Saturday 24th December 2016

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Seahawks 31 Cardinals 34

After 15 games, the only certainty about the Seattle Seahawks is to expect inconsistency.

Even coach Pete Carroll can’t be sure of what kind of performance he’s going to get from a team that’s bound for the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

“I don’t know. I keep thinking we’re going to do right, we’re going to do well,” Carroll said.The latest example of Seattle’s maddening unpredictability came Saturday in a 34-31 loss to the Arizona Cardinals that severely damaged the Seahawks’ hopes of landing the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a bye in the playoffs. With the chance at keeping control of the No. 2 seed and the fourth perfect home record in franchise history, the Seahawks played so poorly in the first half that a second-half offensive eruption couldn’t make up for the early mistakes. Seattle (9-5-1) fell behind 14-0 and trailed 31-18 late in the fourth quarter.

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There were mistakes all around, from the offensive line being unable to protect Russell Wilson, to the secondary giving up an 80-yard touchdown, to two blocked kicks and a missed extra point. They were all flaws the Seahawks nearly overcame thanks to four touchdown passes by Wilson in the second half, including two in the final three minutes as Seattle pulled even at 31. But they are glaring issues for a team many thought would be the biggest threat to Dallas in the NFC.

“It just sucks that we lost in that manner,” Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril said. Arizona (6-8-1) was able to take enjoyment out of damaging Seattle’s playoff plans and finally coming out on top in a close game. The Cardinals had five losses of seven points or less, along with their 6-6 tie against Seattle earlier in the season. Saturday was just Arizona’s second win by less than eight points.

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“I don’t know. It’s just one of those weeks where we felt like we were going to win,” Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer said. Even on a team with a losing record, David Johnson strengthened his case for postseason awards. Johnson finished with 136 yards from scrimmage, his 15th straight game with at least 100 scrimmage yards, the longest streak to start a season in league history. He had three short TD runs, giving him 20 total touchdowns for the season, the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 with 20 TDs and 1,000 yards rushing. And yet his two biggest plays came as a receiver. Johnson had two receptions for 42 yards on Arizona’s final drive that was capped by Chandler Catanzaro’s 43-yard field goal on the final play.

“You run out of superlatives to describe him,” Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “He does something special every single game we play. … The guy continues to carry the load every week.”

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