Kliff Kingsbury: Cardinals 'know we've got to improve a lot' before even thinking about playoffs

Win and you're in.

That's the opportunity the Cardinals had in the last three weeks. Each time, they failed to follow through, losing each of their most recent three games.

Arizona clinched a playoff berth despite its most recent loss, but securing a spot in the postseason hasn't been the focus. Being a successful football team matters more to coach Kliff Kingsbury.

"I don't think (qualifying) was ever on the forefront of our minds," Kingsbury said Monday, via the team's official site. "We've just been trying to improve and play better. That's been the focus. To be in the playoffs with two games left is an accomplishment, and we understand that.

"But we know we've got to improve a lot and play better football and stop hurting ourselves in these games before we even think about taking the next step."

The Cardinals seem to have lost their offensive identity, regressing from an explosive attack to one that struggles to consistently capitalize on scoring opportunities. On Saturday night, it was missed field goals than doomed them, but it hasn't just been on the kicker.

With two weeks left, the Cardinals need to win out to have a shot to host a playoff game. In the time in which they've struggled, they've opened the door for the Rams to charge back to the top of the NFC West and lead the Cardinals by one game with two to play.

Perhaps more importantly, the Cardinals need to get their train back on the tracks. Arizona's defense hasn't been the same since losing J.J. Watt to injury, and its offense hasn't been nearly as productive without DeAndre Hopkins, who has missed the last two games. After scoring 30-plus points in seven of its first nine games, Arizona has scored more than 30 points just once in its last six.

There's still time to turn things around. But backing into the playoffs won't inspire much confidence in the Cardinals, especially if they end up playing on the road on Super Wild Card Weekend.

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