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Rapid Reaction: Cardinals easy playoff hopes get trampled on by Niners defense/ground game 20-12

A brutal loss for Arizona will cause fans to question everything if the team fails to get into the playoffs

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

If “shooting yourself in the foot” was the first half theme for the Arizona Cardinals last week, this week it was all about missed opportunities.

Christian Kirk open in the endzone? Drop.

Two deep targets to Dan Arnold? Drop/DPI.

Hopkins there for a touchdown? Verrett jars it free and Hopkins falls on his arm & heads to the locker room.

Not only was Arizona consistently able to separate deep and couldn’t make San Fran pay for it, but they got stuffed running the ball and making tackles.

Through one half, Arizona’s offense was beating San Fran, but man...it felt like Arizona was just barely about to break the game open but couldn’t force a tackle to be missed or haul it in.

And to me that speaks about what this team’s been all season long: one that plays to their level of competition. And both teams looked like they were 5-9 rather than Arizona being the one pushing for their 9th win on the season.

Arizona couldn’t get close enough to get a field goal off at the end of the half despite forcing a fumble and taking over with time on the clock.

They’ve normally been a second half team though, right?

Well, through the start of the 3rd quarter—at one point Arizona had -11 total yards and San Fran had 138.

It looked like the team was about to receive a knockout blow after Dan Arnold had a fumble ruled on the field and the Niners took over in Arizona territory. The team was on the ropes.

And then, they held and got back up, forcing San Francisco out of field goal range to hold them to ZERO points on the turnover. Arizona took over on offense but was on the ropes again with a 4th and 5 and Kyler’s legs delivered.

It really felt like Arizona had been fighting an uphill battle all game long. One that the special teams with a missed FG and extra point had that kept it within 1 score.

And then it all went to hell when Kyler Murray underthrew a ball to Kirk in the endzone. Niners ran for an insane 27 carries for 220+ on Arizona.

Alright.

With the frustration fans feel out of the way, let’s ask these same 3 questions to this team now that many have asked all season long:

  1. Does Arizona have enough talent on offense to compete when they aren’t able to run the ball?
  2. Is Kliff the guy for Arizona with his vision, along with Vance Joseph’s defense?
  3. Is Kyler developing into an elite QB?

With a loss like this...to me there’s been 8 games where you say “Yes” to those questions.

And there’s been 4 that you go “Oh god, no.”

This was one of those games.

And we can be honest about this team, perhaps, for the first time all season given that when they’ve had their chance to take the spotlight. They have failed. Miserably.

Dropping games to the Pats, nearly losing to the Eagles...etc. They’re not winning close games and are losing games they should win.

  • Team came out flat
  • They got outcoached, especially on defense with simple things like run game blocking
  • The Niners, despite nothing to play for, played hard and made no mistakes

The Cardinals, at the end of the day, are showing that they’ve still got MAJOR changes to make internally in their organization.

They’re operating at a deficit and either have the talent to be a playoff team but are blowing things OR...what I’ve said all year long: they’re ultimately a team that looks like that 2018 team.

Heck, take Kyler and Hopkins off of this team and they’d BE that 2018 Cardinals team, wouldn’t they?

You can say that about a lot of teams, sure, but if the Niners can beat an 8 win Cardinals team with their backup, could Arizona say the same? I don’t think so.

To me, without any gut reaction, let me be clear:

I’m still not in approval of the job that Steve Keim has done. I think that he’s made some smart moves but was operating at such a low point in 2018 (despite the fact they thought they’d win 6-8 games!) that you can dress up a mudpie a lot but it might still be a mudpie.

In that case, you have to evaluate and give the fans what they want: a team that can be a perpetual winner with a superstar quarterback.

Cause you’re playing against one in Seattle. And if you fail to pass them up while Kyler’s on a rookie deal, you might lose more than just a game and a coach and a staff.

Kyler doesn’t want to lose games. While he let his team a bit down today, they certainly were the ones who kicked the dirt over the grave.

Here’s hoping that the team gets a chance to learn from their problems and we can point to a playoff berth. If they can’t?

All offseason there will be questions about Kliff and Keim just like 2018. This time just with a bit brighter coat of paint.

Cardinals fans, and this quarterback, deserve more.

Larry Fitzgerald deserved more in his final year, and possibly his final game at State Farm Stadium.

There’s a lot to process but one more week to go. And it’ll take beating a team they’ve never managed to beat on the road in order to mount that high bar which has been the playoffs.

The plays were there. The games have been there. But AZ just hasn’t made them.