As the Cardinals' buses pulled into Soldier Field Sunday and the gun-metal gray skies started to open up, Christian Kirk and the other offensive pass catchers knew the rain would be a factor.
"You're a little disappointed," Kirk admitted, "because you have some foreshadowing of what the game is about to look like."
Kirk wasn't wrong. By the time the windy, cold, rainy game was over, while the Cardinals won, 33-22, quarterback Kyler Murray had thrown only 15 passes, and completed only 11 of them – and this on a day when DeAndre Hopkins returned to look for his own targets in addition to Kirk, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore and tight end Zach Ertz.
"That's not what I'm accustomed to doing," coach Kliff Kingsbury said with a smile on Monday. "I don't think anybody was. We had a lot of angry wideouts and tight ends, and I understood it."
Added Kingsbury on Wednesday, "What was good was the next night a team threw it three times, so it really got me off the hook. You could point to that and say, 'It could be worse.' "
No, the Cardinals didn't pull back as hard as the Patriots did during their horribly windy win at Buffalo, when New England's receiving corps served as blockers basically every play. But it still was odd to see Green not have a pass in his direction until the fourth quarter, and see the overall stats by the end of the game.
Of Murray's 15 passes, 10 of them went to his main pass catchers – three for Kirk (one catch), two each to Ertz (one catch), Hopkins (two catches) and Moore (two catches, and one for Green (one catch.) The other five targets went to running backs James Conner and Eno Benjamin, along with backup tight end Demetrius Harris.
"As receivers, we believe we can have a big impact on the game," Kirk said. "Obviously, at the end of the day, as long as you get the 'W' we're all happy, but selfishly, for us as receivers, we feel a little disappointed. It's nothing Kliff or anyone else can dictate, but we're ultimate competitors."
Kirk smiled as he said it. The Cardinals, in part because of turnovers, didn't have a ton of offensive plays either and still posted 33 points in the game. This isn't a situation where the pass catchers aren't getting the ball and the offense is struggling mightily because of it.
"We don't want to play that style of football consistently if we can help it," Kingsbury said, in a massive understatement.
Murray wasn't thrilled with the lack of passes either, strictly from the standpoint of shaking off his rust. He hadn't played in a game since late October.
"The weather, it was unfortunate because I didn't get to throw it as much as I would have liked to and get those reps downfield," Murray said after the game.
It didn't stop Murray from throwing a pair of touchdown passes. One was an amazing catch by Conner on a bad rain-wrecked pass in the flat, but the other was a gorgeous 20-yard dime to Hopkins, who made an equally excellent catch and toe drag.
The Kyler-to-Hop connection was a reminder of what those two bring to the offense when they are healthy. And not knocked off course because of the elements – elements they won't have to deal with the balance of the regular season with all five games left played in enclosed stadiums.
Kingsbury understood the frustration of his pass catchers. All the work put in all week in the meeting rooms and the practice fields perfecting a passing game plan that can't be used.
Then again, this wide receiver group, as deep as it is this season, was always going to have limitations on how much each guy was necessarily going to see the ball in any given game.
"That's just how this offense works, schematically, how Kliff runs the offense and the diversity that we have," Kirk said. "The creativity part of it as well, we're not just going to line up and say we're going to throw this guy the ball 15 times and this guy 10 times and have the running back get 20 carries. That's not how this offense works.
"There is so much creativity and mismatches and who we are playing that week. We all understand that. Guys will be happy with winning games and taking this thing as far as we can go."
Images of selected Cardinals player cleats that will be worn Monday night for "My Cause, My Cleats."