The message Bruce Arians left his team with when it was over, a heartbreaking but ultimately meaningless 23-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at University of Phoenix Stadium, was that the 2013 season was only the beginning.
It certainly feels that way, at least now before the churn of free agency and inevitable offseason change takes hold. The Cardinals won 10 games for only the second time since the franchise moved to Arizona, and while the Saints battering of the Buccaneers at the same time took the playoffs quickly out of play, the Cards still think they would have been a tough out in the postseason.
“As much as this stinks to have this feeling right now,” quarterback
The Cardinals wanted that 11th win, Saints outcome be damned, but were whacked by the 49ers (12-4) to the tune of a 17-0 San Francisco lead after a quarter. Yet it came down to the end, tying the game at 20 with 29 seconds left only to see the 49ers respond with a drive of their own and allow Phil Dawson’s 40-yard field goal to win it at the gun.
They made it hard on themselves again against San Francisco, which has now beaten the
“We couldn’t have played any worse in the first half,” wide receiver
Former Cardinals Anquan Boldin did a number on his first NFL team, catching nine passes for 149 yards and a score, but the problems the Cards had in the first meeting weren’t anymore. Running back Frank Gore had just 14 yards on 13 carries after getting 101 yards in October, and the Niners rushed for just 83 against the NFL’s best run defense. Tight end Vernon Davis, while he had a touchdown, had just three catches for 45 yards.
Slowly the Cards climbed back into it, with Palmer (28-for-49 for 407 yards) rallying from an early interception to throw a pair of touchdown passes. Kicker
Unfortunately, his kickoff only went to the goal line, and only a fantastic
“I feel like it shows a lot of character after going down 17-0, coming back like that,” safety
In the moment, the passing game clicked down the stretch. Fitzgerald got his second 100-yard game of the season – both against the 49ers – with six receptions for 113 yards.
Adding to the defensive performance this season, and the Cardinals have something with which to build upon.
“I really hate to see this football team’s season end because it’s been so much fun working with them,” Arians said. “No team stays the same in the NFL anymore.”
It’s hard to know exactly what the Cardinals will look like next season. Already key safety
Then there are all the free agents to be, like linebackers
The offseason will not be simple for General Manager Steve Keim, although he won’t have to worry about finding a coaching staff this offseason. And Keim knows what works now too. Ten wins shows that.
“I hope the organization does everything in its power to keep as many people on this team as possible,” Dockett said. “We have a lot of guys who want to win and a lot of guys who will sacrifice to win. I’m been in this organization for 10 years and there is a great group of guys on this team. I can’t speak on other years but this team wants to win and everybody is willing to do what it takes to win.
“Like B.A. said, this is the beginning. This will be one dangerous team next year.”