Two near interceptions part of close plays that cost Cardinals in loss to Seahawks
Several times on Sunday afternoon, the Arizona Cardinals had chances to completely change the course of the game.
They'll look back on two near interceptions in the red zone that they couldn't bring in as perhaps two of potentially the most impactful instances. The plays that immediately followed those missed interceptions were Seahawks touchdowns.
Seattle won the game 31-21, scoring four touchdowns.
With the Cardinals up 7-3 early in the second quarter, the Seahawks had the ball in the red zone, and quarterback Geno Smith tried to hit big target D.K. Metcalf on a second-and-goal. Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy, who'd kept Metcalf in check when the two teams played in Seattle last month, timed his leap for the ball perfectly as Smith's pass neared Metcalf in the end zone.
The ball went off Murphy's hands, and Murphy squatted down in anguish over the drop.
It would happen again, with the Cardinals in front in the third quarter.
The Seahawks faced a second-and-6 at the Arizona 9-yard line, and Smith tried to zip a pass to tight end Will Dissly under pressure from the Cardinals' Markus Golden.
The pass glanced off Dissly's hands and into mid-air, the ball floating as if ready to fall into the arms of a defender in red. It seemed certain linebackers Ben Niemann or Tanner Vallejo would come down with an interception that would preserve a 14-10 Cardinals' lead.
The ball dropped incomplete. Smith hit Tyler Lockett for a nine-yard touchdown on the very next play, the Seahawks took the lead for good at 17-14 with 2:43 to play in the third.
"It was that type of game. You want to get them, you want to make every play you cna make. But I can't really go back on it and say it would have changed the game or it wouldn't have changed the game," Golden said afterward. "You want to make the plays you think you can make.
"That's football for you, you're going to have some close ones."
Interestingly enough, the one interception the Cardinals did come up with was returned for a touchdown by Zaven Collins. But the Seahawks offense wore down an overworked Cardinals defense after that, and put the game away in the fourth quarter.
"It was the little things that were close, but we didn't get it done," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
Smith gets major minutes
The Cardinals turned to rookie sixth-round draft pick Lecitus Smith in the first quarter when starting right guard Will Hernandez left the game with what was later described by Kingsbury as a pectoral injury.
That forced the Cardinals to turn to Smith and more of their offensive line depth. Smith was Kingsbury's choice over veteran Sean Harlow, though Smith had previously played only eight of his 13 pro snaps on offense.
"We like where Lecitus has been and Harlow's our backup center, so you kind of risk some injury there," Kingsbury said.
Smith said he felt like he played a decent game, but in his mind that's never enough. He was whistled for a false start in the second quarter and the Seahawks recorded five sacks.
Those are the most visible things in offensive line play. Smith stood in against a hard-pushing Seahawks defensive line.
"The first thing I think about is what I did wrong," Smith said. "We have such a great room full of vets. Those guys always just telling me just be ready, you never know when your number's going to be called, you never know you're going to be up. Being completely honest, I did not expect to play this week but at the same time, I prepared like I was going to because of those guys leading me and showing me right from wrong especially Coach (Sean) Kugler."
With Smith at right guard, Billy Price at center and Cody Ford at left guard, the Cardinals had three offensive linemen replacements. Only tackles Kelvin Beachum and D.J. Humphries were starters when the season begai
Get in touch with Jose Romero at Jose.Romero@gannett.com. Find him on Twitter at @RomeroJoseM.