Turnovers, special teams woes end Cardinals’ playoff hopes in loss to Dolphins

Dec 11, 2016, 12:42 PM | Updated: 3:42 pm
Miami Dolphins linebacker Mike Hull (45) intercepts a pass intended for Arizona Cardinals wide rece...

Miami Dolphins linebacker Mike Hull (45) intercepts a pass intended for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11), during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Bad luck, bad decisions and bad weather.

Together, that combination of factors made for quite a back-and-forth between the Cardinals and Dolphins on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Miami. The opponents combined for five first-quarter turnovers — the most in the NFL this season — and six total in a first half that the Dolphins led 14-9.

For Arizona, it was opportunity lost. The Cardinals fell 26-23 on a last-second field goal by Miami that all but mathematically eliminated them from the postseason.

“We did not handle the conditions very well at all,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Paul Calvisi.

Rain-related or not, Arizona’s kicking unit struggled throughout the game. Chandler Catanzaro missed an extra point attempt after a high snap threw off timing, and the kicker later knocked a 41-yard field goal off the goal post before he hit a 56-yard try with 1:18 remaining in the second quarter.

In the second half, Catanzaro’s extra point that would have pulled Arizona within 21-16 instead was blocked and returned for two points, making it instead a 23-15 lead.

“That’s five points,” Arians said of the botched special teams play. “That’s the game.”

Missed opportunity in the first half could have made a difference, too.

First, it was Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer tossing a pass off the fingertips of Larry Fitzgerald that found the mitts of Dolphins linebacker Mike Hull on an interception that set up a 7-0 Dolphins lead. After Arizona answered with J.J. Nelson’s 56-yard run, Miami would cough it up again.

Cardinals corner Marcus Cooper, who was burned on the touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Kenny Stills, found redemption in the form of an interception on a jumped route.

But immediately, Arizona would fumble the ball back to Miami. As the rain began falling, Cardinals running back David Johnson fumbled on the first play of the drive and the Dolphins recovered. They ended up punting, but three plays into the Cardinals’ next possession, Palmer would give it up again, this time throwing a wobbly pass that safety Bacarri Rambo brought back to Arizona’s 10-yard line for a 1st-and-goal.

And if it wasn’t yet clear how sloppy the game became, Miami gave it back at the goal line two plays later when Kenyan Drake fumbled. Arizona’s Kevin Minter recovered and soon the first quarter finished with a whimper and the Dolphins ahead through it all, 7-6.

Miami would surprisingly score its second touchdown four minutes into the second quarter following an Arizona punt, but back to script, the Cardinals needed just three plays for Palmer to fumble it back to the Dolphins.

Truth be told, the Cardinals and Dolphins were lucky the turnover plague ended at seven total.


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