Once upon a time I guaranteed the Cardinals would not — could not — win a playoff game in Carolina.
I boldly and foolishly claimed that, if proven wrong, I would literally eat crow. When a caller suggested that not only would the Cardinals win but they would go on to host the NFC Championship game, I suggested he was…what was the word…..oh yeah, certifiable.
The next day was spent on the phone with a game and fish official trying to determine where I could buy cooked crow. Just for fun I also rented a strait jacket from a costume company and wore it for a half hour while hosting the show, payback for the certifiable crack.
I watched the Cards win over the Patriots with the same level of incredulity. The Arizona Cardinals — a two touchdown underdog, with Kevin Kolb at quarterback and a beleaguered offensive line in hostile territory — beat the New England Patriots. A team that had not once lost their home opener in the Brady/Belichick era. I semi-joked on the air that it was like a high school homecoming game for the Patriots, one where you schedule a team you know you’ll beat so everybody goes home happy.
Had you bet $100 on the Cardinals to win you would have won $600. That, folks, is not a very good bet. And yet here they sit, 9-2 in their last 11 regular season games. 2-0 to start 2012. And we all know why.
The defense….all together now….was the difference. Just as it was last week against Seattle. Just as it has been in the last 11 regular season games. They harassed Tom Brady all day long, imploring Rodney Harrison to say that Brady was “running for his life”. They play with such ferocity, especially in the red zone and on third down, they should keep the Cardinals in every game they play this year. And certainly don’t forget a special teams unit that gave the Cardinals the kind of field position that even they can’t screw up. But they can only do so much.
It seems bad karma to complain after a win like this, or even during this 9-2 stretch. But dig a little deeper. As was pointed out by Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona, all nine of those wins have been by six points or fewer, five of the nine wins have been by three points or fewer and four have come in overtime. That is a reflection of an offense, and in particular a quarterback, that does just enough to win games. Kevin Kolb played a decent game Sunday, only one silly turnover, no horrendously costly sacks.
But until those missed opportunities (missing Heap down the seam, throwing the ball at the feet of the receiver on the screen play) become converted opportunities, every game is going to be like this. LaRod Stephens-Howling taking a knee in the end zone, the Ryan Williams fumble, not just taking a knee on that 3rd and 13, the missed FG, etc, etc. Consider the drama of last week, the drama of last year. This is the norm. Get used to it.
This Cardinals offense simply isn’t consistently good enough for it to be any other way.