After 12 seasons and 152 games played in the NFL, it was understandable for Carson Palmer to show a little excitement on the Arizona sideline.
As tailback Andre Ellington barreled down the left sideline for the game-clinching 48-yard touchdown run with two minutes to go, the Cardinals veteran quarterback ran to the sideline, pumped his fist and did a quick-twitching pelvic thrust for all to see.
Arizona put away hard-charging Seattle, 39-32, on Sunday night at CenturyLink Field.
“Mine (the celebration) was OK,” said Palmer, not known as the fleetest-of-foot passer. “I had some buddies 4-5 rows up. They were excited, and it got me excited.”
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A half-hour earlier, Palmer and the Cardinals watched a 22-7 lead disappear under the heat of the Seahawks pass rush.
After being hardly touched in the first half, Palmer was under duress constantly for the first 20 minutes of the second half and forced into a pair of fumbles.
The first one came when Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril came around the left edge and stripped Palmer. As Palmer fell to the turf, the loose football hit his foot and took a high bounce.
Palmer saw it, swiped at it from the ground — but it was linebacker K.J. Wright who plucked it out of the air and returned to the Cardinals’ 3. It led to Marshawn Lynch’s 3-yard touchdown run 16 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Ninety seconds later, Wright darted up the middle and tapped the football out of Palmer’s hands. Linebacker Bobby Wagner picked it up and rumbled 22 yards for the go-ahead touchdown — and a 29-25 Seattle lead with 13 minutes remaining.
“A lot of things went wrong there for a little stretch of about seven or eight minutes,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. “Like I’ve always said about Carson, he is resilient. He stayed strong on the sideline. And he believed in the guys to make plays to win the game.”
Added Palmer: It is best to “forget about it and move on. It’s the only thing you can do playing this game, playing this position.”
And Palmer and the offense regrouped to retake control of this game.
Two completions to Larry Fitzgerald and a Seattle illegal-contact penalty got the Cardinals near midfield.
That is when the team got a lift from its No. 4 receiver — Jaron Brown, a third-year player from Clemson who saw extended playing time in the fourth quarter with starters Michael Floyd and John Brown ailing with leg injuries.
The one pass Palmer might have wanted back was one that Jaron Brown turned into a personal showdown against cornerback Richard Sherman.
Trying to squeeze a pass into double coverage along the right seam, Palmer’s pass was deflected by Sherman.
“I really can’t remember (what happened),” Brown said. “I just remember seeing it in the air. On any deflection, you always want to go and get the ball. I was trying to make a play for the team.”
He did more than that. He ripped the football out of Sherman’s grasp, turning it into a 10-yard gain and a first down at the Seahawks’ 39.
“He might not have many highlight plays,” Arizona safety Tyrann Mathieu said, “but that was one of them.”
Fitzgerald called it the play of the game.
“(Brown) is a starter on most teams,” Arians said.
Palmer later connected with Brown again, this time on a 20-yarder, then finished off the decisive drive by hitting tight end Jermaine Gresham for a 14-yard touchdown to cap the 10-play, 83-yard series.
The drive ate up 4 minutes, 15 seconds. Moreover, it gave the Cardinals a lead they would never relinquish, 32-29, with 8:41 to go.
“(Palmer) has been through every scenario you can think of as an NFL quarterback,” Fitzgerald said. “He has unbelievable confidence in his ability. When he has time back there, he is the most accurate guy in the game — he can make any throw.”
After Seattle’s next drive stalled near midfield, the Cardinals went 80 yards for their final touchdown, highlighted by Ellington’s long run with 1:50 remaining.
Palmer completed 29 of 48 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns.
With a three-game lead in the NFC West, now everything must go through the Arizona desert.
“I can’t be prouder of a bunch of guys on the way we won it, and how we won it — to go down and take the lead and finish them off,” Arians said.