Cardinals have momentum, but playoff chances slim

BY foxsports • December 24, 2013

It's being called the biggest victory for the Arizona Cardinals since Kurt Warner's near-perfect performance against Green Bay in the playoffs four years ago.

Sunday's 17-10 stunner over the Seahawks in Seattle gives the Cardinals their second 10-win season since the franchise moved Arizona in 1988. A victory at home over San Francisco next Sunday would tie the franchise record for regular-season wins.

But there's a high probability it won't be enough to get first-year coach Bruce Arians' team into the playoffs, that the Cardinals will become the second 11-5 team to miss the postseason since the NFL went to the division format in 2002.

The other was New England in 2008, when the Patriots routed Arizona 47-7 just before Christmas, then watched the 9-7 Cardinals make an improbable run to the Super Bowl.

Now Arizona could be the good team on the outside looking in, even as an 8-8 team might make the playoffs in the AFC.

''It's not in our control,'' Arians said on Monday. ''I want to be 11-5 and let the chips fall. There is some joy in that. If we're watching the playoffs, we're watching a bunch of teams we beat. That's a little bit sour.''

Asked if an 11-win season will bring him any satisfaction if there's no playoffs, Arians said, ''not really, because it's all about the ring.

''You want to get to the dance. (An 11-5 record) will be nice. It's a nice foundation, but I'm really not about that stuff. We play to get in the playoffs and win the championship. It would be a shame, but that's the way it is.''

After San Francisco's victory over Atlanta on Monday night, the Cardinals have one possible, though unlikely, route to the postseason. Arizona needs to beat the 49ers at home Sunday and have New Orleans lose at home to Tampa.

The win over the Seahawks ended Seattle's 14-game home winning streak. Quarterback Russell Wilson hadn't lost a home game since his junior season at North Carolina State, before he transferred to Wisconsin.

Arians says the Cardinals are playing as well as anybody in the league.

''I don't think too many teams want to see us in the playoffs, especially the way our defense is playing right now,'' he said. ''To have a road win like that, it's a playoff atmosphere, because they were playing for everything. I would feel very confident going anywhere in this National Football League playing anybody.''

Arizona's defensive performance allowed the Cardinals to overcome Carson Palmer's four interceptions. Palmer came back to throw the game-winning touchdown 31-yard pass to Michael Floyd.

The Cardinals held the Seahawks to 192 yards of offense. Wilson had his worst game as a pro, completing 11 of 27 for a career-low 108 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked four times. Marshawn Lynch gained 71 yards in 18 carries, but Arizona outgained Seattle on the ground 178 yards to 103. The Seahawks had seven three-and-outs and a season-low 10 first downs.

And Arizona had a memorable goal-line stand that resulted in a missed Seattle field goal try near the end of the first half.

Arians has coached in the NFL for two decades, finally getting his chance to be a head coach last year when Indianapolis' Chuck Pagano was stricken with leukemia. The Colts went 9-3 under Arians and made the playoffs, earning him NFL coach of the year honors.

He's certainly a strong candidate again this year, taking new general manager Steve Keim's vastly overhauled roster and making it a winner for the first time since that 10-6 2009 season. Arians is 19-8 as a head coach.

The 61-year-old said this Cardinals' defense, under coordinator Todd Bowles, is better than any he saw on the powerhouse Pittsburgh teams while he was on the Steelers' staff.

''I would put us above all those defenses, because of the number of takeaways (30),'' Arians said. ''We can stop the run. Those teams were really good, but they didn't create the number of turnovers that this team is creating and closing out ball games. They're fantastic.''

The Cardinals won in a stadium where they were embarrassed 58-0 a year ago. They beat a Seahawks team that had handed Arizona its only home loss of the season, 34-22 on Oct. 17.

Arizona is 7-1 since then.


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