Cardinals show need for new investment and personnel in loss to Bears

Dec 24, 2023, 6:38 PM | Updated: 8:30 pm

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals walks off the field after the game against the Chicago Bea...

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals walks off the field after the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 24, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

The finish line is getting close. And it’s arriving just in time for the 2023 Cardinals, a team that badly needs a few coats of paint and a serious investment in payroll.

Their 27-16 defeat to the Bears on Sunday was mostly a brutal slog. The collective performance was uninspired and unwatchable. Unlike some of their recent efforts, Week 16 delivered very little pride and promise for the future.

To the contrary, it revealed an Arizona team stripped of high-end talent and laid bare for all to see, when the calendar finds most NFL bottom feeders on life support.

Until the late heroics of the perpetually underrated Greg Dortch, the defeat again exposed one of the worst receiving groups in the NFL. It indicted a coaching staff that made a number of questionable decisions in the fourth quarter, when the Cardinals attempted a late rally.

Details don’t matter when you’re 3-12. But the Cardinals continue to squander momentum after rare touchdowns with premature and ill-fated attempts at two-point conversions, in which they appear like a desperate gambler chasing lost money; in which they are now a feeble 3-for-12.

The offense has also been reduced to the brute force of James Conner or passes to Trey McBride or Matt Prater field goals from some neighboring zip code.

This was not an individual victory for quarterback Kyler Murray, who again hovered somewhere between average and good. His numbers were OK: 230 passing yards, 32 rushing yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. But the Cardinals had only nine first downs through the first three quarters and they only finished with 16 points.

Entering Sunday’s game in Chicago, Murray had made staggered progress. He had logged passer ratings of 71, 84.6, 83.2, 89.9 and 67.4, which is not exactly the stuff of legends. He’s also looked supremely athletic and in command at times, showing occasional flashes of brilliance.

It’s also hard to fairly gauge Murray at the moment, at a time when he’s returning from major knee surgery and holding the reins of a new offense.

Bottom line: The 2023 Cardinals were built to fail. There was very limited investment in personnel and very little effort to replace the star-studded talents of J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins. We all knew what we were getting into, a year when Jonathan Gannon was tasked with laying a foundation and building a winning culture while somehow absorbing a growing pile of losses.

The Cardinals are close to finishing the job. They have a grudge match in Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve, a game that might get bloody. They have a home game against the Seahawks, a team in playoff contention, when Seattle fans are guaranteed to overtake State Farm Stadium.

This is the season when zombie football overtakes the NFL. Somehow, the Cardinals need to play hard, stay close and save face. They need to get out of this season intact, with the third overall pick in the NFL draft and no more black eyes. And then we can all get on with our future.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6-10 a.m. on Arizona Sports

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