SEATTLE -- In the NFC West, style points don't count. Good thing, too, with how average the Seattle Seahawks looked in taking over the top spot Sunday.
"I love being in first place, but it doesn't mean anything right now," Carroll said. "To me it's like the BCS; it doesn't matter right now, it's how you finish."
Seattle (4-2) staked its claim to the top spot in the lackluster NFC West in so-so fashion when plenty of opportunities were wasted. And if he needed teaching points going forward, Carroll's got plenty to choose from.
"We have so much room for improvement," Carroll said.
There were the 10 penalties, many of which slowed the Seahawks deep in Arizona's end and forced them to rely on Mare's steady right leg. There were the five sacks allowed on Hasselbeck, a week after he was kept clean against Chicago. Part of Seattle's protection problems was the loss of rookie left tackle Russell Okung with a sprained left ankle in the first quarter.
But Seattle's woes were countered by five Cardinals turnovers, two deep in Arizona's end that led to easy points.
Mare made nine field goals, but only five counted thanks to a trio of Seattle penalties and one on Arizona that took makes off the board. His 51-yarder in the third quarter started out as a 31-yard kick only to be backed up twice by holding calls on Cameron Morrah.
Mare hit from 20, 31, 51, 24 and 26 yards, running his streak to 30 straight made field goals since missing a pair last year against Chicago and then drawing the ire of former head coach Jim Mora.
"Going back to Chicago last year, those two kicks, it was windy, but I should have made those, too," Mare said. "You don't have many excuses. You're out there to do that, and when you get on a roll like that it shows."
Hasselbeck threw for 192 yards and avoided throwing an interception for the second straight week. Coming off a career day, Williams topped himself with 11 catches for 87 yards and his first touchdown since the 2006 season. In his second game since arriving in a trade with Buffalo, Marshawn Lynch carried 24 times for 89 yards. He had 39 yards in runs called back on holding calls against Seattle right tackle Sean Locklear.
The Seahawks still had enough offense.
During the week, Cardinals rookie quarterback Max Hall talked about his excitement for making his first road start in Seattle. He left Qwest Field woozy and a little nauseous, and not just from looking at his 13.5 passer rating.
Hall was knocked out in the third quarter, the result of a hard but legal sack by defensive end Chris Clemons. Hall was blindsided and fumbled at the Arizona 11.
"I am obviously disappointed in how I played," Hall said. "But you have to give credit to them. They played well."
In a week of heightened awareness on big hits, Clemons' sack looked like a legal shot to Hall's back. Seattle's Raheem Brock had a form tackle sack on Hall in the first half, while Arizona cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie chose to lay a shoulder into Brandon Stokley after a first-half reception.
Mare followed Clemons' hit with a 31-yarder and a 13-0 lead. Seattle got another gift on the ensuing kickoff when Jason Wright booted a skipping kick and Kennard Cox dived on the loose ball, leading to another Mare kick.
"It's just very tough to overcome the turnovers we had today and not only from the standpoint of points, but emotionally when you are on the road and in this stadium," Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
Mare added a 26-yarder in the fourth quarter after yet another drive stalled inside the Arizona 10. Williams had four catches for 38 yards on the drive.
That was all Seattle needed on a day where downpours of rain mixed with brief glimpses of the sun.
Hightower and Wells, who ran for a 2-yard TD in the third quarter, found gaps in Seattle's defense, but weren't immune from turnovers. Hightower lost a fumble at the Seattle 28 in the second quarter and after Arizona's defense held, rookie Andre Roberts muffed a punt. The ensuing scrum ended with Seattle's Roy Lewis falling on the rolling ball at the Arizona 2.
Hasselbeck then hit Williams on a back-shoulder throw for a 10-0 lead.
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