So now that the Cardinals have for all intents and purposes been eliminated from playoff contention, let’s ask the simple question: When did you know it was over? We certainly didn’t need Seattle defeating Los Angeles Thursday night to understand this season was finally finished. It was over long before that game.
So when was it? Was it week one when with no Tom Brady Rob Gronkowski, Nate Solder and Rob Ninkovich, the Cardinals lost at home to the Patriots thanks to a missed 47-yard field goal on a bad snap? Or was it Week 3 when the Cardinals went on the road and got beat by Buffalo 33-18 in a game that included 208 rushing yards by the Bills, a huge Michael Floyd drop, a bad snap on a field goal attempt that went for a Bills touchdown along with a 19-yard punt and a 1-of-9 start for Carson Palmer?
Maybe it was loss at home to the Rams that dropped Arizona to 1-3 and gave them just a 14 percent chance of making the playoffs? Only 26 out of 183 teams have made the playoffs after a 1-3 start, so it could have been that game you realized this thing was going nowhere. Chris Johnson and Tyvon Branch got hurt in that game and went on IR, Palmer went into concussion protocol late in the fourth quarter and Arizona gave up a 47-yard punt return that was aided by a 15-yard facemask penalty which gave the Rams the ball at the Arizona 19, and five plays later a 4-yard Case Keenum to Brian Quick TD pass put the Rams up 17-13.
The tie against Seattle gave the Cardinals a 3-3-1 record, but we all know they should have won that game. They dominated the Seahawks. Seattle had just 130 yards in regulation and five first downs. But Arizona’s special teams were a disaster once again. They had a 39-yard field goal blocked, a punt blocked, and they missed a 24-yard field goal in overtime. And let’s not forget that huge Floyd drop on 3rd and 5 from the Seattle 27 in overtime. Arians was at his worst in that game as well. He lost a timeout on a non reviewable call when he tried to challenge and at the end of the first half, when he needed a timeout to stop the clock and kick a field goal after a Palmer fumble was recovered by Earl Watford, he didn’t have it and time ran out. He also went for it on 4th and 1 instead of kicking a field goal to go up 6-0 in a game where points were crucial. And he didn’t use any of his three timeouts at the end of the game with Seattle facing a 2nd and 30 from their own 28 with 41 seconds left.
But for me, it was the Carolina game. Yup that was the one. Carolina was awful with a 1-5 record. Arizona needed that one and they needed it bad. A win would have given them a 4-3-1 record and got them back on track. To me, that was the game they could not afford to lose, not with upcoming trips to Minnesota and Atlanta in the next three weeks. So what did Arizona do in that game? The Cardinals fell behind 24-0 as Carolina scored on four of their first five first-half possessions. It looked and seemed like Arizona was not ready to play that game. They were not prepared. They had a season high 10 penalties. Palmer had a fumble returned for a touchdown, was sacked eight times and had an interception. Arians was bad again as he failed to challenge what should have been an incomplete pass to Greg Olsen on 3rd and 11 that went for 11 yards and set up first and goal that Carolina converted into a touchdown and a 21-0 lead. What also made that the game for me, the one where I knew this season was over, was that left tackle Jared Veldheer was lost for the season with a tricep injury. Tyrann Mathieu was lost with a shoulder injury and Ifeanyi Momah broke his wrist. The Cardinals lost the game to fall to 3-4-1, they lost their starting left tackle and the toughest part of their schedule was coming up. It was then halfway through the season when I knew the 2016 Cardinals were done.
For some it may have been later in the season — maybe after the bye week when Arizona needed a field goal as time expired to beat a pathetic 49ers team or the Vikings game when Palmer was hit 23 times, knocked down 17 and sacked four times in a 30-24 loss. Certainly the 38-19 setback in Atlanta that saw their record fall to 4-6-1 could have been the game that put the nail in the coffin. Let’s not forget the Floyd drop on 4th and 7 down 24-13 with 14:30 left in that one as one of the huge plays. Or Calais Campbell being offsides with Atlanta punting on a 4th and 5 that gave the Falcons a first down, and four plays later they scored a touchdown to go up 31-13. You may still have been holding out hope when they went to Miami, but that loss in which they turned the ball over three times in the first quarter and had their special teams miss an extra point, a 41-yard field goal and have an extra point blocked and returned for two points summed up their season. They fell to 5-7-1 after that debacle.
Whichever game it was, there is most likely one game in which you knew this was not going to be the Cardinals’ year. Like I said, for me it was Carolina. Which game was it for you?