The Cardinals’ first big game of the 2000s proved one thing: No matter how many improvements they’ve made, they’re not at the level of the Seattle Seahawks, the perennial NFC West champs.
The Seahawks clinched their fourth straight division title with an easy 42-21 win over the Cardinals.
The Cards are the division’s second-best team, but a notable gap remains.
What separates the two teams?
“They’ve been playing together for a long time,” running back Edgerrin James says of the Seahawks’ top players.
“The Cardinals probably have had the most change in the NFL. When you have change, you can’t build.
“That’s one thing that’s probably different. I don’t think many teams have as much change as this team.
“A team like the Seahawks has a nice corps of guys, and they’ve been playing together. The more you play together, the better off you are.”
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren seemed to agree with this analysis when — talking about how he’s built a perennial playoff team — said, “In this day and age of free agency, I think that if you can do it right and hold onto your core people and get the right quarterback, that’s key.”
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he respects what the Seahawks have accomplished.
“They’re a good football team. But I feel we can compete with them when we don’t make mistakes and when we make the plays we can make.
“To me, that’s what (Sunday) was about. We made some mistakes that cost us, and we didn’t make some plays when we had an opportunity to do that.”
“It’s a tough question,” center Al Johnson said of the difference between the two teams.
He noted the Cardinals are in the first year with their new coaching staff.
The Seahawks, unlike the Cardinals “have been in the big games. They know what to expect… They’ve been in playoff-atmosphere games a lot.”
Whisenhunt, noting the Seahawks are now four-time division champs, said, “I would like to be their rival.
“I would love to have the chance where we’re playing them for games that mean something in December.”