If you want to know what happens when you leave a group of boys on an island without adult supervision, read Lord of the Flies — William Golding, 1954. If you want to know what happens to a playoff team whose strength becomes their weakness, read the NFL stat sheet of the Carolina Panthers game.
What happens to an entity when its strength becomes its weakness? It creates an atmosphere of chaos. Chaos is not conducive to winning football games. Consistency in execution is conducive to winning football games and that consistency — wherever it manifests itself — becomes your identity. What happens to a person that loses his identity? Many times they become unstable, volatile.
And this was the undoing of the Arizona Cardinals. Their rush defense, something that had been their strength all season, suddenly collapsed in December. The Seattle Seahawks won the #1 seed in the NFC and the division by rushing for 267 yards; the San Francisco 49ers followed that game by running over the Cards for 206 yards; and the Carolina Panthers rushed for 188 yards in their Wild Card victory over Big Red.
I believed coming into this season that the Cards rush defense was a fulcrum to the entire season. I believed if the Cards could remain a top-10 rush defense, they would be a better defense despite losing Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington — because of the addition of Antonio Cromartie. They were a better defense this year but…not in December…and not on Saturday in Charlotte. And the carnage was evident.
The question is why? This is something I’m having a hard time determining.
It’s not like the rash of injuries they had suffered early in the season were perpetuated. The Cards actually started to get healthier on defense heading into December. Matt Shaughnessy — Grand Master, Guru of the edge and setting the edge — came back, Honey Badger was back (with a cast), and it seemed like things were only going to get better on defense.
Hope is a powerful emotion. Many incredible things have been accomplished and endured simply because a human being had the unmitigated temerity to hope. But, unfortunately, hope is not something you choose to do consciously; hope lives in the soul because “hope springs eternal,” does it not?
Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed: The soul, uneasy and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
– Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope may have the answer as to why the Cards defense suddenly stumbled down the stretch. The subconscious is where the Cards may have lost hope and, by so doing, doomed their season. Tyrann Mathieu said the defense relaxed, lost their edge and suffered because of it. Lorenzo Alexander concurred and said if you watched the film you would say, “he’s right.”
Although this is completely unacceptable, the fact remains: you can’t tell a human being how to feel about something; they either feel a certain way about something or not. And having difficulty at the quarterback position severely limited the Cards offense, which in turn made it very difficult to score points and not being able to score points fills a football team with despair.
Good offensive football provides a team with hope. Bad offensive football breeds despair, and despair is not conducive to fighting off 330-pound butt-guts.
Acceptable, as a football player? Never. Understandable, as a human being? Yes.
Thank you, Mr. Pope.