“All you gotta do is get in.”
Those were Kyler Murray’s words Saturday night following the Cardinals’ third straight loss, a 22-16 defeat at the hands of the visiting Indianapolis Colts. It was also Arizona’s fifth loss in its last eight games following a 7-0 start, but sometimes in the NFL, teams really can win for losing.
Take Murray and the Cardinals, for example. Thanks to the Vikings’ 30-23 loss to the Rams on Sunday, the Cardinals (10-5) officially clinched a playoff berth and will be returning to the postseason for the first time since 2015 and for the 11th time in franchise history.
Arizona could have gotten in with a win in any of its past three games, but once the 49ers lost to the Titans on Thursday night, three scenarios arose in which the Cardinals could back into the postseason with a loss to the Colts and a little help from the outside. One was the Vikings losing. Another would have been if the Eagles had lost to the Giants. The third would be if the Saints lose to the Dolphins on Monday night.
The Cardinals didn’t need to wait that long to find out. The Rams (11-4) did them a favor with Sunday’s win in Minneapolis, which was aided by big days from Sony Michel and Cooper Kupp and a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown by Brandon Powell.
It’s not how the Cardinals wanted to mark their return to the playoffs for the first time in six years, which ends the longest active playoff drought in the NFC. But now they are in and, as Murray was explaining in his postgame news conference, anything can happen once you get in the playoffs.
“The good thing about it is that we’re 10-5 still – all you gotta do is get in,” he said. “That’s all you gotta do. At the end of the day, we don’t want to get in playing the way we’re playing. We want to go in playing and feeling good about what we’re doing.
“The good thing about it is it’s fixable. We have to look ourselves in the mirror and stop making these mistakes, because that game was very winnable. But like I said, good teams don’t do that. Right now, we’re not doing what we need to do.”
Saturday night’s loss featured 11 penalties for 85 yards, a bad snap that led to a safety, two missed field goals and an extra point and too many chunk plays of 20 yards or longer allowed by the Cardinals’ defense. The loss not only dropped Arizona to the No.5 seed in the NFC, at least temporarily, but it also allowed the Rams to seize control of the NFC West.
The Rams haven’t won it yet, but it will be theirs if they keep winning and the Cardinals falter in their final two regular-season games – at the Cowboys next Sunday and at home against the Seahawks.
“How we started the season and these (mistakes) weren’t showing up and now they’re showing up,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “The answers are in that locker room and those coach’s offices and we’ve got to figure it out.”
The Cardinals can improve their playoff positioning if they manage to win out, possibly avoiding have to open the postseason on the road. But again, they’re going to need help from the outside for that to happen as well.
“Guys have to really lock in these last two weeks,” running back Chase Edmonds said. “I know it’s easy to say that, but it’s crunch time right now.”
With so many issues to correct and mistakes to eliminate, Kingsbury didn’t care to address the idea of the Cardinals’ possible playoff-clinching scenarios following Saturday night’s loss.
“I don’t think anybody is looking at that,” he said. “We’re looking at ourselves, looking in the mirror, and trying to figure out what we have to do because right now, it’s not good enough to be the team we know we can be.”
Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live on Fox Sports 910-AM every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: The Cardinals clinched a playoff berth thanks to Rams' win over Vikes