you get through January with Wilson taking this kind of a beating, but the magical passer has somehow traveled this far no matter who plays up front.
  1. The defeat is a killer for Seattle, who lost control of the NFC's second seed to the Falcons (10-5) with one week to play (and the Lions (9-5) yet to play on Monday night). With the Falcons hosting the Saints next week and Seattle facing the Niners, there's plenty left to play for.
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