The Arizona Cardinals received coal for Christmas following a 22-16 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night.
It might feel like deja vu for the Red Sea, as the Cardinals lost their third primetime game of the season at home.
The defeat marks the third consecutive defeat for Arizona and the team’s fourth in a row at State Farm Stadium.
With the loss, the Cardinals are now 10-5 on the year after starting 7-0 and could see the Los Angeles Rams overtake them atop the NFC West division standings if LA beats the Vikings on Sunday.
However, a Minnesota loss would also clinch Arizona’s first playoff berth since 2015 — the second-longest postseason drought in the NFL.
Arizona Sports’ hosts, reporters and editors share their thoughts on the Cardinals’ Week 16 loss:
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: Has the league figured out the Kliff Kingsbury offense? Is Kyler Murray truly the franchise quarterback of the future? Is the “next man up” mentality dead?
These are all valid questions surrounding the Arizona Cardinals after a pretty lifeless 22-16 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Christmas night at State Farm Stadium?
The Cardinals’ recipe for success has been to start quickly and imposing their will on opponents. Maybe out of desperation on Saturday, Kliff Kingsbury opted to take the ball first after winning the coin toss. The Cardinals had to settle for a field goal attempt from Matt Prater, who missed from 51 yards with backup quarterback Colt McCoy holding, a good amount of wind was taken out of Arizona’s sails.
Kliff Kingsbury’s offense looks, once again, like a horizontal arsenal. Murray completed only two passes for more than 16 yards in the entire game. In 2020, when the Cardinals limped to the finish line and missed chances to claim a playoff spot, everything in the passing game was happening in a rectangle about five yards deep. That offense has returned in 2021 with a playoff spot on the line, again.
Murray did have his longest run as a pro against the Colts, but really didn’t make any winning plays outside of a beautiful throw on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Antoine Wesley. He’s failed to rally his team in times of adversity. And let’s face it, the one-time MVP candidate got vastly outplayed by Carson Wentz. That’s not good.
The interior of the offensive line is a mess with Rodney Hudson out and right guard continuing to be a weak spot (Josh Jones had three false start penalties against Indianapolis).
DeAndre Hopkins is out, yes, but nobody in the receiver room is stepping up and making plays. Christian Kirk’s battle with drops has returned. A.J. Green remains erratic. Andy Isabella can’t get on the field (even with Rondale Moore out).
The once-automatic Prater left seven points out there by missing three kicks and continues to struggle in games where his unit is not intact. Against Seattle, long snapper Aaron Brewer’s absence was costly. Saturday, it was holder Andy Lee who was unavailable, and the operation was shoddy.
The Cardinals remain winless over the last two seasons in games where a win would punch a postseason ticket. You’ve got to point at the head coach. Realistically, there’s only so much Kingsbury can do, but that’s the gig. The guy at the top gets the blame.
The old adage is you’ve got to learn to win pivotal games in the NFL. Clearly, the 2021 Arizona Cardinals still have a lot of studying to do.
Tyler Drake, Cardinals reporter and ArizonaSports.com editor: I summed up the Cardinals’ past two losses as “yikes” and “oof.”
I’m at a loss for words after this one.
The entire week, most of the talk at the Cardinals’ training facility revolved around running back Jonathan Taylor, public enemy No. 1 by a long shot. The Cardinals knew it, the media knew it and the fans knew it.
Stopping the run couldn’t be more important on Christmas.
Instead, he proceeds to rattle off a 43-yard run on the first play from scrimmage for the Colts, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
The worst part? The Cardinals held him out of the end zone for the first time since Week 4, snapping his TD streak of 11 games.
But despite the Cardinals holding Taylor to just 57 yards by halftime, the running back churned his way to yet another 100-yard outing. He’s now reached the century mark nine times this season, all resulting in Ws.
Outside of performance, head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s challenge on an obvious Colts catch was absolutely baffling. And then to not challenge a Carson Wentz run that was clearly short was even more eyebrow raising.
For a team that had so much momentum, the Cardinals are spinning their tires once again in the second half of the season for a second straight year. The fact that the Cardinals very well could lose out against a tough Dallas Cowboys team before a season finale against the Seattle Seahawks and need outside help from other teams to punch a postseason ticket is eye-opening to say the least.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com lead editor: It’s time to talk about the Cardinals’ identity. They are an offensive football team, led by a No. 1 overall pick at quarterback who hasn’t played well lately and a head coach who hasn’t gotten him out of a funk. Together, they’ve built the reputation of wilting in the big moments, and after a ridiculously fun start to the year, they’ve had to really try to bring that wilting narrative back. Well, they’ve succeeded at that.
Sean Kugler might be the guy who can save this season by fighting for his guys, the penalty-riddled offensive line. They can at least pave enough open space in the run game for Murray and the backs to make defenses worry about a multifaceted Arizona attack. They can hold a middling pass-rush group enough for Murray to hit Chase Edmonds in the passing game, who is a difference-maker if given the chance.
The Cardinals held down an injury-battered Colts offensive line kinda, sorta decently enough to say it was a win against the NFL’s best back. Yeah, the special teams issues on field goal attempts were bad without Andy Lee holding, but it’s on a guy who weeks ago was in the MVP conversation. Murray shouldn’t be putting his team in position to lose that game due to multiple field goal attempts.
Jake Anderson, ArizonaSports.com editor: I feel like I’ve seen this movie before — and that’s because we have.
This marks the Arizona Cardinals’ third loss in a row at home on primetime and fourth consecutive defeat at State Farm Stadium this season.
Yes, the Cardinals have been decimated by injuries and the reserve/COVID-19 list this season — Arizona was without two Pro Bowlers in RB James Conner and WR DeAndre Hopkins on Saturday night — but they’ve been in each and every one of the contests. So to see this team continue to find ways to lose instead of the other way around is frustrating to watch.
Unfortunately for Valley football fans, it’s starting to feel similar to Arizona State’s 2021 season. Whether it’s penalties negating big plays and scores or turning the ball over — or both on the same play via safety — the mistakes are becoming so self-destructive that a team that once had the best record in the NFL is now 0-3 in playoff-clinching games this year alone.
With a Vikings, Eagles or Saints loss in Week 16, the Cardinals will back their way into the postseason for the first time since 2015 to break the second-longest playoff drought in the league. But if head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Co. can’t figure out how to stay out of their own way and play a full complimentary game of football for 60 minutes, a first-round playoff exit is surely what awaits for a team that looked like a true Super Bowl contender just one month ago.
Read More: Cardinals get coal for Christmas after loss vs. Colts