GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals will play their first playoff game in six years on the road. It might work in their favor.
The Cardinals concluded a season of struggles at home with a 38-30 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, sending them to Los Angeles for an AFC wild-card game next weekend.
“We haven’t played very well here,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “They wanted it more.”
Arizona’s chances to win the NFC West hinged on beating the Seahawks (6-11) and the San Francisco 49ers knocking off the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers did their part, beating the Rams 27-24 in overtime to earn a playoff spot.
The Cardinals (11-6) couldn’t hold up their end. It wasn’t much of a surprise.
Arizona went 8-1 on the road, but 3-5 at home, losing five straight after winning the first three. The home-field disadvantage means the Cardinals will play the Rams on the road next weekend for their first playoff game since reaching the NFC championship match in 2015.
Arizona beat the Rams 37-20 at home on Oct. 3, but lost 30-23 at Los Angeles on Dec. 13. The Cardinals closed the regular season with four losses in five games.
“Playing on the road has been good to us, so it will be a plus if we can go out and handle business the same way,” said Cardinals defensive back Jalen Thompson, who had an interception.
The season finale played out a lot like the other home losses.
Arizona hurt itself with penalties in key situations, including two that negated 57 yards of receptions by A.J. Green. The Cardinals had trouble stopping the run, allowing Rashaad Penny to rush for 190 yards and a 62-yard touchdown that put the Seahawks up 38-27 with 4:45 left.
Tyler Lockett, who’s had plenty of past success against the Cardinals, broke free for two touchdown catches.
Kyler Murray was frustrated most of the afternoon, both by miscommunications with receivers and an offensive line that allowed five sacks. He finished with 240 yards and a touchdown on 28-of-39 passing.
And that might not be the worst news.
Pro Bowl running back James Conner, questionable for Sunday’s game with a foot injury, took a shot to the ribs on a 19-yard run in the fourth quarter and didn’t return. Running back Chase Edmonds also didn’t play due to rib and toe injuries, and star receiver DeAndre Hopkins has missed four games with a knee injury.
“Obviously, everyone is frustrated with losing,” Murray said. “Just the (missing the) opportunity and losing.”
The Cardinals got off to a great start, scoring on the second snap of the game when Chandler Jones stripped Russell Wilson and Zach Allen rumbled in for a 16-yard scoop and score.
The Seahawks answered quickly, tying it on the next drive when Wilson found Lockett for a 43-yard touchdown. Lockett scored again on a 5-yard pass from Wilson to help the Seahawks go up 17-10 at halftime.
Arizona seemed to find a better rhythm to start the second half, going up 24-17 on Conner’s 20-yard touchdown catch and 1-yard scoring run after Thompson’s interception.
Then things fell apart.
Wilson found Freddie Swain wide open for a 25-yard touchdown and scored himself on a 4-yard run three plays after Arizona punter Andy Lee fumbled while trying to avoid an oncoming rush.
Matt Prater kicked a 36-yard field goal, but the Cardinals couldn’t cover the onside kick — right before the 49ers closed out their win over the Rams.
“I feel like guys are a little more angry coming off a loss like this,” said Cardinal tight end Zach Ertz, who had seven catches for 84 yards. “Guys are upset, a little antsy to get back to work. I would love to be on a two-game winning streak going into the playoffs, but this could be good for us, too.”
So could playing on the road.
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