SEATTLE -- The Arizona Cardinals, knowing an uneven season would end Sunday regardless of outcome, looked to end on a high note.
Aided by four field goals from kicker Phil Dawson -- including a game-winning 42-yarder with 2:21 left -- the Cardinals got that satisfying ending, edging the Seahawks, 26-24, in front of 69,078 at CenturyLink Field.
Arizona (8-8) won three of its final four games to push its record to .500 for the season, and gave head coach Bruce Arians his 50th win with the franchise, the most by any coach in its history.
“It’s a sweet end to a bitter season,” Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
For Seattle, it was a bitter end.
Minutes before kicker Blair Walsh missed a 48-yard attempt with 32 seconds to play that would have all but sealed a win for the Seahawks (9-7), Atlanta beat Carolina to clinch the final NFC wild-card spot, eliminating Seattle from playoff contention.
The Seahawks dropped three of their final four games, seeing a playoff streak that dated back to quarterback Russell Wilson’s rookie season in 2012 end.
”I think this game today was almost a microcosm of this season,“ Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. ”The slow starts, the getting in our own way, making it hard on us at times when it wasn’t about the opponent, it was about us.
“There’s a lot of stuff that kind of showed up again today.”
Carroll said it was disappointing Seattle wasn’t able to change the narrative in many of their games.
Sunday, the Seahawks got off to a slow start, managing just 24 yards of offense in the first half before roaring back late.
The Seahawks entered Arizona territory for the first time with 12:40 remaining in the third quarter. Wilson found tight end Jimmy Graham across the middle on a crucial fourth-and-6 play, setting up Seattle’s first offensive touchdown of the game.
He then found Doug Baldwin in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard score to cut Arizona’s lead to 20-14 with 8:59 to play in the third quarter.
After Seattle and Arizona exchanged field goals, Wilson connected with Baldwin again on a 29-yard scoring strike to give the Seahawks their only lead, 24-23, with 10:24 to go.
Wilson’s second touchdown pass was his 19th in the fourth quarter this season, an NFL record. He finished 18 of 29 for 221 yards and the two scores.
Seattle’s defense limited the Cardinals to 71 yards of offense in the second half, but quarterback Drew Stanton -- playing in just his fifth game this season -- led Arizona on its decisive 10-play, 62-yard drive.
“We had a lead, and we didn’t do enough offensively to continue to spread that lead out, but when we needed to make plays, we stepped up,” Stanton said.
Dawson spoiled Seattle’s rally with his 42-yard field goal, and Walsh’s miss -- his eighth of the season -- put the final damper on Seattle’s season.
The Cardinals have won three consecutive games in Seattle, and took a 19-18-1 series lead into the offseason.
“Thank you for coming to my house,” Arians said to open his postgame press conference. “I hope you get home safe. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of guys.”
Seattle’s late comeback seemed unlikely after Arizona took firm control on both sides of the ball early, entering halftime with a 20-7 lead.
Stanton completed all six of his passes on the game’s opening drive, eventually connecting with Jaron Brown for a 25-yard touchdown.
Tyler Lockett busted up the middle of the field on the ensuing kickoff for a 99-yard score, but that was the lone bright spot for the Seahawks before the half.
Dawson connected for two field goals in each half -- of 49, 46, 53 and 42 yards -- to help hold off Seattle, and Elijhaa Penny’s 4-yard touchdown plunge in the second quarter padded the halftime lead.
Both franchises enter a transition period, acknowledging changes will be coming in the offseason.
“It’s not going to be the same look,” Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said. “There (are) going to be some new pieces, and some guys that we love here might not be here. You never know.”
Neither Fitzgerald nor Arians made decisive comments about possible retirement following the game.
Fitzgerald said he will celebrate his son’s birthday Monday, spend several days golfing, and will take some time to figure it out.
Arians, 65, said family and health will be contributing factors on if he decides to return next season.
NOTES: Seattle WR Doug Baldwin finished with four receptions for 90 yards and Seattle’s only two offensive touchdowns. ... Seattle committed eight penalties for 100 yards, including one that led to an Arizona score, and another that took the Seahawks out of field-goal range in the third quarter. ... Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald finished with eight catches for 55 yards, giving him 109 receptions for the season, trailing only Miami’s Jarvis Landry (112).