DENVER – J.J. Watt had a renaissance kind of game Sunday. But he doesn't play offense, and that's where the Cardinals really need help.
The Cardinals were already down Kyler Murray. Then they lost his replacement, Colt McCoy, to a concussion Sunday.
So when Watt addressed his teammates after the 24-15 loss to the Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday – the Cardinals officially eliminated from the playoffs because of it – the veteran defensive end only had cold reality to share.
"I was very honest with the guys after the game," Watt said. "I said, 'Listen, the situation is what it is. We are out of the playoffs, we're in a very difficult spot. You have to be a professional, you have to hold yourself accountable as a man and as a player. You're not only playing these last three games for this team you are putting film on tape for next year as well.'
"It sucks. I don't like having to stand up there and say that. But that's the truth. Because the reality is you're playing for a job for next year. You're playing for the future. It's a (expletive) place to be with three games left, but it's what it is."
What it is is likely a Trace McSorley start behind center when the Cardinals (4-10) host the Buccaneers on Christmas night, with David Blough – who was just signed – as backup.
"Everybody is competitive," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We hate losing and sometimes you're trying harder and it seems like it's getting worse, and that's never easy."
The week will tell on McCoy. Kingsbury said McCoy was in the concussion protocol. But if McSorley is tapped to play, "I feel good about that," McSorley said.
McCoy went out at the beginning of the second half. The Cardinals had a season-low 240 yards of offense – no surprise given the transient nature of their quarterback situation and a Broncos defense that has been good all season.
"We had a bunch to overcome," Kingsbury said.
It looked like it might be enough in the first half, with Watt and the Cardinals defense dominating even with their top three cornerbacks sitting with injury. Watt had three sacks in the first two quarters, and the Cardinals had six total.
But the Broncos (4-10), who snapped a five-game losing streak, finally turned to the running game after the break, rushing for a season-best 168 yards, 130 coming from Latavius Murray's best game of the season. That was enough to generate more points behind backup quarterback Brett Rypien than the Broncos had with Russell Wilson at QB in a full game this season.
The Broncos rushed for 55 yards in the first half.
"They changed their entire gameplan," Watt said. "They did a great job making adjustments. They made changed – they made a lot of changes – and the second half was very different."
The Cardinals only managed one long drive once McSorley came in – ending on a one-yard James Conner touchdown run – but the outcome was never really in doubt. McSorley threw two interceptions, one setting up the Broncos' final score and the other sealing the outcome.
Finding more offense going forward, especially against a desperate Tampa team that remains in first place in the NFC South despite a 6-8 record, is going to be difficult.
But that's what the Cardinals face.
"It's not like we've got guys tapping out," Watt said. "We have guys working and trying and giving effort. We're just … it's just not a good situation."