ARIZONA CARDINALS

Rapid Reactions: Cardinals miss postseason after loss to Rams

Jan 3, 2021, 6:27 PM | Updated: 7:46 pm
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)...
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

And just like that, the Arizona Cardinals’ hopes of making the postseason have been dashed.

Against a Los Angeles Rams team missing multiple starters, the Cardinals couldn’t overcome an early injury to quarterback Kyler Murray.

Despite the signal caller’s return to action in the fourth quarter, Arizona was unable to muster anything offensively, falling 18-7 on Sunday.

The loss gives Arizona an 8-8 record and a lot to ponder as it enters the offseason.

Arizona Sports’ hosts and editors provided their two cents on the 2020 regular season finale defeat.

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo

There are two ways to look at this season.

The first is progress as the Cardinals have gone from three wins to five wins to eight wins in the past three seasons.

The other is complete and utter disappointment and I choose that one. The Cardinals collapsed. You have to make the playoffs when you start 5-2. You only need 4 more wins in 9 games to do that — not even .500. But to finish 3-6 is nothing more than complete failure. Failure to win games against a bad Patriots team, a 49ers team playing for nothing and a depleted Rams team starting a quarterback who had never played a down in the NFL. Failure!

Kliff Kingsbury couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag these last few weeks. The play calling is/was atrocious. Running the ball down two scores four times with under eight minutes left showed no signs of desperation. And were there not any opportunities to give Chris Streveler some run this season so he would have been better prepared for this moment? Failure.

The Rams domination of Arizona continues and that unto itself is a hard pill to swallow — eight straight losses to L.A. and counting. But this one — the Cardinals had to have this one. And they scored a whopping seven points just a week after scoring a whopping 12 points vs the 49ers. Nineteen points in the last two games — I’m certain Mike McCoy could have mustered up more points if he was calling the plays.

Kliff is on notice — improve by leaps and bounds next year or go back to college. No excuses they didn’t get it done and Kliff has to take the burden of the blame for an offense that too many times in the second half of the season disappeared.

Luke Lapinski, host of The Rundown

Just a brutal way to end the season. You want to look big picture and say the jump from five wins to eight is significant, but how can you look past their 3-6 record down the stretch? Or the fact they just dropped back-to-back games to CJ Beathard and John Wolford? With the Bears loss today, winning either of those would’ve gotten the Cardinals into the playoffs.

With so many players hurt on both teams, today essentially came down to the coaches. And Kliff Kingsbury is not going to outcoach Sean McVay. At least not at this point in their careers, and maybe never. That’s not necessarily an indictment on what Kingsbury can do in this league — most coaches come up short against McVay. But with the way this team stumbled in the second half, next year is suddenly very pivotal for Kliff.

More than anything, today showed why you need an established backup quarterback. It’s not really fair to pin this on Chris Streveler, who had thrown zero NFL passes in his career before today and didn’t practice like he was going to be the starter all week, the way John Wolford did for L.A. But if the Cardinals are serious about contending in this league, they need to get a legitimate backup with some experience this offseason.

Guys get hurt in a playoff race; you need to have a backup who isn’t learning on the job. Brett Hundley isn’t Patrick Mahomes, but it’s fair to wonder if he could’ve just managed this game enough to give them a chance. If they don’t trust him, that’s fine — but then they have to find someone. The playoffs need to be the standard now. The time for rebuilding and experimenting is over.

To that end, you have to wonder how different this roster is going to look when the 2021 season begins. This team did some good things, but most of them came before the bye week. And if this ends up being Larry Fitzgerald’s final season, it’s that much more unacceptable that they couldn’t find a way into the playoffs.

Jordan Byrd, producer of Burns & Gambo

Two years ago, when the Cardinals were looking for their next head coach, they determined that they were looking for the next Sean McVay. Well, I have seen two years of evidence now and Kliff, you’re no Sean McVay.

The Cards head coach looked lost after Kyler Murray went out of the game with an injury after the first Arizona possession. Instead of playing into the strengths of Chris Streveler, the Cardinals were passing more times than not with a quarterback who had never thrown a pass in any type of NFL game. We had heard all throughout training camp that Streveler could be used as a Taysom Hill type of signal caller. A guy who you could design runs and option plays for to confuse the defense and open up a side of the Arizona offense that we haven’t seen. But that wasn’t the case.

Instead, Kingsbury decided to save his run option plays for the fourth quarter when faced with a third-and-18 and Kyler Murray playing on one leg. Now obviously the Arizona offense is nowhere near as dangerous with Kyler on the sideline or in the locker room, but since Streveler has been the backup all season long, I thought Kingsbury would have been more prepared to lean into the run game and let his backup quarterback do what made him standout to the organization in the first place.

Meanwhile, on the other sideline, John Wolford’s NFL debut got off to a rocky start after an interception on his first pass attempt of the game. But after that, the former Arizona Hotshot settled down and executed the Rams’ game plan pretty decently. He was set up to succeed by the play calls and adjustments that his head coach made for him throughout the game. Sean McVay showed once again why he is 8-0 against the Cardinals. He was the better play caller, the better game manager, the better motivator and the better leader than Kliff Kingsbury.

Plenty of people will criticize the Cardinals defense for losing to Wolford and an injury depleted Rams offense. But Vance Joseph’s unit held the L.A. offense to nine points and forced two big turnovers. Even when the Arizona defense gave up time-consuming drives, their bend-but-don’t-break effort gave the Cards a chance had the offense been able to muster anything resembling a pulse. The Cardinals lost back-to-back games when the opposing team had final point totals of 20 and 18. Even in the face of injuries, that’s on the offense and not the defense.

This Cardinals season will go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities in team history. The team had two separate chances to beat an inferior team on paper and failed fantastically. Instead of preparing for a first-round playoff game, the Cards offseason is already underway and will be filled with questions about the direction this team is headed. Yes, the Cardinals made progress this season and have steadily improved their win totals over the last two years. But with the extra addition of a wild card spot and the opportunities Arizona squandered, this year feels more like a failure than a step in the right direction. Having fans calling for Kliff Kingsbury’s head and making his name trend on Twitter will give you that kind of feeling.

As disappointing as it might be to some, Kingsbury isn’t going anywhere this offseason but both himself and Steve Keim will be squarely on the hot seat for next year. There are multiple games and moments that you can point to and single out as areas that need to be better. The Cardinals have raised the bar for what an acceptable season looks like and 2020 wasn’t it. So instead of turning our attention to a playoff matchup next weekend, we are left with a future filled with months of discussing how Year 3 of the Kliff and Kyler experiment could be the last for their head coach and general manager. And they only have themselves to blame.

Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor/reporter

A fitting end to the Cardinals’ season and what should be a fitting end to the Kliff Kingsbury era if the Cardinals have any sense. Lack of execution, baffling play-calls and penalties were the story of the game.

John Wolford converted six of his 14 first downs, with a few coming off runs. For context, the Cardinals all week said the only thing they knew about Wolford is that he could run. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said third down would be the key to the game against a quarterback without experience. And yet, there’s Wolford, picking up a handful of third-and-longs, a few with his legs.

The offense is what it is with Kyler Murray getting hurt and that altered the gameplan. What you couldn’t ignore was the penalties on that end and Kingsbury’s puzzling decisions.

The burned timeout by Kingsbury in the mid-fourth quarter just to call a RPO on 3rd-and-18 with a hobbled quarterback that lost 4 yards summed it all up perfectly.

Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com editor/reporter

Not the way to end the season.

The Cardinals squandered a golden opportunity against a Rams team that saw some of its best players go down due to COVID-19 concerns (Cooper Kupp, Michael Brockers) and injuries (Jared Goff, Darrell Henderson) before the game even kicked off.

Instead, Arizona lulled itself to sleep with questionable play calls and poor play.

DeAndre Hopkins once again was not moved around the field and it showed. He ended with just four catches for 35 yards.

Yes, it didn’t help that Kyler Murray was out for the majority of the game, but at the end of the day, this loss can be pegged on the coaching.

To lose a game in which the defense didn’t allow a touchdown is eye-opening and concerning.

Kliff should still be given a chance next season but the leash is getting shorter and shorter with every questionable loss.

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