The end of an NFL season can be cold, cruel and abrupt. After it's over, we have ample time to overthink what went wrong and why it had to end.
You can twist yourself into pretzels trying to decipher clues, read between the lines and stitch together seemingly unrelated events to explain the pain.
Since the Cardinals 2020 season ended, we've rightfully tried to figure out how a team that started 5-2 and 2-0 in the division ended up as one of the most disappointing teams in the conference.
Was it feasting on an easy early season schedule? Was it Kliff Kingsbury's unwillingness or inability to make the proper offensive adjustments? Was it the injuries to Chandler Jones, Corey Peters and Dennis Gardeck? Was it the underachievement of 8th overall pick Isaiah Simmons? Was the hype around Kyler Murray too great? Was it the fact the Cardinals insisted on wearing the worst uniforms in the NFL?
But it's usually the simplest answer that explains the end and that may be the case with the Cardinals too.
Recently, Kyler Murray answered some questions after being named the Snickers "Hungriest Player of the Year"
Kyler was asked what the best game of the year was. His answer may tell us everything:
"KM: I’d probably have to say the first one against the [San Francisco] 49ers. That was our first game of the year and we pulled out a victory. We had a big fourth quarter in that one."
And there it is. The Cardinals beating San Francisco may have set this team up with too much confidence. Sure, they ended up losing to Carolina and Detroit shortly after but the Cardinals may have felt like they arrived after beating the defending NFC Champs in Week 1.
Remember when in 2016 when the Cardinals were coming off their NFC Championship game loss? It was a Week1 loss to New England that Bruce Arians would retroactively point to as the game that undid their entire season that year.
The same could be true for the win in San Francisco in 2020. Instead of a loss demoralizing the team as happened in 2016, it was a win over an unexpectedly bad 49ers team that may have spoiled the season before it even started, setting the Cardinals on a course of over confidence and false accomplishment.
Or it could've been Kliff Kingsbury. Either or.