Cardinals to blame as playoffs slip away with loss to 49ers

So much for the Arizona Cardinals controlling their own destiny.

All they had to do was beat the San Francisco 49ers -- the injury-ravaged, five-win 49ers -- and the Cardinals would have been a game away from going to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. And if they had won and the Chicago Bears lost Sunday, Arizona would’ve clinched this weekend.

But that idea floated out of the roof at State Farm Stadium on Saturday afternoon when the Cardinals lost 20-12 in what was one of the franchise’s most important games in recent memory and, simultaneously, one of its most embarrassing this season.

Now, all the Cardinals can do is hope and pray the Bears lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. If the Bears win, they’ll take over the seventh seed -- and final playoff spot -- based on tiebreakers. And as the Cardinals were once in charge of their own playoff destiny, the Bears will be in charge of theirs.

And Arizona has only itself to blame.

The Cardinals let a third-string quarterback in C.J. Beathard throw for three touchdowns and allowed running back Jeff Wilson Jr. to get a career-high 183 yards on the ground.

Arizona failed to take advantage of breaks and decent field position.

It was 4-for-16 on third down.

Kenyan Drake ran for 45 yards.

DeAndre Hopkins had 48 yards receiving.

Yet, again, Kyler Murray had to carry the Cardinals, running for two first downs on fourth downs, finishing with 75 rushing yards on eight carries. But Murray wasn’t able to do it himself.

In a game the Cardinals should have won -- especially after how they played last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, and especially against a team that has been devastated by injuries on both sides of the ball -- Arizona showed it's not in a position as a franchise to win the games it needs to.

Buy a breakout performance: Linebacker Haason Reddick continued his dominant play since Chandler Jones went down in Week 5. He had another 1.5 sacks against the 49ers and another forced fumble, giving him 12.5 and six for the season. He’s earning his next contract -- whether with the Cardinals or another team.

Troubling trend: The 49ers have figured out a play to score on the Cardinals seemingly every time they face each other. It worked in Week 1 and then worked again Saturday, when Wilson took a pass from Beathard and went 21 yards to score. It was the same play -- a running back running a route from the backfield and then cutting inside -- that Raheem Mostert scored on in Week 1. San Francisco also scored on the play in a game last season. The Cardinals can’t seem to stop it.

QB breakdown: Murray threw for 234 yards with an interception on 29-for-45 passing. Murray had a career-high 27 attempts in the first half.