Cardinals back in thick of race for No. 1 draft pick

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              Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) makes his 1,282nd career catch to surpass NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for the most receptions with one team in NFL history during the second half of an NFL football game as Detroit Lions cornerback Nevin Lawson (24) defends, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals have double-digit losses for the first time since 2012.

Just when the Cardinals looked as if they truly had improved — with a win at Green Bay — they fell flat in a 17-3 home loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

That left them at 3-10, tied with the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders for the worst record in the NFL and back in the thick of the battle for next year’s No. 1 draft pick. Unless the Cardinals can win one of their final three games — at Atlanta, at home against the Los Angeles Rams and at Seattle, Arizona will match the worst record since the franchise moved from St. Louis to Arizona in 1988.

The 2000 Cardinals finished 3-13, with Vince Tobin fired seven games into the season and replaced by Dave McGinnis. The franchise didn’t have a winning record again until a surprising run to the Super Bowl in 2008.

First-year coach Steve Wilks indicated he’s balancing giving young players a long look while still playing to win. He said he’s emphasizing playing for pride.

“Very important. That’s the word that we are using from a pride standpoint,” he said. “You may say, ‘You’re not playing for anything,’ but you’re playing for pride. These guys in here are professionals, and they want to win just like the coaches. So, we have to find a way to turn this thing around this week and go to Atlanta and get a win. “

Wilks said he watched tape of the game twice Monday, and was encouraged to find the team still played hard.

“I wanted to go back again because I wanted to see certain things,” he said. “I thought the guys played hard, and that’s what I told them. We gave ourselves a chance to win; we just didn’t finish.”

Wilks thought the defense played well, until Detroit’s game-clinching 75-yard touchdown drive, aided by missed tackles and Arizona penalties.

The Lions’ plan was to take Larry Fitzgerald out of the game with persistent double-teams. So it was the third quarter before he caught his first pass, which put him ahead of Jerry Rice for most receptions for one team. He ended up with five to put him at 1,286 for his career.

“It is a two-way street in this business,” he said of the record. “You have to want to stick with a place, organization, or team and the coaches have to want you to be here. It is a two-way street. I am appreciative of the opportunity and to the Bidwill family for giving me the shot to continue to play. I call Arizona home and it means a lot to me.”

But Fitzgerald really wasn’t in any mood to discuss his latest landmark.

“When I am done, I think I can look back and reflect on it,” he said. “Now is not the time. Being 3-10 is not a good feeling. I don’t feel celebratory.”

Now Fitzgerald will have to endure the remainder of what looks to be the worst of his 15 seasons in Arizona. It also may well be his last, and not at all the way he wanted to go out.