GLENDALE, Ariz. &
Not so long ago, no more than a few thousand fans would choose to broil in the searing heat of an Arizona Cardinals home game.
On Sunday, in the air conditioned comfort of Arizona's year-old stadium, the noise generated by a capacity crowd of 64,542 played a big role in the Cardinals' dramatic 23-20 victory over Seattle, a game Arizona seemed destined to lose in its usual heartbreaking fashion.
On first-and-5 at the Cardinals 36, the Seahawks were maneuvering into position for what would have been a game-winning field goal try.
In the din, Shaun Alexander thought, incorrectly it turns out, he heard Matt Hasselbeck call an audible.
"It was loud," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said, "and so he was doing something Matt didn't expect. Instead of just trying to live another day, they tried to make a play, and then it happened."
A handoff from Hasselbeck to Alexander was botched, and when Arizona's Gerald Hayes showed up and disrupted things further, the ball hit the ground.
"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."
Darnell Dockett recovered for the Cardinals, and after Edgerrin James moved the ball into field goal range, Neil Rackers kicked a 42-yard field goal to win it with — second remaining.
"I've never lost a game that way," Holmgren said. "But I suppose if you're at this long enough you'll see just about everything."
Matt 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.
"You could tell he was more comfortable on the field," said the Cardinals' Ken Whisenhunt, who earned his first victory as a head coach. "He was more decisive, he hung in there and made some big throws for us. We'll get on him for under-throwing the one interception, but other than that he played a good game."
Rackers' 52-yarder tied it at 20 with 4:44 to play.
After falling behind 17-0, Seattle scored 20 consecutive points to take a 20-17 lead on Josh Brown's second 28-yard field goal with 9:52 to play.
Arizona responded with a 35-yard pass from Leinart to Anquan Boldin to the Seahawks 35. A holding penalty pushed the Cardinals back, but Rackers hit a 52-yarder to tie in at 20 with 4:44 to play.
At that point, the crowd was unknowingly getting ready to play a part in the outcome.
"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."
James earned his 53rd 100-yard rushing game and his 17-yard touchdown run was his longest in three seasons.
"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," Leinart said. "It was just great to see because we finally got a break at the end."
Notes: Rackers' 54-yard field goal try as the half ended bounced off the left upright. ... The Cardinals' Sean Morey blocked a punt and 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.
Noise cited in fumble that leads to Arizona's 23-20 victory over Seahawks
GLENDALE, Ariz. &