The Cardinals' regular-season finale Sunday was not like years prior; a significant accomplishment seemed within reach for the franchise. A victory over Seattle on Sunday with San Francisco providing help - by beating Los Angeles in Week 18 - would allow the Cardinals to clinch the NFC West title for the first time in six seasons.
The 49ers won, but the Cardinals did not.
Any loss is hard, especially one that costs the division crown.
"It's pretty disappointing," safety Jalen Thompson said. "We didn't come out and do our jobs the way we should've."
The division title would've guarantee the Cardinals a home playoff game. Sunday's results gave the Cardinals the No.5 seed, meaning their playoff journey will consist of road games, beginning on "Monday Night Football" against the Rams at So Fi Stadium.
But the Cardinals have been exceptionally good on the road this season, with just one loss. The Cardinals compiled a 3-5 record while playing at State Farm Stadium this season. It's why quarterback Kyler Murray admitted that a road postseason could be a blessing in disguise.
"At this point, I feel like maybe," Murray said with a chuckle. "It's another opportunity I'm excited about. I haven't been in the playoffs since I've been in the league (2019), and this team hasn't been to the playoffs in a while (2015). It's an opportunity for this team to do something special."
There were some bright performances under the open rooftop on Sunday. Tight end Zach Ertz led the Cardinals' receivers with 84 yards on seven catches, averaging 12.4 yards per catch.
James Conner continued his Pro Bowl year with 93 total yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game with a ribs injury. Conner holds the second-most total (18) and rushing (15) touchdowns in franchise history, trailing former Cardinals running back David Johnson.
While stats and milestones are worth recognizing, the team eyes the bigger picture with the postseason set to begin.
"Everyone is now 0-and-0 right now," Ertz said. "We have to focus on improving from this week to next week. We're not dwelling on ending the season with a loss. It's a new point, and we got to find a way to win a football game (Monday)."
The Cardinals head into the NFC Wild Card showdown focused on getting back on track.
The mindset remains the same.
1-0 every day.
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