Is there anything left on the table for the Cards?
It’s Thanksgiving week, a time when many of us are fortunate enough to have full tables. Full of family and friends and full of food. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it doesn’t appear there’s a whole lot left on their table.
When the Cards opened the season 1-3, my co-host John Gambadoro and I started playing a little game. We called it “What are you taking off the table this week?”
When they lost to Buffalo I shocked him by taking home field advantage throughout the playoffs off the table. I just didn’t think it was attainable. A few weeks later, it looked like an NFC West title was off the table. One by one we started clearing dishes like we were bussers trying to turn a table on a busy Friday night.
After the loss to Minnesota, it’s fair to wonder if anything is left on the table. Lose to Atlanta next week and there is no table.
At 4-5-1 the Cardinals have few options in front of them. If you believe it will take 10 wins to make the playoffs then they have to win out. You say 9 wins is the threshold to get in? 5-1. 8 wins…well, you get the idea.
All for a team that has won one game away from home all year. A team that has four of their remaining six games on the road. A team with wins that are hard to brag out; the 49ers (twice), the Jets and Tampa Bay. A team that keeps finding ways to lose – or tie – very winnable games.
I’m sure there will be enough of the weekly chaos in the NFC for a number cruncher to tell you the playoffs are possible. Outside of Dallas and Seattle, nobody in the conference looks special. Perhaps a win over the Falcons can restore some lost faith.
But the Cardinals continue to fail the eye test week in and week out. They’re just too flawed. Too injured. Squander too many chances and make too many mistakes.
Here are my takeaways from Sunday:
Special teams is a hot mess. A 36-yard Drew Butler punt and 32-yard return led to the Vikings first touchdown. The kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half put the Cards in a 10-point hole. John Brown’s inexplicable failure to catch a punt late in the game led to a 72 yard punt that rolled for 20. There is no phase of the Cardinals that has failed them as consistently as their special teams. It’s played a role in almost every loss this year and is in need of a major offseason overhaul.
The offensive line isn’t too far behind. It was only a matter of time before the injuries caught up to this unit. That bill came due in the second half vs the Vikings. The second half pressure on Carson Palmer short circuited nearly every drive in the second half, in particular the last two when it was impossible for Palmer to do anything. The Vikings are one of the fiercest fronts in football, but at one point they rushed four and three got to Palmer in about a second flat.
Why? Why didn’t Brown catch the punt? Why did Michael Floyd slow down on the second Palmer interception? Why did Brown not break off from his man earlier on the crushing James Harrison-esque pick six? Why is Palmer throwing to a small wide receiver who was going to be double covered anyway? Why was David Johnson not on the field during that goal-to-go sequence? Why did Deone Bucannon not run hard into the end zone when it possible he could have scored, causing Patrick Peterson to scream at him on the field? And while we’re asking, who can Palmer trust to get to the ball to beyond Larry Fitzgerald and Johnson? The struggles and inconsistencies of Brown, Floyd and J.J. Nelson make it hard to trust them right now.
Officiating. And not just the two mind boggling personal foul penalties the Cards were saddled with. Twice Mike Zimmer had to challenge touchdowns that weren’t called on the field but were after they reviewed them. Still waiting to hear what Dean Blandino had to say about the failed replay in Carolina. Maybe we won’t have to wait so long for an explanation here.