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Burns: Not the backbreaking loss it seems for the Cardinals

The Cardinals won the turnover battle, got exactly the kind of steady performance that we’ve been waiting for out of a starting quarterback and had a two touchdown lead with four minutes and 39 seconds left in the game.

And they still lost.

Their star wide receiver had his first 100 yard game of the season (107 to be exact), the offense put together a strong drive at the end of the half and perhaps an even stronger drive in the fourth quarter (14 plays – 89 yards) and they got touchdowns from their defense and their special teams.

And they still lost.

They had the Vikings home crowd circling like vultures and an opposing coach who was minutes away from being offered up as some kind of a postgame sacrifice.

And they still lost.

The Cardinals 27-24 overtime loss to the Vikings, for all the reasons listed above, was an exercise in dreadful. Did you have that nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach when Brett Favre started doing his thing late in that fourth quarter? Turns out the nerves were justified.

The offense probably could have averted the whole thing if they had just converted one first down in their last two series of regulation. The defense was either awful or gassed (or both) down the stretch. The Vikings gained 507 yards for the day. Half of those yards (250) were gained on the Vikings final four possessions. Somebody, anybody, make a play. Some have accused the coaching staff of getting too conservative down the stretch. Funny, but last time I checked, Derek Anderson is the quarterback. Hardly the kind of guy you want to open the playbook for in that circumstance.

I felt like I was having Diamondback-bullpen flashbacks. Finish. Why can’t the Cardinals finish? As ESPN’s Mike Sando points out, the Cardinals have had back to back games where they lost despite a fourth quarter lead. And just like last week against the Bucs, the Cardinals crumbled on both sides of the ball against the Vikings. It’s on the coaches to figure out why their guys who had every reason not to quit, couldn’t finish against a against a Minnesota team that had every reason in the world to quit but did finish.

But understand this: If you’re ready to write off the 2010 season because of this game you couldn’t be more wrong.

Thanks to the NFC West this loss, on its own merit, means very little. The Cardinals didn’t need to win this game to go to the playoffs. They do need to win next week at home against the Seahawks. It’s non-negotiable. Same can be said for the Monday night game against the Niners, and the home game against the Rams the week after that. Four of their next five games are at home (Seattle, SF, St. Louis and Denver). That stretch will define this season, not what happened in Minnesota.