Thankfully, The Road to a Championship Won’t Run Through Glendale

Matthew JohnsonJanuary 9, 2022
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The Arizona Cardinals picked an awful time to have its worst defensive performance of the season.

Quarterback Kyler Murray is trending in the wrong direction.

Running back James Conner might be injured again and wide receiver A.J. Green is about as dependable as counting  on it to snow in Phoenix.

The Cardinals have major issues heading into the playoffs next week, but at least we don’t have to watch them play a home game again this season.

Arizona lost its fifth straight home game to end the season, with a 38-30 defeat to the last place Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. The Cardinals also became the first team in NFL history to start a season 7-0 and lose six games, according to the Twitter account StatMuse.

I guess there is a silver lining to this latest Cardinals loss — if you want to make light of the fact this team lost four of the past five games. They don’t have to play another game in Glendale if they hope to make the Super Bowl this season.

The Cardinals are officially a wild card team, even though the Rams lost to San Francisco in overtime in Week 18. L.A.’s loss was exactly what Arizona needed to clinch its first division title since 2015, but again, the Cards were bit by that home field disadvantage.

Nevertheless, the playoff run begins next weekend at L.A., where the Cardinals played perhaps their best game of the season — a 37-20 beat down of the Rams in Week 4.

That seems like ancient history ago.

Kyler Murray was playing at an MVP level back then. The defense was helping win games. The rushing attack was a thing.

The Cardinals-Rams playoff game should look way different than the game we saw in Week 4. Here’s why:

  1. Kyler Murray
    The Cardinals quarterback is clearly regressing late in the season. He’s holding on to the ball way too long and taking deep sacks for big losses. Murray went down five times Sunday in the loss to Seattle, with a division title on the line. Outside of a game played in the Dallas Cowboys home stadium, Murray seems incapable of seizing the moment. His first playoff game of his career can go a long way in proving us wrong.
  2. Running backs
    It remains unclear who will be able to run the ball next week for the Cardinals. James Conner suffered an injury late in the loss to Seattle that knocked him out of the game. Chase Edmonds missed the Week 18 game with injuries to his toe and his ribs. Jonathan Ward suffered an apparent knee injury and was knocked out from the game, leaving Eno Benjamin alone in the backfield for the final drive. The Cardinals offense has defined itself as a physical, rushing force in its wins this season. That will be tested greatly against Aaron Donald and the Rams defense.
  3. Defense
    Chandler Jones sacked Russell Wilson and forced a fumble that Zach Allen scooped up and scored a touchdown on the 2nd play from scrimmage on Sunday. After that, it was all down hill for the Cardinals defense. The Seahawks racked up 431 yards of offense, including 202 on the ground. Running back Rashaad Penny compiled 190 yards and might still be running loose in the Cardinals secondary. His 62 yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter put the game on ice and helped cap perhaps the worst slate of Cardinals home scheduled games in franchise history.

The Cardinals, sadly, stood no chance if they had to play a playoff game in their own home stadium. They went 3-5 at home against 8-1 on the road in one of the more mind-boggling single seasons for a team in recent NFL history.

There is hope for this team because they’ve played so well on the road (and those mighty Detroit Lions missed the playoffs by about 7 or 8 games, despite its lopsided win over the Cardinals).

We can be thankful the road to the Super Bowl does not run through Glendale this year.

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