Rapid reactions: Cardinals stumble vs. Seahawks heading into playoffs
The Arizona Cardinals could have won the NFC West and earned a home playoff game.
They did not take advantage of that opportunity presented by a near-simultaneous Los Angeles Rams overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Instead, the Cardinals withered against a 7-10 Seattle Seahawks team at State Farm Stadium to close their regular season on Sunday.
With a matchup against the Rams ahead in Arizona’s first postseason appearance since 2015, we asked Arizona Sports hosts and editors for their takeaways.
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: The Cardinals versus the Rams: Someone has to win.
The Cardinals’ late-season collapse continued Sunday with a terrible loss to the Seattle Seahawks, who continued their dominance over Arizona. Seattle is now 7-2-1 in games in Arizona since 2012. The Cardinals had every reason to win this game and with a win would have come a homefield playoff game next week courtesy of the Rams losing to San Francisco in overtime.
I guess if there is a silver lining to that not happening, it’s that the Cardinals get Matthew Stafford. Stafford has a penchant for throwing the ball to the other team — especially lately. With two more picks Sunday, he now has eight interceptions in his last four games — and seven in his past three. So something has to give.
The Cardinals are not playing well. But they are 8-1 on the road this season with only one loss, to Detroit. But they bounced back from that loss to beat Dallas on the road in their final road game this season. There just cannot be any confidence in the Cardinals right now. All the things they did right in that incredible 7-0 start to the season have long been forgotten. They are regressing.
I’m sure the Rams fans are feeling similar about their team with that collapse at home to San Francisco. Look, someone is going to win next week. I just don’t know how either fan base can feel confident it will be their team.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: It was tremendously entertaining to watch the Seahawks-Cardinals and 49ers-Rams at the same time; the ebbs and flow, moments where the door for a home playoff game seemed opened, others where it slammed shut. In the end, San Francisco did its part while the Cardinals do what they almost always do to Russell Wilson at home, lose. And it cost them the division and the chance to be at home in the playoffs.
The game itself was a culmination of nearly three months’ worth of frustrations at home. Poor run defense, wildly inconsistent offense, A.J. Green and Kyler Murray (again) not on the same page and struggling to find their chemistry on the field. The game was there to be taken; in the third quarter after the Cardinals took a 24-17 lead and forced a Seattle punt, the Cards offense went three-and-out and Murray was visibly frustrated on the sideline. From that moment on, Seattle wrested control of the game.
The Cardinals haven’t won a game at home since Oct. 24, a stain that won’t come off until next season, barring some miraculous turn of events that would allow them to return to their home stadium. Just as well. By now, the paying customers would surely rather watch their team as a visitor on their flat screens instead of coming out flat at home in a win-or-else game.
So now it’s the Rams next weekend. A contest for which there would be little faith in the Cards save for two factors. Arizona’s inexplainable play on the road and Matthew Stafford bringing his own baggage to the proceedings. Make no mistake, this game is winnable and perhaps the potential return of J.J. Watt is the jolt needed to shake the cobwebs out of this team.
Predicting that, trusting that, is next to impossible at this point for a team that couldn’t beat the last place team in their division for a chance to be at home.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: The disappointing finish to the regular season is in the rear view. The playoffs offer a clean slate. And maybe it’s a good thing that the playoff path will not start or go through State Farm, because Arizona hasn’t looked anything like a playoff team the last five times they’ve played in that building.
But the level of mystery surrounding this team as to which version will show up from week-to-week has crossed over into maddening territory.
Dan Bickley, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: During their 10-2 start, the Cardinals seemed primed for a second Super Bowl appearance. Now, they have to win at least one playoff game or risk alienating all the ticket buyers who found very little return on their investment at State Farm Stadium.
They need a playoff victory to validate the promise of the 2021 season.
Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com editor and Cardinals reporter: Opportunity lost.
The Cardinals end the season with yet another loss at home, their fifth-straight. Making matters worse, a win over a down Seattle Seahawks squad would have meant a home playoff game and an NFC West title to boot. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Seattle wanted it more and that was evident on Sunday afternoon.
But could that be a blessing in disguise, though? My money is on yes.
The Cardinals were atrocious at home this season. Inconsistent and mistake-ridden. They were a completely different team on the road. The home/road splits speak for themselves. Zach Ertz said after the game playing on the road gives the team that back-against-wall mentality. Let’s hope that’s a jolt to the system or this playoff run is gonna be a quick turnaround trip.
Buckle up, the playoffs are here
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com lead editor: The Cardinals remain a skittish bunch.
Skittish in how they handle pressure situations, nervous if they do anything but playing from way ahead. And a lot of that is indeed because Arizona has suffered enough injuries to key players (DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt, for example) or gotten decimate at entire position groups (cornerback).
It’s why any chatter about how big of a deal it will be if Watt, Hopkins, running back Chase Edmonds or even rookie cornerback Marco Wilson can return will not be hyperbolic. It’ll be true.
Again, the Cardinals found themselves losing a close game on the margins, where silly mistakes add up. It doesn’t matter who it was against — Seattle looked plenty motivated and had played decently well of late — it matters that it keeps happening to Arizona.