It wasn't what they wanted, but when the Arizona Cardinals look back at the 2017 season, they won't consider their 8-8 finish a failure. Considering they were forced to place 15 players on injured reserve, including seven Week-1 starters, and saw 30 players miss a grand total of 180 games, going .500 was actually quite an accomplishment.
The Cardinals got there despite losing their best player, running back David Johnson, to a fractured left wrist in the season opener. Starting quarterback Carson Palmer missed the final nine games after suffering a broken left arm. Outside linebacker Markus Golden, who led the team with 12.5 sacks a year ago, missed the final 12 games after suffering a torn ACL.
Ten other starters would also end up on season-ending injured reserve, including four of their five offensive linemen and their leading tackler and interception leader, safeties Tyvon Branch and Antoine Bethea, respectively. Not only that, but Arizona was down to its third-string quarterback for five straight games in Blaine Gabbert.
The Cardinals would end up losing two more key people immediately after the season, as head coach Bruce Arians and Palmer announced their retirements on back-to-back days. They each joined the team for the start of the 2013 season.
"I could not be more proud of our group," Arians said after beating the Seahawks in Week 17, making him the all-time winningest coach in franchise history with 50 wins. "To take this group to 8-8 has probably been the best coaching job our staff has ever done. There were 25 guys who were not in training camp on our roster today."
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Cardinals proved they have the defense, at least, to remain a legitimate contender. After being ranked 24th overall following a 33-0 rout in London by the Rams in Week 7, Arizona's defense finished the year ranked sixth overall (310.9 yards per game). It marked the first time in franchise history the Cardinals' defense finished in the top 10 in three consecutive seasons following a No. 2 ranking last year and a No. 5 ranking in 2015. The cornerstone players are still on the roster: pass rusher Chandler Jones, shut-down cornerback Patrick Peterson, ball-hawk safety Tyrann Mathieu -- to keep this unit a formidable group.
WHAT WENT WRONG: They had some shining moments, but the lack of a consistent running game is ultimately what hurt the offense and this team the most. They finished 30th in rushing, averaging just 86.6 yards per game. It didn't help that they lost David Johnson to a season-ending wrist injury in the opener at Detroit. The trade for Adrian Peterson looked like a steal after he ran for 134 and 159 yards in two of his first three games for the Cardinals, but he would end up missing the last five games with a neck injury. The diminutive Kerwynn Williams played his tail off down the stretch, averaging 71 yards in the final five games despite dealing with quadriceps, ribs and back issues, but it wasn't enough.