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GLENDALE, Ariz. – NFC West was there to host the Arizona Cardinals.
They just could not get it done.
When the San Francisco 49ers beat the Los Angeles Rams in overtime, the Cardinals would have had to beat the Seattle Seahawks to win their first division title since 2015. But Sunday was a home game. And Arizona can not win at home.
The Cardinals’ 38-30 loss could have been their biggest blessing in disguise this season: It sends them to Inglewood, California, to play the Rams in an NFC wild-card playoff game. Arizona was 8-1 away this season and only 3-5 at home, losing its last five at State Farm Stadium.
This season has been the ultimate tale of two places.
Sunday was no different.
Arizona (11-6) played the Seahawks (7-10) like it was any other home game in the second half of the season. It was ugly, undisciplined and uncoordinated.
Sunday was an opportunity for the Cardinals to follow up on their win in Dallas last week with another solid performance. It did not happen. And now the Cardinals are limping into the playoffs and look like the team that lost six of its last 10.
Arizona’s self-inflicted error continued to be a problem.
Penalties rejected big games, Kyler Murray was fired five times, and a major problem with special teams gave the Seahawks a touchdown on a silver platter. Punter Andy Lee muffled the snap around the finish line at the end of the third quarter and tried to drive it out of the end zone. He was hit and then fumbled. Seattle recovered on the Cardinals’ 10. It scored three games later with 13 minutes and 15 seconds left in the game, taking the lead forever.
Arizona’s offense battled in the first half, winning just 89 yards. It showed sparks all the way through, but did not put together enough to pull away from Seattle.
The Cardinals’ depth problems, especially at cornerback, were also a factor on Sunday – and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson took advantage of them with two touchdown passes to Tyler Lockett.
For reasons that no one at the Cardinals have been able to explain this season, they are much better away than at home, where they have not won since Week 7.
Whatever the reason may be, losing Sunday’s match and starting the playoffs away seems to be the best case scenario for a team playing its best football away.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The Cardinals again had trouble stopping Lockett. He had five catches on 98 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
Bold prediction for next week: The Cardinals will not look like the team that played Sunday against the Seahawks, and will play more like the team that whipped the Rams at SoFi Stadium in Week 4.