CHICAGO – Greg Dortch had a 40-yard kickoff return to set up a field goal, and turned in a special zig-zag 38-yard touchdown catch to give the Cardinals a Christmas Eve chance on Sunday at Soldier Field.
But later, on a deep pass on fourth-and-6 and the Cardinals down eight points is what stuck with the wide receiver after decompressing about 45 minutes after his team lost to the Bears, 27-16.
"It just sucks," Dortch said. "I just wish I could've made another play for the team."
It's been a frequent refrain for the Cardinals (3-12) this season. There were no Christmas miracles to salvage a game in which the Cards fell behind 21-0. They aren't built for such rallies. They aren't built to overcome 250 yards rushing from the other side, which is what the Bears (6-9) did behind running back Khalil Herbert (112) and quarterback Justin Fields (97 on just nine carries, most of them scrambles.)
Coach Jonathan Gannon reiterated a lot of what he has said after losses, that he appreciated his team's fight. He insisted it doesn't bother him to deliver the same message.
"Not at all," Gannon said. "Because it's the truth. I know they prepare the right way."
The Cardinals benefitted from a first-half departure from Bears tight end Cole Kmet, who had four catches for 107 yards and drew a key penalty before having to leave with a knee injury. And star wide receiver D.J. Moore was a non-factor (three catches, 18 yards.)
But the defense never quite figured out how to handle Fields, whose passing day was OK but whose play extension work "killed us," Gannon said.
"There are things we could've done better," linebacker Dennis Gardeck said. "He's a great football player. You can't have both – you can't have an explosive player like that who is so dynamic, and also not be executing on your side of the ball."
Offensively, the Cardinals still can't find consistency. Running back James Conner had 112 total yards and a touchdown and Dortch made his plays. Kyler Murray's numbers looked OK – 24 for 38, 250 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers – but they were filled out late and the first-half slumber hurt.
The wide receivers were more involved, with Dortch and Rondale Moore combining for 75 yards on four catches, but Michael Wilson was catch-less for a second straight game and tight end Trey McBride could only generate 31 yards on his six catches (and took some hellacious hits in the process.)
"We still have things we need to work on," Dortch said of the Kyler-to-wideout match. "We're trying to find that connection."
The Cardinals won the turnover battle, 1-0, on a Jalen Thompson interception, but their record dropped to 2-6 in such games.
Gannon briefly talked about the tough game coming in a week, when the Cardinals must play in Philadelphia – where Gannon coached last season and a place that has many emotions for the Cardinals head coach.
They definitely can't have a slow start there.
"Do we have a sense of urgency?" Murray said. "Everybody knows the situation we're in, you know, as far as our record and stuff like that. But I've seen no quit as far as the urgency goes. It's a team full of grinders and we work hard throughout the week understand what we're about what we're trying to be about around here, moving forward."
Gannon hasn't announced his Christmas wish list at any point, but coming up with another win is on there. One in Philadelphia would be a nice one for that.
"I know they fight, I know they battle," Gannon said of his team. "We've got to coach and play better."