All franchises have them, and all fans hate them – the heartbreaking moments that all professional sports teams face, commonly on a season-by-season basis. No team is safe from these knockdown moments, some coming at the worst times possible while others leave you puzzled for the rest of that season, not quite understanding how it was even possible for what just happened to have occurred.
For the Arizona Cardinals, their history, dating back to their days as the St. Louis Cardinals, have been filled with positive moments and heartbreaks – that actually may be why they have been around for as long as they have.
Looking at the most heartbreaking moments for this franchise in their history, the three moments that this piece will focus on happened after 2000, so most fans should be (unfortunately) very aware of these moments, and some may even remember exactly what they were doing when they happened.
Dennis Green’s infamous 2006 rant after a loss
For the late Dennis Green, his manner in which he spoke about his team to the media was, refreshing is not the correct term to use, but eye-opening, in ways that not many spoke at the time. In 2006, Green was the head coach of the Cardinals at the time, and they were playing host to the Chicago Bears in a Monday Night showdown out in the desert.
While the one-win Cardinals had struggled through the first five games of the season and had recorded five defeats, they quickly jumped out to a 20-point lead after having forced the Bears to cough up the ball six times through two-plus quarters. But, aided by no offensive touchdowns (field goal, two fumble return TDs, and a punt return TD), the Bears fought their way back into the game and set themselves up to win.
AZ had a chance to win it right before the horn, but kicker Neil Rackers missed a field goal, which ended up earning the Cardinals their fifth loss of the season and this fruitful statement from Green before running into the locker room.
“They are who we thought they were!” Green yelled. “And we let ‘em off the hook!”
Safe to say the ‘06 season is not a memorable one for Cardinals fans.
Super Bowl XLIII
2:37 is all that stood in the way of the Cardinals earning their first-ever Super Bowl win in franchise history. But both Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes had other plans.
After connecting for a few passes during that final infamous drive, Holmes somehow managed to keep his toes tucked inside the white boundary line in the back corner of the end zone and hauled in an absolute prayer from Big Ben, pushing the Pittsburgh Steelers back out in front and ripping the dreams of the Cardinals right out from underneath their beaks.
The 70,000+ fans saw one of the better SBs in recent memory play out at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, and while Larry Fitzgerald had rumbled in from 64 yards out to give the Cardinals their first – and ultimately only – lead of the game, it was plays like the Holmes TD catch and the James Harrison 100-yard INT return that showed Arizona that it just was not their day.
Not having really come all that close since then to taking another stab at winning a SB, the Cardinals will need to stew over that 2009 game that was all but wrapped up.
How bad can losing by 58 points feel? Just ask Arizona
The most recent entry to this list, having happened in 2012, the Cardinals had jumped out to a surprising 4-0 start to the season under HC Ken Whisenhunt, but everything hit the fan Week 5, which started a streak of nine consecutive losses. But the worst loss of them all came in Wk 14 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Led by QBs John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, AZ got absolutely spanked by their divisional rivals, 58-0. Yes, they lost by 58 points.
Eight turnovers (four interceptions by Skelton and four fumbles) paints a very efficient picture of AZ’s inefficiencies that day. The defensive allowed SEA to rush for 284 yards on 42 carries (6.8 YPC) and 4 TDs while throwing for another 216.
While the Cardinals did end their losing streak the following week by beating the equally-struggling Detroit Lions 38-10, the fate of Whisenhunt was sealed, as he was fired (Bruce Arians eventually became the new HC) and Steve Keim was promoted to general manager.
Even with the type of success this team had to start their year, they obviously did not everything put together very well, as the season ended on such a low note, it made the entire year look like the front office had put makeup on a pig and hoped no one would notice.