Cardinals only goal remaining is to finish .500

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By Natalie Rivers By Natalie Rivers

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Cardinals almost pulled off their most improbable comeback yet.

But the hole they dug in Cincinnati was too deep, and now the only goal left for them is to finish the season at .500.

Arizona can wind up 8-8 with a victory at home Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, who also enter at 7-8.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said that still would be a significant accomplishment for a team that opened the season 1-6.

He also said the fact that it’s the final game of the season will have no impact on whether to play two important injured players: cornerback Patrick Peterson and quarterback Kevin Kolb.

“We’re not approaching this as the last week,” Whisenhunt said Monday. “We want to win this game. I think it’s a pretty significant achievement for this team, after starting 1-6, to get back to 8-8. I think it means a lot.”

In 2007, Whisenhunt’s first year in Arizona, the team finished strong to wind up 8-8. The next season Arizona won the NFC West and made an improbable run to the Super Bowl.

“It gave us some momentum going into the offseason and we had a pretty decent year the next year,” Whisenhunt said.

Peterson injured his left Achilles tendon in Saturday’s 23-16 loss to the Bengals, but an MRI on Monday showed no tear, that it was only tendinitis.

Kolb has been sidelined for two games after a concussion sustained on the third play of the team’s victory over San Francisco.

Whisenhunt said Kolb felt good Friday on the plane ride to Cincinnati.

“But then when he got to the game Saturday and got on the field, he didn’t feel great,” Whisenhunt said. “That was the concern. The concern going in was that he’s making progress and feeling better, but you don’t want to put him in that situation with the crowd, the noise, and the sun, and have him not feeling good.

“We’re adhering to what the policies are, which I agree with, and we’re going to make sure that we’re conservative or cautious with him.”

Kolb’s replacement, John Skelton, had led the team to come-from-behind wins over the 49ers and Cleveland. Overall, the Cardinals had won four straight and had a slim chance of making the playoffs before Saturday’s loss.

But slow starts have plagued Skelton and the rest of the offense. It was the same against the Bengals.

Arizona trailed 23-0 in the fourth quarter at Cincinnati but the Cardinals had a shot at the end. On fourth-and-5 at the Bengals 17-yard line with 1:18 left, Cincinnati brought an all-out blitz and Early Doucet was uncovered in the secondary for what appeared to be a sure touchdown. But Doucet’s legs got tangled and he fell to the turf as Skelton’s pass drifted overhead and fell incomplete.

“It’s not something you normally plan for. You don’t plan to be open and have nobody within 15 yards of you,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s one of the things you think about millions of times, especially sitting on the plane coming back. What if Early had just kept his feet? What if this, what if that? What if we hadn’t fumbled the ball on the 1-yard line? There are a lot of things during the course of the game, and it’s tough, but that’s football.”

The players were off on Monday.

After the game, Doucet reflected on the loss and the big play that wasn’t.

“We’ve been through a lot this year—good and bad,” he said. “We, as a team, have great character. We’re not going to let a situation like that stop us from playing hard and being a team. I had a bunch of guys come up to me on the sideline and tell me they believe in me, and that’s what you need.

“I’ve grown a lot through tough times, so I won’t let a situation like this bring me down. It was unfortunate, but you have to move on. It’s a part of life.”