GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Give this to the Arizona Cardinals — they're still playing hard.
Even though they were out of the playoff race and down to third-string quarterback Trace McSorley, the Cardinals built a 10-point lead Sunday night before fading in the fourth quarter and losing to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-16 in overtime.
The Cardinals have two games remaining this season — both on the road — but the only real remaining storyline is the future of coach Kliff Kingsbury, who has a 28-35-1 record during his tenure.
It's unclear whether the 43-year-old Kingsbury will return for a fifth season. The organization is in a bit of disarray at the moment with GM Steve Keim having taken a medical leave of absence, capping a steady stream of unwanted headlines.
Kingsbury has remained stoic through it all. He's known for getting to the facility before 4 a.m. and his work ethic has never been questioned. The Cardinals have also had an avalanche of injuries this season, including losing franchise quarterback Kyler Murray to a knee injury earlier this month.
The close loss to the Bucs was another indication the Cardinals are still playing for Kingsbury, even though they've now lost five straight games. Veteran defensive lineman J.J. Watt had two tackles for a loss against the Bucs, one week after a three-sack performance against the Broncos.
“He’s been tremendous," Kingsbury said of Watt. "Whether it’s leading on the practice field or in the locker room, talking about the situation we’re in and continuing to play like he plays, it’s definitely motivating for the players and staff the way he’s been playing.”
The Cardinals face the Falcons and 49ers over the final two weeks.
If Sunday's loss was any indication, the Cardinals will still play hard. It remains to be seen if they'll play well enough to win.
“Just go all out. You have nothing to lose," Cardinals linebacker Zaven Collins said. "We’re not making the playoffs, so we’re just fighting for everyone, our organization, fight for yourself, and what you put on film.
"And give effort and not give up, no matter what the situation is, 3-3 or 60-0 you have to keep going, keep fighting and just put that out there.”
The Cardinals appear to have the nucleus of a good defense heading into next season. Young linebackers Collins and Isaiah Simmons continue to be productive and cornerback Marco Wilson intercepted Brady twice. Safety Budda Baker was voted to another Pro Bowl. Arizona will have to address its pass rush during the offseason, whether it's re-signing Watt and Zach Allen or looking elsewhere.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Cardinals have one of the best players in the NFL in receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but he's not useful if the Cardinals can't get him the ball. Hopkins had just one catch for 4 yards even though he was targeted 10 times.
“I’ve got to do a better job adjusting and getting him the football because he makes the whole thing go,” Kingsbury said. “I thought we had some opportunities.”
WR Greg Dortch continued his breakout season with 10 catches for 98 yards. He also ran three times for 25 yards. Injuries have forced the 24-year-old into a bigger role this season and he has taken advantage of the opportunity with 422 yards receiving this season, which ranks third on the team.
“He’s one of those guys that’s a quarterback’s best friend,” McSorley said.
LB Markus Golden has just 2 1/2 sacks this season after having 11 in 2021.
DT Trysten Hill (knee) was carted off the field during the first half and will miss at least one week. ... CB Byron Murphy Jr. was placed on injured reserve last week and is done for the year. ... NFL Network reported Baker fractured his shoulder Sunday and will miss the final two games. ... QB Colt McCoy (concussion) is still trying to clear protocol. Kingsbury said McCoy will start on Sunday vs. the Falcons if he's healthy.
1 — The Cardinals won just one game at home this season, beating the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 20.
The Cardinals travel to face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. It's the first of two road games to end the season.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL