Really, there was nothing bizarre, shocking or surprising about what took place in Arizona on Monday night. There's an explanation for the Cardinals' coughing up 20-point halftime and 13-point fourth-quarter leads to the Bears. It's rather simple, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they're the Cardinals and that's their history and they're cursed and they're jinxed.
(Although I must admit that for some reason, no matter how many times I've tried, I've never been able to turn that franchise around on Madden, and I'm a pretty good virtual GM. But I digress )
It's the offensive line. News flash: It's really bad. You don't have to be Ron Jaworski to see that.
Chicago's comeback was no miracle and had nothing to do with destiny. Choke jobs -- yes, even this big -- happen when you have an O-line as poor as the Cardinals'. There's an old saying in football: It all starts up front. That's where it ends, too. The Cardinals can't put people away or have any kind of killer instinct because their offensive line is killing them. Arizona failed to run out the clock because it can't run the football. We know it isn't the running back's fault. The line can't block. It's that simple.
Monday night's game never should have come down to special teams, the Bears' Devin Hester's winning 83-yard punt return touchdown or Neil Rackers' missing a 41-yard field goal. The only reason Chicago was even in the game in the second half is because the Cardinals' offense, specifically the line, kept the Bears in it. Arizona failed to keep the clock running because the line can't keep Edgerrin James from being hit in the backfield.
The blame for both of the Bears' defensive touchdowns should be placed at the feet of Arizona's offensive line, which, by the way, featured a fourth starting combination in six games.
The rally got started when Mark Anderson came unblocked off the right side, blindsiding Matt Leinart and forcing a fumble, which Mike Brown returned for a touchdown to make the score 23-10. How on earth do you leave a 4-3 defensive end with a team-leading 5½ sacks unblocked? It looked as if right tackle Oliver Ross missed Anderson but apparently it was not Ross' fault; there was a breakdown in communication and therefore a breakdown in protection.
I thought the line did a poor job all game protecting Leinart. He's just so smart and gets rid of the ball so quickly that he makes up for it.
And then there was James' fumble that Charles Tillman returned for a touchdown that made the score 23-17 with five minutes left. James, as he did all game, ran into a wall and was being mauled by a group of Bears when Brian Urlacher made a great play in stripping the ball. Maybe James, who has had big fumbles in his career, should have done a better job protecting the football. Or maybe the officials should have blown the play dead when it was clear James' progress was stopped. I say somebody should have been blocked on the play. Urlacher said after the game that nobody blocked him all night. He's only the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
If I were the Cardinals, more than blowing a 20-point lead, because, you know, teams do choke, I'd be more embarrassed that a four-time 1,500-yard rusher just had the worst rushing performance in league history: 36 carries, 55 yards. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that's the most carries in league history by a player who did not average at least two yards a rush.
James is averaging 2.7 yards a carry. The Cardinals are wasting $30 million on James if that's all they're going to get from him. He has 398 yards rushing this season, and I'll bet no fewer than 350 of them were on his own. James wants the ball late but can't do anything with it. He knows how to run. How many ways can I say it? It's the line.
And don't make the excuse that the Cardinals were running against eight- and nine-man fronts and the Bears knew they were running. Was that the first time in league history that a defense stacked the run because it was behind by so much and the opposition was trying to run out the clock? Of course not. It's what you want at the end of a game. It's what you want when you have a rookie quarterback, no matter how polished, in there -- a running game that other teams must respect.
The Cards simply left too much time for the Bears, just as they did for the Chiefs the week before in blowing a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and a 20-10 lead in the fourth. Because James is going backward on first down, Leinart throws in second-and-long and third-and-long situations in the fourth quarter, and he isn't going to complete every pass.
Here are the Cards' fourth-quarter possessions against Kansas City: Three plays, punt. Four plays, punt. One play, interception. Six plays, punt. Ten plays, missed field goal. Kansas City wins, 23-20.
Here are Arizona's fourth-quarter possessions Monday night: Six plays, punt. Three plays, punt. Three plays, punt. Two plays, fumble, touchdown. Five plays, punt. Nine plays, missed field goal.
Arizona can't sustain drives in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals must throw to keep possession. The line hurt the Cardinals early, too. The lack of a running game kept Leinart in long-yardage situations. The line committed three false start penalties. At home.
This whole idea about the Cards' being haunted by their past? It's that naughty B-word Dennis Green used in his postgame tirade. In other words, baloney. All Leinart did at USC was win. Edgerrin James is a winner. Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Wilson, Bertrand Berry -- they all have winning attitudes. Dennis Green is a winner. He turned the Vikings around. It's not the culture in Arizona. Not anymore.
Green just can't seem to fix the offensive line despite shuffling players and changing coaches (he's on O-line coach No. 3 since he's been in Arizona). The Cardinals could have held on and won Monday night and they'd still have the same problem.
Only when the line gets fixed will Arizona cease to be the same old Cardinals. Their coughing up sure wins has nothing to do with karma or ghosts. It's their inability to block anybody that haunts them.
Michael Smith is a senior writer for ESPN.com.