The message wasn't a surprise. Calais Campbell has been calling every game a playoff game and none of the players in the locker room were confused at exactly what was at stake Sunday. Still, when Bruce Arians brought his team together after the rainy loss in Miami and said out loud that it likely doomed its playoff hopes, "it was terrible to hear," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "I don't think that's set in yet."
Perhaps it was its downfall, but this team never really gave serious thought to the idea it wouldn't make the playoffs. There are many reasons for that, one being that under Arians, this team has never been in this predicament. In his first season, the Cardinals won seven of eight down the stretch and went into the last weekend still with a slim chance to make the playoffs. The past two years, they had clinched playoff spots right around now.
No reason to belabor the point right now. The Cardinals do have three games left to play, and those last two — road trips to Seattle and Los Angeles — aren't just any games. Those remain personal. Motivation is there.
But everyone knew the expectations of this season. Falling short of even making the playoffs wasn't supposed to be part of the equation.
-- We will see what the week brings, but left tackle D.J. Humphries left with a concussion and right tackle Ulrick John was injured on the Cards' last offensive play. Not sure who might be left to play if both are too banged up to go. Earl Watford indeed was reinstalled as right guard in place of John Wetzel, but Wetzel ended up having to play anyway. Injuries have just torn up the offensive line.
Defensively, the Cardinals already were iffy on the return of Tyrann Mathieu and now Tyvon Branch may be down, and perhaps cornerback Marcus Cooper.
-- The rain is not why the Cardinals lost, but it came down at times incredibly hard and it was weird how it did seem to kick up when the Cards had the ball.
"I swear to God it felt like every time we touched the ball it started raining," wide receiver Brittan Golden said.
-- Speaking of Golden, he got his first career TD reception, but he actually went in to the game for a play before that — at deep safety. Cooper and Branch were out and safety Tony Jefferson got banged up on a play and had to leave the field for a snap. Golden has practiced at times with the secondary, but this was the first time he actually went out there playing deep centerfield on a run play. And what went through his mind?
"Please don't break that tackle," Golden said with a grin.
-- It was probably fitting that the loss that basically ended their hopes came in large part because of special teams woes. This week it was the kicker Chandler Catanzaro and long snapper Aaron Brewer. Couple of high snaps doomed two extra points, one of which was returned for two points. Add in the missed field goal of 41 yards, and that's a seven-point swing in a three-point game. Killer.
Yet Cat Man mixed in a 56-yard field goal that I will admit I was shocked Arians called for, a boot that was the third-longest in franchise history — behind the 60-yarder he had in Buffalo earlier this season and the 61-yarder Jay Feely had against the Bills in Arizona in 2012.
-- Sunday may be the first time in NFL history both teams faced a third-and-at-least-33.
-- Larry Fitzgerald was targeted nine times Sunday but had only three catches for a scant 12 yards. He has 91 receptions this season but so many of late have been for so few yards that his per-catch average has sunk to less than 10 yards a reception — 9.8 to be exact.
-- The rain made the downfield passing game terrible. Michael Floyd had 18 yards on two catches — and those were the most by any wide receiver. Fitz had his 12, Golden nine and J.J. Nelson eight. Smoke Brown played but wasn't targeted.
-- Kerwynn Williams did well in the wildcat. He took three snaps as a "quarterback," running each time, gaining 34 yards. The Cardinals had 175 yards rushing as a team and averaged 6.5 yards a carry. But with the turnovers and the sideways special teams, it wasn't enough.
-- Three games left. We'll see how the Cardinals play it out.