While a vast majority of the media coverage surrounding tonight’s Monday Night Football matchup was on the 49ers, Candlestick Park, and the various memories associated with with the two, the Arizona Cardinals were watching at home, rooting furiously for a Falcons upset.
The Cardinals, themselves, are 10-5 but are dangerously close to missing the postseason due to having the unfortunate distinction of playing in the same division as the Seattle Seahawks and 49ers – two of the best teams in the NFL. As it stood prior to kickoff tonight, the Cardinals playoff picture was as follows:
- Scenario #1: need 49ers to lose tonight, have to beat 49ers at home next week to clinch playoff spot
- Scenario #2: if 49ers win tonight, need to beat 49ers next week and need Saints to lose to Buccaneers
As you can see, option two was a far, far less likely scenario. Thus, the Cardinals awoke this morning hoping for a Falcons victory. Hey, if the Cardinals could waltz into Seattle and beat a Seahawks team that had won 14 consecutive home games, Matt Ryan and company could spoil the final home game at Candlestick, right? Right.
Along with its players and fans, the Cardinals and their social media team embarked on a roller coaster ride of monumental proportions.
2:56pm, 2.5 hours until kickoff. Emotional status: pumped up
8:38pm, 1:30 remaining in the 4th quarter, 49ers lead 27-24 but the Falcons have the ball on SF 11. Emotional Status: nearing jubilation
8:39pm, 1:28 remaining in the 4th quarter, NaVorro Bowman intercepts Matt Ryan and returns it for pick-six, giving 49ers 34-24 lead and sealing the game. Emotional status: heartbroken
With the 49ers victory tonight, the Cardinals are all but eliminated from playoff contention. Even if they manage to defeat San Francisco next week, asking the lowly Buccaneers to defeat the Saints in New Orleans is a task too tall, indeed, meaning that the Cardinals will be the second 11-5 team ever to miss the playoffs, the first being the 2008 Patriots.