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Cardinals Fail to Clinch Playoff Spot . . . Again

It’s surprising the Cardinals don’t have even more foot injuries after shooting themselves there so often.

It didn’t take long for running back Chase Edmonds to say the words we’ve gotten tired of hearing since the Cardinals finished the 2020 season 2-5 and failed to make the playoffs.

Edmonds was the first person to talk to the media after Saturday’s 22-16 loss to the Colts, a defeat that wasn’t as bad as last Sunday in Detroit, but in many ways was more excruciating. It came at home where the Cardinals are now 3-4 and was on a night where it wasn’t running back Jonathan Taylor that beat them.

Shortly after entering the interview room, Edmonds said, “We can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot.”

He later said, “We have to ignore the noise and find a way to win a football game.”

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury followed and said, “We continue to find ways to lose.” 

They surely do. 

He later added, “Everyone has to focus on their job.” 

No kidding.

Soon it was quarterback Kyler Murray talking about “mental mistakes” and saying “good teams don’t do that.”

The reality is that the Cardinals, 3-5 since starting the season 7-0, are not a good football team right now.

Safety Budda Baker talked about “holding each other accountable” and “honing in on the details,” while bemoaning the “little things.”

The reality is that way too many “little things” add up to a big thing.

All of it is only words, coming from guys that are running out of ways to explain what is happening.

In the last two games, the Cardinals have scored a combined 34 points and they left seven points on the field Saturday night thanks to two missed field-goal attempts and an extra point.

Kicker Matt Prater must be shell-shocked having played three games with a replacement long snapper and now dealing with a new holder, or two.

No one knows what prompted the Cardinals to have backup quarterback Colt McCoy be the holder to start off the game instead of punter Ryan Winslow, but Winslow replaced McCoy after the second errant kick.

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who played for the Cardinals from 2010-2013, tweeted after Prater’s missed extra point was wide left by a wide margin, “Even worse hold by McCoy. Laces straight sideways and ball leaning left (worst miss for Rt footed kicker) on that missed PAT.”

On the first miss, a field-goal attempt from 51 yards, Prater kicked the ball on the laces.

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Still, there was plenty more that went wrong:

Right guard Josh Jones was flagged for three false starts, one on fourth-and 1 from the Indianapolis 29-yard line.

A strip-sack fumble recovery was negated by an illegal contract penalty on cornerback Byron Murphy Jr.

Late in the second quarter, punt returner Christian Kirk had a fair catch at the 8-yard line and on third down, a bad snap got by quarterback Kyler Murray and resulted in a safety.

Still, the Cardinals had a chance to take control of the game in the third quarter. A 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Antoine Wesley and the extra point (held by Winslow) put them ahead 13-12.

Indianapolis drove to the Arizona 42, but quarterback Carson Wentz threw incomplete on fourth-and-4 with 5:42 to play in the quarter.

However, Murray had three straight incompletions as only 14 seconds went off the clock.

The Colts took a 15-13 lead on the next possession, one that was helped by linebacker Joe Walker missing a tackle on tight end Mo Alie-Cox, who gained 37 yards.

The Cardinals had a chance to go back ahead, first converting a fourth-and-1 and then Murray connected with wide receiver A.J. Green on a third-and-10 33-yard pass (Green’s only catch of the night).

However, Murray missed tight end Zach Ertz on third-and-3 and Prater hit the right upright on a 41-yard field-goal attempt.

Wentz took over on the next possession, driving the Colts 69 yards in seven plays while taking 4:30 off the clock. 

On second-and-17, he hit a wide-open Michael Pittman Jr. for 20 yards, then wide receiver T.Y. Hilton for 39. Then on third-and-9 from the 14-yard line, he patiently waited for wide receiver Dezmon Patmon to clear coverage at the back of the end zone for the touchdown that put the Colts up by two scores.

At that point in the second half, following the touchdown pass to Wesley, Murray completed only three of his ensuing 11 passes, and the Cardinals had only 109 yards in the second half and 282 for the game.

Murray then completed eight straight passes, but most were short and ate up time on a drive that started at the 9-yard line and ended at the Colts' 10.

The 96 yards gained, thanks to 15 yards of penalties, were just window dressing and made the stats look better. It also produced more head scratching when Kingsbury opted to kick a field goal on third down rather than take one more shot to the end zone with 46 seconds remaining. The two previous incompletions lasted only nine seconds, so another would have taken negligible time.

Then, again, Kingsbury might have seen enough of bad snaps, sacks and other mistakes that have bedeviled this team in recent weeks.

It became moot when the Colts recovered the onside kick.

The Cardinals can back into the playoffs this weekend if either Minnesota, New Orleans or Philadelphia loses, but does it matter?

Surely not, if this pattern of play continues.