GLENDALE, ARIZONA - Russell Wilson has been confounding the Arizona Cardinals with his escape antics for a long time.
He did it again Thursday night in the biggest play of the Seattle Seahawks’ 22-16 victory.
In what his coach Pete Carroll called “an extraordinary play,” Wilson eluded the Cardinals with an array of jukes and spin moves before completing a 54-yard pass to Doug Baldwin, setting up his second touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham.
Seattle climbed within a half-game of the first-place Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West in a game marred by a host of injuries, including a season-ending one to Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman.
The Seahawks (6-3) limited Adrian Peterson to 29 yards in 21 carries, improving to 4-0-1 in Arizona in Bruce Arians’ five seasons as coach of the Cardinals (4-5). The only time the Seahawks haven’t beaten Arians’ team in Arizona was in last season’s 6-6 tie.
Seattle’s Kam Chancellor forced a fumble by Peterson on Arizona’s first offensive play and later tackled him in the end zone for a safety.
Sherman limped off the field in the third quarter, one of at least seven players who left the game with injuries. He said afterward he had ruptured an Achilles tendon. He had sat out practice all week nursing the sore Achilles, knowing it could go at any moment.
“It has been bothering me all season,” Sherman said. “It is one of those things. You just have to play through it as long as you can and when it goes, it goes.”
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner linked the injuries to playing on Thursday nights.
“We play a physical game, a physical sport,” he said, “and to ask us to turn around and be ready after Sunday, to turn around and have our bodies OK on that Thursday, is really tough for us to do.”
Wilson, sacked a season-high five times, completed 22 of 32 passes for 238 yards.
His counterpart, Arizona’s Drew Stanton, in his second start since Carson Palmer went down with a broken arm, completed 24 of 47 for 273 yards and a touchdown. Larry Fitzgerald caught 10 passes for 113 yards for the Cardinals, topping 15,000 yards receiving for his career in the process.
With his team leading 15-10, Wilson scrambled and spun his way out of serious trouble repeatedly before throwing from his heels to Baldwin. Antoine Bethea fell down trying to knock the pass away and Baldwin raced downfield on a 54-yard play to the Arizona 2-yard line.
“I saw (outside linebacker) Chandler Jones right there and whenever you see him right there it is not a good thing,” Wilson said.
“So it was trying to find a way to get some space and get away from him I think I swung back twice and gave Doug a chance to make a play.”
The Cardinals have seen Wilson do this sort of thing too many times.
“It’s not a surprise, his ability to extend plays,” defensive tackle Josh Mauro said, “that’s really the catalyst of their whole offense.”
Arians called the play “probably the deciding factor in the game.”
Wilson threw 2 yards to Graham on the next play and the Seahawks led 22-10 with 12:49 to play.
Kerwynn Williams scored on a 1-yard run with 20 seconds to play for the Cardinals and Seattle recovered the onside kick try to seal the win.
Despite the victory, the Seahawks continued to pile up penalties.
Seattle entered the game as the most penalized team in the league with 82, nine more than its nearest competitor, the New York Jets, and it looks like its lead in that category for another week is assured.
With their 12 penalties (for 108 yards) on Thursday, the Seahawks have 94 in nine games.
Four Seattle penalties for 41 yards aided the Cardinals on their first touchdown drive.
The Seahawks had 16 penalties for 138 yards in their home loss to Washington on Sunday.