Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs past Atlanta Falcons defensive end Courtney Upshaw (91) during the first of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Green Bay and Carolina are leading contenders, but five weeks from the end of the season, no team is a bigger disappointment than the Arizona Cardinals.
After going 13-3 last season, they were a trendy pick to win it all, a team whose players and coach said that nothing but a Super Bowl would make the season a success.
And here they are at 4-6-1.
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A day after the Cardinals were beaten 38-19 in Atlanta, coach Bruce Arians took aim at his players.
He spoke of ''selfishness instead of selflessness that's crept in.''
Without naming names, Arians criticized the team's leaders.
''Right now we are not making the critical plays to win'' he said, ''and it's got to be corrected soon.''
He pointed to four or five plays every game that determined the outcome.
So why are the players not doing their job 12 weeks into the season?
''I'm very surprised,'' Arians said. ''We've been talking about it for four weeks and the veterans obviously haven't done anything about it, so maybe the young guys will step up and make the opportunity they need.''
He singled out defensive lineman Corey Peters for his ''outstanding'' performance against the Falcons.
''That was the example I used to the rest of them,'' Arians said. ''If you just do your job, you'll be on the stat sheet.''
Peters appreciated Arians' compliment but brushed it aside.
''None of that really matters,'' he said. ''We didn't get the job done as a whole. That's my only goal. That's the only thing I really care about. We've just got to get back to the drawing board and try to get it fixed.''
Then there was a matter of his team's lack of ferocity.
''Why we weren't as physical as I thought we would be is a question,'' Arians said.
He used the team's goal-line defense as an example.
''You just don't allow people to run the ball,'' Arians said. ''You let them throw it in, but you don't allow them to run it in, and they ran it in twice.''
Peters agreed with Arians' assessment.
''I think they ran for 120-something yards (actually 116). That's always a good way to kind of judge the physicality of a game,'' he said. ''We just watched the tape and we definitely failed in some areas. But it's not anything that's not correctable. We're running out of opportunities to get things fixed around here so I think everybody is going to be really locked in and focused this week.''
After losses on the road to Minnesota and Atlanta, the Cardinals are home against Washington on Sunday.
Arians and Peters still held out some hope for a playoff spot, a thought that seems ludicrous given recent performances but is mathematically possible due to the jumbled battle for the NFC's second wild card spot.
''Definitely the season has been disappointing this far,'' Peters said. ''but we're still hopeful. We're kind of moving on and kind of taking the mindset of `the next game' attitude.''
Arians said ''you take them one at a time.''
''I think once we win one we'll be fine,'' he said. ''I think we'll add them up at nine (wins) and I think we still have a great shot because we're going to be playing some of those teams that are going to be in the same spot we're in. We just have to win one.''
As of Monday, Washington was in the second wild card spot at 6-4-1. Minnesota (6-5), Tampa Bay (6-5), Philadelphia (5-5 and playing 4-6 Green Bay on Monday night) and New Orleans (5-6) were all ahead of Arizona.
And there's no evidence that these Cardinals are poised for any big run.
Notes: Arians said that, due to injuries, he would go with the same young, inexperienced offensive line that had so much trouble against Atlanta. … Arians said cornerback Patrick Peterson's sore knee did not have any structural damage ''so we'll see how it goes.'' …. Arizona released cornerback Christian Bryant.
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