Stumbling Cardinals see playoff odds slipping entering final quarter of 2020

Dec 6, 2020, 8:52 PM | Updated: Dec 7, 2020, 11:25 am
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals talks with quarterback Kyler Murray #1 during t...
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals talks with quarterback Kyler Murray #1 during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson maintains that his team is not a .500 football team.

Twelve games into the season, however, that’s the reality.

The Cardinals (6-6) remain searching for answers after a 38-28 loss Sunday to the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium.

“It’s hard to put a finger on it,” Peterson said when asked why Arizona’s 5-2 start has been followed by a 1-4 record. “It’s just those key situations that I believe is our Achilles heel right now. Have to find ways and execute.”

They’re running out of time to find solutions.

The internal message from head coach Kliff Kingsbury is about keeping the attention on internal improvement with so many potential outcomes for the final Wild Card spots.

“We have a month left guaranteed and anything can happen,” Kingsbury said. “I thought we had a good week of practice. Our guys played hard today. We didn’t always execute at the highest level that we can, but we have good leadership. Guys are going to continue to work hard.”

As of Sunday night, the Cardinals have a 35% chance of making the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight. A loss next week to the New York Giants, who beat the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, would slice those odds in half.

While the 6-6 Minnesota Vikings beat the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday to surpass Arizona for the final NFC Wild Card spot (Minnesota holds a tiebreaker over Arizona with a better record against common opponents), the Detroit Lions’ win over the Chicago Bears evened those teams at 5-7.

A San Francisco 49ers win against the Buffalo Bills on Monday at State Farm Stadium could also even the 49ers with Arizona record-wise.

For the Cardinals entering the final four games of the year, problems have only been identified in general terms.

“Not sure, I’m not sure,” offensive tackle D.J. Humphries said of the 1-4 stretch. “From my perspective of me doing my job, I think it’s just the little things.

“I don’t think it’s a science to it or anything like that. It’s just us locking in and getting our job done.”

Quarterback Kyler Murray, like Peterson, said that failure to execute in key moments continues to challenge the Cardinals.

“We’ve been in pretty much every single game that we’ve lost. Little mistakes here and there, turnovers, penalties, stuff like that, not playing complementary football, that gets you beat. That’s kind of just who we are right now. Just not finding a way,” he said.

Kingsbury added that “critical situations rise up and we’re not always handling them the best way.”

Those include key third downs on both sides of the ball and a sputtering offense that is too cold to overcome things when it finally gets hot.

The Rams on Sunday converted 9-of-15 third downs while holding Arizona to 4-of-12. When the Cardinals got within three points twice, Los Angeles answered with a pair of 75-plus-yard touchdown drives.

“In this last month that we are guaranteed, we have to really look at that and examine how do we get better in those moments,” Kingsbury said.

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