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No Christmas Miracle for the Cardinals This Time

What are the takeaways as Arizona’s late season slides under Kliff Kingbury continued despite one of the best efforts from the team all season?

Syndication: Arizona Republic Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Arizona Cardinals fell 19-16 to the Buccaneers and Tom Brady and yet if there was ever a “moral victory” for a team you could have argued it would have been tonight’s effort.

Unfortunately there’s only wins and losses in the league.

And the Cardinals have now lost their 5th straight game, and their last 20 games paints a sad picture after the team started out 10-2 in 2021.

And let’s be honest, the Cardinals are not a good team and neither are the Buccaneers.

But Arizona wasn’t even expected to be in this game. They were +7.5 underdogs and took Tom Brady and a Todd Bowles defense to overtime, and if not for a late Keontay Ingram fumble (how does this keep happening to Tom Brady?) there was a chance they could have driven down the field and run off enough clock to where it didn’t matter.

But in the end, despite some two interceptions from Tom Brady. an excellent effort holding Leonard Fournette to under 4 yards a carry, didn’t allow more than a single touchdown until the final quarter (lest we forget: Greg Dortch lighting it up on offense)...the Cardinals didn’t make enough plays to win the game, but made just enough mistakes to lose it.

Arizona took a 16-6 lead on a James Conner touchdown but as has been the case this season...the defense blew it, giving up a 44 yard play to Leonard Fournette that Tampa cashed in with a touchdown.

And then...

A fumble on 3rd and 1 (how many times has it felt like that’s happened this year?) in Tampa territory takes what might have been at least a field goal and turns it into points for the other team.

That’s been the story of the season, just like in the Chargers game...or even the Vikings game.

The Cards offense makes a critical error or are unable to move the ball, whether it’s been Kyler, Colt or even now Trace McSorley.

And the defense bends without breaking...but breaks at the worst possible time. Arizona got one new set of downs before punting in overtime but the team’s inability to move the ball or find a bit play doomed them on the offensive side giving Tom Brady the ball back with only a field goal to gain.

It really was tough as I’d argue that Kliff had maybe one of his best days play-calling and a great one for the OL given the situation. A tough defense w/ a 3rd string QB as underdogs by over a touchdown.

And yet, unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a moral victory.

The Cardinals aren’t a team where you can pinpoint one problem: there were plays that were questionable (the end around to Hollywood that avoided letting James Conner run it or the 3rd and 1 that turned into a fumble when both of those plays should have been no-brainers).

It’s not all negatives.

J.J. Watt, for what it’s worth, has been worth what Arizona paid for him.

Cam Thomas and Myjai Sanders will be players, and Arizona’s getting good play from their young talent (not just Dortch!) the end it wasn’t enough to overcome their blunders.

They’ll take a team like Tampa ten rounds but won’t be able to land that knockout blow, or, in the case of the fumble, let a team back into the game.

Luck hasn’t been on Arizona’s side, and if there’s any consolation, it’s that there’s two merciful games left where they could have a shot at winning vs. a bad Falcons team that was likewise eliminated from the playoffs and a Niners team that could sit multiple starters in the season finale.

Or on the other side, Arizona’s draft position improved: moving from 5th to 4th with the Rams’ win over the Denver Broncos.

But coaches and players don’t care about draft picks. And in a season that’s got only 2 games left to go with very little left to care about, this loss that teased an upset victory similar to the Cowboys-Cardinals upset of 2010 stung just a bit more.

Add it to the laundry list of home losses that the team has amounted over the last calendar year, sadly.

We will see if they can get Colt McCoy back and find a way to salvage the last two games after a strong showing from the coaching staff...or if this is just a footnote where Tom Brady finally gets a winning record over each team in the NFL as the team makes a hard move toward a potentially monumental shift in the front office and coaching staff.