For the first time since October 23rd, 2011, the home locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium was a somber one.
It’s been a long time since the Arizona Cardinals lost a home game, a streak that spanned nearly a calendar year and eight games.
“Coming into the locker room today and not see guys jumping around,” Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after his team fell to the Buffalo Bills 19-16 in overtime Sunday. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been at home and not won.
“It still hasn’t registered to me; really I’m just disappointed in the fact that we didn’t come out with the win and protect home field. That’s really bothering me right now.”
You know what else is bothering the Cardinals? Their metaphorical feet, because the team repeatedly shot them throughout Sunday’s game.
Whether it was untimely drops, penalties, turnovers or a missed field goal, the Cardinals continually got in their own way Sunday.
“Just disappointing after going through everything we went through in that game — so many missed plays, dropped balls, opportunities to make plays and didn’t make them,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt lamented.
In the past, the Cards have found ways to win games like this anyway, and after Jay Feely booted a 61-yard field goal through the uprights to tie things up with 1:14 on the clock it appeared that may be the case again.
After the Cardinals not only got the ball back but drove to the Buffalo 20 with :03 left, it appeared to be a certainty.
Then Feely missed from 38 yards out, and all bets were off. Suddenly this was not your “typical Cardinals game”. They are supposed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. That’s how this team operates.
“To not convert the field goal to win it right there at the end, after everything that we did, was hard,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Obviously very hard.”
Now it would be unfair to point the finger at Feely, because without him the Cardinals wouldn’t have even made it to overtime. And it wouldn’t be right to blame John Skelton, either, as even though the he threw a bad pick in overtime, without some big throws after the QB entered the game late for an injured Kevin Kolb the Cardinals wouldn’t have had a chance to win in regulation.
In fact, it would be wrong to assign blame to any one person or play, as this was a collective effort of inconsistency that finally caught up to the team.
The Cardinals made just enough plays to have a chance to win the game and missed just enough plays to lose it. While it’s rare both teams on the field can claim they both deserved to win while each really deserving to lose, that was certainly the case Sunday.
“It didn’t go the way that we wanted it to but we fought,” Whisenhunt said. “We put it in position to win at the end; we just didn’t execute it.”
Now a once-promising season seems perilously close to the abyss. The Cardinals are now 4-2 and losers of two straight heading into what appears to be the most difficult part of their schedule.
While the defense is still stout, it’s becoming apparent the lack of productivity from the offense will inhibit just how far this team can go.
“We’ve got to do better; we have to be able to score more points,” Fitzgerald said. “We had opportunities, kicking field goals when we should be scoring touchdowns.
“It comes back to bite you late in games.”
For the first time in a while, it did. While Sunday’s loss does not mean the good times are over in the desert, it perfectly illustrates the fine line teams walk in the NFL.
The difference between a win and a loss is a play here or there. Make them and you get to celebrate after the game, don’t and you are left searching for answers.
The postgame scene Sunday had a different tone than we’ve become accustom to. The same can be said about the 2012 season after the last two weeks.
“The team is still confident, confident without a doubt,” Cardinals linebacker Sam Acho said after the game. “There is no lack of confidence or loss of confidence.
“This is one we should have won; we gave it up ourselves.”
How right he is.