The Arizona Cardinals' season effectively ended Sunday the way it began: With a number of mistakes, including glaring special-teams errors, that led to a last-second defeat.
The Cardinals made a spirited rally to pull even with the Miami Dolphins during a Florida downpour but still came up short, as the Dolphins likely put an end to the Cards' playoff hopes with a 26-23 victory.
Franks. For. The. WIN. #AZvsMIA #FinsUp https://t.co/AGXpu1Hkxb
— NFL (@NFL) December 11, 2016
Here are three big takeaways from the loss, which sent the Cardinals to 5-7-1 on the season.
1. Special-teams setbacks... again
The Cardinals' horrendous season on special teams -- which has included poor punts, awful long-snapping and missed game-winning kicks -- continued Sunday.
Chandler Catanzaro hit a 56-yard field goal before halftime -- the third-longest in team history -- but that came in between a pair of unforgivable errors on extra-point attempts. The Cards' embattled kicker hit his first PAT attempt off the upright in the first quarter, leaving the Cards behind 7-6. This would prove important, as it was the reason the Cardinals didn't go for two later in the game.
The Cards scored in the fourth quarter to cut the Dolphins' lead to 21-15. Had Cat Man's earlier PAT attempt been good, the Cards would have gone for two and attempted to trim Miami's lead to a field goal. Instead, they attempted another PAT, and this one was blocked and returned for two points to give Miami a 23-15 edge.
Block the extra point...
And it's off to the races!
Walt Aikens takes it 75 yards for TWO points! #AZvsMIA https://t.co/aBzWfCONPH
— NFL (@NFL) December 11, 2016
To be fair, the snap on both extra-point attempts was high -- but it's a situation that an NFL kicker should be able to cope with. Catanzaro is a great guy and has a tremendous leg, but after this season, his days in Arizona could be numbered.
2. Comedy of errors
After Sunday's mess of a game, it wouldn't be fair to single out Catanzaro. There was plenty of blame to go around:
-Carson Palmer had to deal with poor offensive line play and some unlucky bounces, but he still disappointed on Sunday, as he threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and muffed a snap with two minutes to play on the beginning of what could have been a game-winning drive for the Cardinals.
-Unusually poor tackling by the Cards led to a big second-half play by Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry, setting up a touchdown that gave Miami a 21-9 lead in the third quarter.
Jarvis Landry pour 71 Yards ! #FinsUp https://t.co/CqsM6BMCrn
— NFL France (@FirstDownFR) December 11, 2016
-The Cardinals went just 4 of 13 on third-down conversions and committed seven penalties for 54 yards.
3. Injuries mount
Even if the Cardinals had won, they would still be heading into their final three games of the season with a number of injury problems stemming from Sunday's game:
-Offensive lineman D.J. Humphries left the game in the first half with a possible concussion and didn't return.
-Dollar linebacker Deone Bucannon left in the third quarter with an ankle sprain.
-Cornerback Marcus Cooper left in the third quarter with a back injury.
-Safety Tyvon Branch, who returned from injured reserve last week, left with a groin injury.
Just how bad did things get?
S Tyvon Branch (groin) will not return. Brittan Golden playing safety. He's a WR.
— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) December 11, 2016
As things stand, it might be best for coach Bruce Arians to allow these men, along with injured safety Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder), to rest rather than risk further injury the rest of the way.