KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Before a question was asked, Steve Wilks made it clear.
"There are no moral victories in this game," the Cardinals coach said, after his team lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 26-14, Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
He isn't wrong. The Cardinals sacked Patrick Mahomes five times and held the Chiefs to more than 10 points less than their season average. They ran the ball and got David Johnson involved. They had the ball down six points in the fourth quarter with a recipe to move the ball – only to have rookie Josh Rosen's attempted screen pass intercepted, all but undercutting upset hopes.
But it wasn't enough, and that's all that seeped from the locker room after.
"That's not what we're here for. We're not paid for moral victories," safety Antoine Bethea said. "We're paid to get 'W's."
The improbable battle had been promised all week. Cornerback Patrick Peterson reminded everyone the game still had to be played despite a giant point-spread. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald – who went catchless in the first half before getting six for 50 yards in the second half to surpass Terrell Owens with the second-most receiving yards in NFL history – talked about how the Cards had no pressure on themselves.
The Cardinals (2-7) got an early win with the coin flip, the first time all season the Chiefs (9-1) didn't win the flip. But the Cards deferred, and it only took two Mahomes bombs to Tyreek Hill – one of 38 yards, one of 37 – to score a touchdown less than a minute into the game.
Wilks said Peterson needed better technique on the first Hill catch, and the second needed a safety overlapping on the coverage. Nevertheless, "we responded after that," Wilks said.
The five sacks on Mahomes -- two from Chandler Jones and one each from Benson Mayowa, Rodney Gunter and Josh Bynes – were three more than any other game Mahomes has played in his brief career. Mahomes had two TD passes to set the Chiefs franchise record for touchdown throws in a season (31 in just 10 games), but the Cardinals wouldn't go away.
The Chiefs had 330 yards, a season-low, in addition to a season-low in points.
"We were too inconsistent," defensive tackle Corey Peters said. "At times we were able to do what we were trying to do. At times, we gave up the big play, which was one of the keys that we had talked about to this game. We gave them too much, especially at the beginning of the game."
Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich fed Johnson early and often. Johnson had a season-high 98 yards rushing on 21 carries and another 85 yards on seven catches, as the Cards were able to grind out a pair of long touchdown drives.
But it was the one time Rosen couldn't get it to Johnson that ultimately doomed the Cardinals.
Rosen had just found Johnson on a 23-yard pass out to the Arizona 40-yard line with 12 minutes left, and the Arrowhead crowd had a collective nervous murmur. But Rosen tried to hit Johnson on a screen pass on the next play and linebacker Justin Houston made a leaping grab at the line of scrimmage for an interception.
"He made a great play," Rosen said. "But I shouldn't have let him be in position to make that play."
The Chiefs needed only four plays to go 31 yards for the game-clinching touchdown. After that, needing to throw every down, the broken-down offensive line collapsed. Guard Mike Iupati (back) was inactive, and guard Justin Pugh left the game after hurt his knee. Rosen was under pressure much of the game anyway, but the dam broke.
Rosen was sacked five times himself, and officially hit 13 times – and that doesn't include the pressures he faced otherwise.
"It's tough when the pocket is collapsing on you," Wilks said.
Rosen finished 22-of-49 for 209 yards, a touchdown pass to Johnson and two total interceptions. He was beat up ("I'm fine," he said) but had a chance to pull it out late. All of the Cardinals did.
Not that it really matters to them.
"Cam Newton said it a few years ago: Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser," Fitzgerald said. "You never 'handle' losses. That's not something you ever get used to. It's never something I'll allow myself to be accustomed to."
Images from the Week 10 matchup in Kansas City