Cardinals have work to do in December to reach playoffs

As goes Kyler Murray, so go the Arizona Cardinals.

Murray wasn’t a factor running the ball for most of Sunday's game. He didn’t go over 30 yards -- the line of demarcation between wins and losses for Arizona -- until the fourth quarter and finished with 31.

But that extra yard wasn’t enough in a 20-17 loss to the New England Patriots, who kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired. The Cardinals sit at 6-5, which will make their playoff push much harder, especially with two games against the Los Angeles Rams coming up.

Heading into Sunday, Arizona was 1-8-1 when Murray rushed for 30 yards or less. He was at under 20 until early in the fourth, which was reflective of the Cardinals’ performance.

Murray finished with 170 passing yards and the Cardinals came up 2 yards shy of 300 as a team. They lost to a Patriots team that managed just 179 yards.

Yet again, the Cardinals showed that Murray's effectiveness running the ball is a direct representation of how the offense plays. There were few scrambles and even fewer designed runs, perhaps a product of how the Patriots schemed for Murray, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury the past few weeks.

The Patriots had a game plan to defend Murray that worked. Their edge defenders were patient and stayed in their lanes -- a lesson for future teams that the Cardinals will have to combat if they hope to keep winning.

If the Cardinals are going to make a run to the playoffs, the rest of the offense needs to start picking up the slack when Murray isn’t running as much or as well as he has at points this season. Murray’s running can single-handedly dictate how a defense plays the Cardinals.

But some of that isn’t all on the rest of the offense.

DeAndre Hopkins finished with a team-high 55 yards on five catches but wasn’t targeted for minutes on end. The next best receiver for the Cardinals was UMass product Andy Isabella, who had 33 yards in his homecoming.

Describe the game in two words: Fourth down. The Cardinals went for it twice on fourth down. They missed one and got bailed out by a penalty on the other. During a game in which points where at a premium, coach Kliff Kingsbury's decisions on fourth down continue to be under the microscope, especially when the fourth downs aren’t converted.

Troubling trend: It wasn’t necessarily the number of penalties for the league-leading Cardinals. It was the timing of them. Such as a false start by Dan Arnold on second-and-5 from the Patriots' 5 in the fourth quarter. Or a lowering the head flag on Isaiah Simmons that moved the Patriots from the Cardinals' 30 to their 15. Or a holding call on Markus Golden on third down that gave the Patriots an automatic first. It’s an area the Cardinals need to fix if they want to play more consistent football.

Pivotal play: The questionable blindside block penalty called on the Patriots early in the third quarter on a punt return that would’ve been a touchdown by New England’s Gunner Olszewski negated a score that would’ve put the Patriots up 14-10. Instead, the Cardinals forced the Patriots to kick a field goal, which tied the score at 10.