Monday night's primetime playoff contest between the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium was a disappointing letdown. The Cardinals were masterfully outplayed and outcoached to the tune of a 34-11 final score. Starting quarterback Kyler Murray made his postseason debut in an uber-disappointing performance, completing just 19-of-34 passing attempts for a lowly 137 yards and two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six on an extremely ill-advised throw from his own end zone. Murray struggled behind an offensive line that failed to protect him consistently. Murray experienced several low points with his decision-making, accuracy, and ability within the pocket. The Cardinals ultimately lacked the appearance of a squad that was prepared to play their first playoff game since 2015 and the first in the Kliff Kingsbury era. The Cardinals lacked general energy, urgency, and emotion. It was the continuation of a consistent and concerning theme that first emerged in 2020 and returned throughout the second half of this year's regular season. Despite beginning the campaign 7-0, the Cardinals crawled to an 11-6 finish by losing four of their final five regular-season contests. Kingsbury has once again failed to see his Cardinals peak when it matters most and should enter the 2022 season on the hot seat. The disappointing close to their 2021 season was all too familiar for Cardinals fans, who witnessed their squad miss the playoffs a year ago after finishing 3-6 following the Week 8 bye. Kingsbury's teams continue to fade down the stretch, and it's consistently occurred since he embarked on his head coaching career back at Texas Tech in 2013. In his nine-year professional span, Kingsbury's teams have finished an unbelievably dreadful 16-43 from the eighth game forward. Since landing in the NFL, Kingsbury's Cardinals have never finished better than this year's disappointing mark of 4-6. In 2019, Kingsbury's first as an NFL head coach, the Cardinals finished an abysmal 2-7. At Texas Tech, the Red Raiders never finished better than 2-3 throughout the second half of their campaign. The 42-year-old Kingsbury must spend the offseason looking in the mirror and asking some extremely difficult questions regarding his overall coaching tactics and ability to motivate and prepare his team as the postseason swiftly approaches. Kingsbury's teams routinely peak at the beginning of the season, a path every coach around the world would prefer to avoid. Improvement is the name of the game in December and January, and Kingsbury hasn't quite figured out that part of the equation yet. The Cardinals now enter an extremely difficult offseason where question marks must be asked of the entire group. Offseason veteran acquisitions were made in the form of J.J. Watt, A.J. Green, and James Conner in hopes of boosting leadership and morale within a locker room that was desperate to avoid yet another disappointing finish. It made no difference in the end, as second-half success remains elusive for Kingsbury. Kingsbury will likely receive a chance to coach the Cardinals in 2022, but the San Antonio, Texas native is on the shortest of leashes. It's a statement that would have befuddled many following Arizona's 7-0 start, but alas, we're unfortunately analyzing yet another late-season Cardinals meltdown. A division title may not be enough to rescue Kingsbury should the Cardinals make yet another first-round exit in the successive campaign. Postseason success must arrive in a hurry, or Kingsbury may ultimately find himself on the unemployment line.
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