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Cardinals vs. Dolphins: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Cardinals' playoff dreams came crashing down on Sunday in a truly ugly sense.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

As they threw away every opportunity handed to them, the worst elements of the team were on full display.

So let's take a look at what little went right and all that went wrong against the Dolphins in week 14.

The Good

1) David Johnson's streak

Even on his down day, he's still the best player on the field.  DJ started the game ominously, fumbling the ball midway through the 1st quarter (probably due to the rain).  But after that, he went right back to work, rushing 20 times for 80 yards as well as bringing in 5 receptions for 41 yards (second on the team). This mean's that DJ's 100 scrimmage yards streak is still alive.  No player in history has gotten to 16 straight, so when the Cardinals' season ends in week 17, hopefully we get a DJ NFL record to mull us over.

2) J.J. Nelson

Nelson had just one catch and one rush, but he sure made them count.  In the 1st quarter, Nelson's speed was on full display as he burnt the Dolphins' defense for a 56 yard rushing TD. And in the 4th quarter, it was Nelson's receiving chops on showcase, as his 8 yard TD reception in double coverage put the team ahead momentarily.  Nelson has had somewhat of a down year (along with the rest of the receiving corps not named Fitz), so it was nice to see flashes of his 2015 self on the field.

3) Drew Butler's punting

I know, Special Teams was just horrendous, and they have no business being close to the "Good" section.  But after looking at the stats, I realized that Butler actually had his first good game of the year.  He averaged 47.2 yards per punt, which is well above his usual 41 yards.  I have to give credit to a man who I've included in the "Ugly" section far more times than I care to think about.

4) D.J. Humphries

Humphries was the sole bright spot on the offensive line until a concussion forced him out of the game.  His move to left tackle seems to be paying dividends, as he's finally flourishing in the way the Cardinals expected when they drafted him in the 1st round. Hopefully his injury isn't too serious, and he's able to come back soon.  I'm happy to see at least one of our O-line picks begin to pan out for us.

The Bad

1) Pressure on Tannehill

QB Ryan Tannehill wasn't sacked a single time.  With all the talent the Cardinals have on defense, I was disappointed to see how much time the Dolphins QB's had.  Throw in the fact that Palmer was sacked three times, and yes, I'm jealous.

2) Secondary outside of Patrick Peterson

I said this exact same thing in last week's article, but the secondary outside of Peterson has underwhelmed completely. It's obvious now that Marcus Cooper is not the long-term solution at CB #2.  Both him and S Tyvon Branch (filling in for Tyrann Mathieu) were targeted left and right, consistently giving up long hauls.  And Justin Bethel was no better at CB; his blown coverage on WR Kenny Stills set up Miami's game-winning FG.

Now, I fully understand that whoever is opposite from Peterson is going to look much worse in comparison, as team's are going to do everything they can to avoid throwing it towards Peterson. However, Cooper and Branch's pass protection has been far from stellar.  And seeing how CB Brandon Williams hasn't stepped up in his rookie season, maybe we should invest a high draft pick into another CB.

3) Tackling

The defense couldn't buy a tackle to save their lives.  In the 3rd quarter, WR Jarvis Landry broke two tackles on a passing play and ran the ball all the way to the three yard line.  That was one of the worst plays I've ever seen.  All night, the Cardinals couldn't wrap players up properly. RB Jay Ajayi had multiple broken tackles of his own.  Bring out the practice dummies this week.

4) Third down conversions

The offense was a dismal 4-13 on third downs.  This has been a problem all season.  We have to find a way to convert these.  The defense can't keep coming out onto the field after just 30 seconds of rest.

5) The commentators

The Fox analyst team repeatedly called Larry Fitzgerald "Larry Johnson".  That's like calling Michael Jordan "Michael Howard" or Derek Jeter "Derek Jenkins".  Johnson doesn't even sound like Fitzgerald.

The Ugly

1) Special Teams

To illustrate just how bad Special Teams were, I will break it down individually into players.

a. Chandler Catanzaro - Catanzaro was once my favorite player on the team.  His rookie year, he was fantastic.  This season, not so much.  Catanzaro missed one FG, and was 0-2 on extra points, which is just absolutely ridiculous.  Even worse, one of his extra point misses was returned by the Dolphins for two points.

Yesterday, I would've said "cut him" and never looked back.  But some users pointed out that on all of his misses, the snaps were far from ideal.  And given how talented we know he is, maybe Catanzaro could do better with a different coach. Still, he had a bad night, and it lost us the game.

b. Drew Butler - Like I said somewhere up there, Butler's punting wasn't the problem.  It was his holding that hurt the team this time.  On several of the kicks, you could tell that his sets were off, negatively affecting Catanzaro.  

Now, why were Butler's holds off?  You can directly thank:

c. Aaron Brewer - Our rookie long snappers have made me miss Mike Leach so very much.  Brewer came in earlier this season to replace Kameron Canaday, who's multiple bad sets helped lose us the Patriots game and also handed a TD to the Bills.  Brewer seemed to be better than Canaday, right up until this game.  Almost every single one of his snaps were terrible. He was snapping the ball right into Butler's face at one point.

I get that the weather conditions were bad, it was raining hard, but c'mon.  When the offense and defense are doing their jobs, you do not need to make it any harder for them.

2) Turnovers

Carson Palmer did no one any favors with the way he handled the ball.  He threw two interceptions, and that's almost a good thing, as he easily could've had three of four more.  In addition, the team fumbled the ball four times, losing two. Palmer now leads all quarterbacks this season in fumbles.  The rain was bad, the weather was bad, I get it.  But like Arians said at halftime, you wear gloves and get the job done.

3) Our playoff hopes and dreams

Going into this game, the Cardinals actually had a very decent shot at making the playoffs in one of the wildcard spots. All they had to do was win out.  Their destiny was in their hands.  Then they went and lost, and according to the New York Times playoff calculator, have essentially no shot at the playoffs now.  And for the first time since 2013, we won't be watching the Cardinals past week 17.

This was a Superbowl or bust year, so to not even make it past the regular season is just downright sad.  With all the injuries in the O-line, I know that we probably wouldn't have gone very far had we made the playoffs.  But at least we would've been there.  This has been one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.  It's up to Steve Keim and Bruce Arians to retool this team, fix what needs to be fixed, and give Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald one more shot at glory next season.