Seahawks, Cardinals each have things to play for
The Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals are going in different directions as the regular season ends today for both teams, but the Cardinals still have the NFC West clinched and the Seahawks are left to send a message that it's only temporary.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seahawks @ Arizona, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 13
Today's game means little in the grand scheme of things, and certainly isn't one of the marquee matchups on the NFL schedule in the final week of the regular season.
But the game is important to the Arizona Cardinals. Though they have clinched the NFC West title, they hope to go into the playoffs on a winning note. A loss would be their fifth over the last six games, and would leave them 8-8 with no momentum heading into a home playoff game.
It has also has significance for the Seahawks. First, they'd love to cap coach Mike Holmgren's tenure with a win and end a bad season with three straight victories and a 5-11 mark. Second, today's game is a chance for the Seahawks to show the Cardinals that Seattle, even with an offensive line of backups, other missing starters and its No. 2 quarterback, will be a force in the division next season.
Holmgren talked about taking back the division and how to get back to the top of it this week with his players.
"If you let a team believe that they're going to take something from you all the time, pretty soon, they do it," Holmgren said.
Seahawks players have given the Cardinals their due for winning the NFC West this season but insist that it won't happen again. That talk was heard even after Arizona's 26-20 win over the Seahawks last month at Qwest Field, which effectively put the division out of reach for the Seattle.
That was the last time the Cardinals were rolling. Now the Seahawks are left to wonder how close they could have made the division race by beating Arizona.
"Last time they were here, we felt like we should have beat them. We just didn't close out good enough," linebacker Julian Peterson said. "We just want to show them that it's still our division even though they have won it this year. This is our division, and we're going to show and prove that this upcoming Sunday."
It has been three weeks since the Cardinals' last win, and since the victory over Seattle they've been dominated by Philadelphia, the New York Giants, Minnesota and New England. Unlike most teams that have clinched playoff berths, Arizona could go with its available starters for most, if not all of the game.
"We had two games where we were not very good at all," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I think our focus wasn't where it needed to be. Fortunately, this is a divisional game that will help there be a little more focus. Going into the playoffs, we have to re-establish the good, solid play from earlier this season.
"Our confidence needs to be picked up a little bit, and we need to play well and get into a rhythm on both sides of the ball."
The Cardinals' skid has drawn criticism from around the country.
Whisenhunt isn't happy, either.
"I'm disappointed in us. I'm hurt because we haven't held up our end of the bargain," he told reporters in Arizona. "We've worked very hard to build equity with our fans and with this town, and we haven't carried our end of the business the last few weeks. Our focus is to do this this week and also in the playoffs. If we do that, then I think we can get some of those people back."
The Cardinals will need to do that to convince fans in a town that rarely has seen its football team win much.
"We have a golden opportunity in front us about going to the playoffs, and you never know when you get to go back," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "I've been in the league for four years now, and this is the first time. We are on the up and up and we have playmakers all across the board and we have to turn it up this week.
"Going in off a loss ... You won't see the same team on Sunday. We are coming to play."
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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