For Arizona Cardinals fans, the 2014 season was pretty special. It was also pretty disappointing. They were the top team in the NFC for 15 weeks, which was fun. But then things fell apart and they lost in the first round of the playoffs with Ryan Lindley at quarterback.
Despite such a good season, finishing 11-6, including the postseason, according to SI.com, they were involved with two of the worst games of the 2014 season.
What you might not find surprising, both games involved Lindley. That's not anything Lindley, as he is a fine man. It's just somewhat understandable that you end up with ugly games when your third string QB is playing.
Which two games were they?
The easy answer is the playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers.
We can look back now and hold up the Super Bowl, the NFC Championship Game and a handful of other moments as the NFL's gold standard for postseason drama, but the opening game of wild-card weekend did all it could to ensure the 2014 playoffs had nowhere to go but up. The battered and undermanned Cardinals capitalized on two gift-wrapped Panthers' turnovers to take an improbable 14-13 lead at halftime, but as so often happens, 20 yards of second-half offense were not enough to put the game away. A final botched hook-and-ladder play landed Arizona in the record books with 78 total yards of offense, the lowest mark in playoff history. The blame largely fell to Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley, who became a sympathetic figure as he stumbled through a 16-of-28 performance for 82 yards, the first touchdown pass of his career and two interceptions in his sixth NFL start. The Panthers played their own valuable role in this high-stakes eyesore: Brenton Bersin's truly impressive muffed punt and Cam Newton's pedestrian performance helped keep Arizona close before a long Fozzy Whittaker touchdown and Ted Ginn Jr.'s fumble on the ensuing kickoff wrapped things up.
That game troubled me more than the Super Bowl loss. It was such an ugly end to what looked like would be a special season. Instead, it ended with a dubious offensive record and losing to a sub-.500 team on the road.
The other ugly game was when the Cards were able to grind out a 12-6 win on Thursday night over the St. Louis Rams. This was the game Drew Stanton saw his season end.
For fans of special teams, this game was an all-timer. For everyone else? Not so much. Kickers Greg Zuerlein and Chandler Catanzaro put all the points on the board, and the two punters combined to log over 700 yards in this snoozefest on Thursday Night Football. While the win helped the Cardinals maintain their hold on the NFC's No. 1 seed for another week, an early injury to Drew Stanton set the stage for the sideshow that was the Ryan Lindley Experience.
The Cards got the win, but neither offense showed anything at all, except the Cards were able to run the ball.
The win would keep them atop the NFC, but it was the preamble to three straight losses to end the year.
Can you think of other ugly games? Can the Cards avoid any such games in 2015?