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Almost time for Cardinals to leave restaurant after loss to Falcons

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald gets tackled against the Atlanta Falcons. (Associated Press)

If you would have told me back in August that on the same day I put up my Christmas lights, the Cardinals would be virtually eliminated from playoff contention, I would have thought Carson Palmer missed most of the season. Or Patrick Peterson. Or a whole slew of injuries that robbed the Cardinals of multiple core players.

But in the absence of that, you’re telling me the same day I put the lighted Santa on my roof, the Cards’ roof crashed down on their heads? I never would have believed it.

Now, notice I wrote “virtually eliminated.” The Cards have not, in fact, been officially eliminated. An argument could be made that Sunday’s game against the Redskins is the true moment of truth.

We all know at this point the finale is nothing but a formality. They’re clearing the dishes and handing us the check. Dinner is over. We just haven’t left the restaurant yet.

With their sixth loss, the best the Cardinals can manage is 9-6-1. Maybe that’s good enough to get in, but to get there they’ll have to win every game left on the schedule.

Behind this offensive line – which certainly has been carved up by injuries – it’s just not going to happen. And that’s not considering the drops. And the penalties.  And the constant stream of mistakes.

So now we’re left to consider whether this is the most disappointing season, not just in Cardinals history, but in the history of Arizona sports. That was the chatter on social media in the game’s aftermath.

I’ll vote no, but only because I’ve been around long enough to see a Charles Barkley-led Suns team not win a championship while Michael Jordan was off trying to hit a curve ball.  It’s still upsetting and that was nearly half my life ago.

Given the expectations of this Cardinals season, the angst is understandable and undeniable. I’d like to come up with something to make you feel better, but their future is as tangled as the Christmas lights in my garage.

Other quick hits from the loss to the Falcons.

Killer Drops. DJ Swearinger had a game-changing interception hit him square in the hands, but fell to the turf. A few plays later, Tevin Coleman scores a touchdown and the Falcons lead 24-13. Same score on 4th and 7, Michael Floyd drops a first down pass from Palmer. The Falcons take possession and widen their lead to 31-13. Don’t forget the snap that hit Palmer in the hands in the second quarter. It might have been the difference between a field goal and a touchdown.

Number One Defense. The Cardinals came into the game with statistically the best unit in the league. Chances are it won’t last long. The Cards gave up a season-high 38 points to the Falcons and could only watch as Taylor Gabriel scored two touchdowns on plays where he outran everybody on short screen passes. We suspected that the numbers weren’t telling the true story of the Cards defense and this game confirmed it. The stats might have been inflated by playing some poor offensive teams. They’re good, but not number-one-defense-in-the-league good.

Changes on the line. DJ Humphries lined up at left tackle, John Wetzel at right guard and Ulrick John got the start at right tackle. It worked…at first. But eventually the pressure from Vic Beasley, Dwight Freeney and others short circuited the Cards offense. While not as bad as last week, it still made for a long day for Palmer.

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