Seahawks rally doomed by late fumble; Cards win 23-20
Arizona recovered a fumble by Matt Hasselbeck, and then Neil Rackers kicked a 41-yard field goal with 1 second to go, giving the Cardinals a 23-20 victory over the Seahawks.
The Associated Press
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Neil Rackers had been there before. So had the Arizona Cardinals -- many, many times.
A year ago on Monday Night Football, in Arizona's memorable collapse against the Chicago Bears, Rackers missed a 41-yard field goal from the left hash mark that would have won the game.
Today, from the same spot with one second left, he nailed it.
The result was a 23-20 Cardinals victory over the Seattle Seahawks in a game Arizona seemed destined to lose in its usual heartbreaking fashion. Instead, the three-time defending NFC West champion Seahawks went home in disbelief.
"I've never lost a game that way," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. "But I suppose if you're at this long enough you'll see just about everything."
After Arizona blew a 17-0 lead, Darnell Dockett recovered a fumble by Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, and Edgerrin James -- in his best game as a Cardinal -- moved the team in to position for Rackers' kick.
"This offseason, I probably hit that ball 500 times, so I felt pretty confident going out there," Rackers said. "It's a big weight lifted off my shoulders."
That goes for the rest of the Cardinals, too.
"It was one of those things where in so many games, last season, last week, where we just couldn't find a way to win," Matt Leinart said. "It was just great to see because we finally got a break at the end."
Leinart, who had a poor performance in Arizona's loss at San Francisco Monday night, put in extra work in the short week and finished 23-of-37 for 299 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once.
Rackers' 52-yarder tied it at 20 with 4:44 to play.
The Seahawks took the subsequent kickoff and drove toward what could have been the winning score. However, on first-and-5 from the Arizona 36, linebacker Gerald Hayes disrupted an already botched handoff from Hasselbeck to Shaun Alexander.
"I don't know, I think I'm just in shock right now still," Hasselbeck said. "I was kind of in between handing the ball to Shaun or just holding on to it, and a guy sort of came through the middle of us, then the ball was on the ground."
Holmgren said Alexander thought Hasselbeck had called an audible. The confusion came in the din created by the capacity crowd in the Cardinals' year-old stadium.
Dockett recovered at the Seattle 45 with 1:48 to go. James, who rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown in 23 carries, carried four times before Arizona called time out to bring on Rackers.
The Cardinals (1-1) gave Ken Whisenhunt his first victory as a head coach.
"The big thing is we made a play defensively at the of the game when things weren't going great," Whisenhunt said.
"One of the things people talk about this football team is not being able to finish a game. We're trying to learn how to do that as a young team."
Seattle (1-1) scored 20 consecutive points and took a 20-17 lead on Josh Brown's second 28-yard field goal with 9:52 to play.
Arizona's offense, dormant up to that point, got a 35-yard pass from Leinart to Anquan Boldin to the Seahawks 35, but a holding penalty against Deuce Lutui pushed the Cardinals back and forced the long tying field goal.
Special teams figured large in Arizona's early lead.
The Cardinals' first blocked punt in three seasons, by Sean Morey, set up Rackers' 28-yard field goal to make it 3-0.
Leinart's 31-yard pass to Boldin ignited a four-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. On third-and-1 at the Seattle 30, Leinart faked a handoff, then threw to a wide-open Leonard Pope for the score. It was the first NFL touchdown for the second-year tight end.
On the Cardinals' next possession, Mike Barr lofted a perfect punt that Arizona's Oliver Celestin caught at the Seattle 1, dumping the ball to the turf as he fell into the end zone.
Eventually, Seattle had to punt from the back of the end zone, and Steve Breaston's 17-yard return gave Arizona the ball at the Seahawks 38.
From the 17, James went untouched to the end zone to make it 17-0. It was James' longest TD run since a 30-yarder for Indianapolis against Tennessee on Sept. 19, 2004.
Seattle's offense finally got moving on a 10-play, 80-yard drive near the end of the second quarter. Nate Burleson fought his way over the goal line on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Hasselbeck to cut it to 17-7.
Rackers' 54-yard field goal try as the half ended bounced off the left upright.
Notes: Morey also caught two passes for 23 yards. ... Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, who caught seven passes for 87 yards, left the game after a viscous hit from behind from Deon Grant in the third quarter, but returned a short time later. ... Seattle was without starting linebacker Leroy Hill because of a hip injury.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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