Cardinals miss division crown, first 12-win season
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Bruce Arians made a quick point to the Arizona Cardinals to forget the frustrations of this one and prepare for a new season, get ready for the playoffs.
No “moping” on the plane, he instructed.
Ryan Lindley completed touchdown passes of 20 and 41 yards to Michael Floyd in the first half, but couldn’t deliver late and threw two of his three interceptions after halftime in a 20-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
The No. 5 seed Cardinals (11-5) missed the franchise’s first 12-win season and the NFC West title, too, as defending Super Bowl champion Seattle beat St. Louis 20-6 to win the division and the overall top seed. The Cardinals play at Carolina next Saturday, and Arians has been optimistic quarterback Drew Stanton will be back next week from a sprained right knee that got infected.
“It is about short-term memory right now. What we did before doesn’t matter anymore, win or lose,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “It is time to just kick it into another gear. This is my first time in the playoffs. I have heard it is a whole other beast.”
Floyd finished with eight catches for 153 yards. Arians went with Lindley under center after he originally planned to start rookie Logan Thomas before changing his mind.
Lindley threw his first career touchdown pass on his 229th attempt with a 20-yard completion to Floyd on Arizona’s opening drive, but was picked off by Craig Dahl on the last-ditch one that began with 2 minutes left.
“The whole team expects me to make big plays for us,” Floyd said. “Whenever the ball is in my area, I expect to come down with it.”
Lindley was 23 for 39 for 316 yards with two TDs, two sacks and the three picks as Arizona lost for the fifth time in six games to the Niners, who missed the playoffs.
“This whole season’s over,” Arians said. “It’s a whole new one now. I told them right now, I don’t want anybody moping on the plane. It’s 0-0, and we’re determined.”
The 49ers played their final game under coach Jim Harbaugh, who got doused with a celebratory shower before announcing he would be departing without saying where amid unconfirmed reports he’s Michigan-bound.
“I’m forever proud to have been a part of this,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been a tremendous four years, it’s been a pleasure to work and serve for this organization.”
Colin Kaepernick threw a go-ahead 3-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Miller late in the third quarter and Frank Gore capped another 1,000-yard season with 144 yards on 25 carries.
Anquan Boldin caught a 76-yard TD pass against his former team and went over 1,000 yards receiving. Gore reached 1,000 yards rushing for the eighth time in 10 NFL seasons with the 49ers (8-8).
Gore provided a bright spot at $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium, where San Francisco finished 4-4. Gore, with his family in attendance and wearing his No. 21 jersey, became the 11th player in NFL history with eight 1,000-yard seasons and 20th player to reach 11,000 yards rushing.
Arizona’s defense will have to regroup in a hurry to prepare for Cam Newton and Co. The Cardinals struggled to generate enough pressure on Kaepernick, who had time to throw and also ran for 63 yards.
“Obviously, we did limp into the playoffs the last five games,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “It is a fresh season and a fresh start. We couldn’t wait to get out of that regular season and start this postseason. We wanted to win this game and go in with some momentum but at the same token, we have the chance to play again next Saturday.”
NOTES: The Cardinals snapped a two-game streak without a touchdown. ... Boldin’s 76-yard TD catch was the second-longest TD catch of his career. Boldin became the fourth player in 49ers franchise history with multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons, joining Jerry Rice (12), Terrell Owens (5) and John Taylor (2).
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