SEATTLE — The Arizona Cardinals cast aside the notion their fast start was simply a mirage of weaker competition.
By winning in Seattle, the Cardinals added validity to what they've already accomplished.
"We thought this was an opportunity for us to come in here and show the world that we are a contender, not a pretender," Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson said.
Led by Carson Palmer, the Cardinals took hold of the NFC West race with a 39-32 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. Palmer rebounded from two costly fumbles in the fourth quarter that led to 12 points for Seattle, the second one scooped up and returned 22 yards for a touchdown by Bobby Wagner that gave the Seahawks a 29-25 lead.
After a brilliant first half, Palmer wasn't about to let Arizona's opportunity to open a three-game lead in the division slip away. He led an 83-yard touchdown drive, helped by a key third-down penalty on Wagner and a juggling catch by Jaron Brown that nearly became Richard Sherman's first interception of the season. Palmer capped the drive with a 14-yard touchdown strike to Jermaine Gresham and Andre Ellington added a 48-yard TD run on Arizona's next possession for the capper.
Palmer threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns and the Cardinals won in Seattle for the second time in three years handing the Seahawks a second straight home loss.
"I hope there's another signature win, and a bunch of them, in our future," Palmer said. "But it's just a good win. It's good to get this far up in this division, especially this division. But we've got to move on."
Realistically the Seahawks (4-5) only hope of getting back to the postseason is a wild-card berth that is wide open in the jumbled NFC. It would take a collapse possibly worse than a year ago for the Cardinals to let Seattle back in the division race at this point.
"We definitely been through some stuff since I've been here so I don't see why we can't come out of this," Wagner said.
Here's what else to know from Arizona's victory over Seattle:
FLAGS EVERYWHERE: Seattle committed a season-high 14 penalties and many of them were either crippling to the offense or defensive penalties that kept drives alive for the Cardinals. On its first two possessions, Seattle faced first-and-25 and first-and-20 because of penalties. Arizona got five first downs by penalty, none bigger than Wagner being flagged for illegal contact on third-and-10 at the Seattle 39 midway through the fourth quarter. Two plays later, Palmer hit Gresham for the go-ahead score.
"(The penalties) gave them a lot more opportunities; you can't give a team like that opportunities," Wagner said. "They hurt us today."
FLOYD LOVES SEATTLE: Michael Floyd has a knack for big moments against the Seahawks in Seattle.
Two years ago, Floyd caught a 31-yard touchdown pass with 2:13 left as Arizona handed the Seahawks their only home loss that season.
Floyd was back causing headaches for Seattle again on Sunday with two touchdown receptions in the first half as the Cardinals built a 19-0 lead. Floyd got behind Sherman and tapped his toes for a 27-yard TD and later had a 35-yard catch-and-run touchdown, plowing over the pylon.
"Coach just dialed up plays that I love. I know that I can take advantage of an opportunity," Floyd said.
THIRD AND PROBLEMS: Tied in with the penalty problems for Seattle was a putrid 1-of-8 effort on third downs and an inability to keep drives going. The 13 percent on third downs was a season worst for the Seahawks and largely tied to many long third downs Seattle was forced to try and convert. Six of the third downs Seattle was unable to convert were 10 or more yards.
Meanwhile, Arizona was 8 of 17 on third downs and three times converted third downs thanks to defensive penalties by the Seahawks. The Cardinals also a converted third-and-14 in the first half on Floyd's 27-yard touchdown.
ROCKET RETURN: Seattle wide receiver and special teams standout Ricardo Lockette, who was taken off the field on a backboard two weeks ago against Dallas, was part of the pregame festivities. Lockette had surgery to stabilize his neck and will be in a brace as he recovers.
Lockette was in the Seattle locker room after the game and said it was "amazing" to be back with his team even if his season is over.
Asked if he expected to return to football next season, Lockette said, "I expect to be a Pro Bowler."