Glendale, Ariz. — Four weeks into the 2012 NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals were 4-0. They got there because of a stingy defense and big plays from special teams.
Fourteen weeks into the 2012 NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals were 4-9. They got there because a mostly stingy defense was being sabotaged by an incredibly dreadful offense.
Week 15 provided win number five for the Cardinals, and they did it with the same formula that worked in the season’s opening month: excellent defense buoyed by a big play on special teams.
Keep in mind, Arizona’s offense in the 38-10 win over the Detroit Lions was not particularly good. The team’s defense nearly had as many yards on interception returns (186) as the Cardinals offense did all game (196).
Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley threw for just 104 yards with one interception, running back Beanie Wells, who scored three touchdowns, tallied just 67 yards. And Larry Fitzgerald, whose struggles have been widely talked about, was held to just 22 yards on four receptions.
Yet a win is a win is a win, and for a team that had not earned a victory since Mitt Romney had a chance to win the presidency and no one feared the end of the Twinkie was nigh, it came not a moment too soon.
“Nine weeks in a row to not come out with a win, it feels good to be back home and get a win in front of our home crowd,” receiver Fitzgerald said after the game.
“To go through a stretch like that,” Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes noted, “I wouldn’t wish that on nobody.”
The losing streak did happen, though, and with the way the Cardinals played last week in Seattle, conventional wisdom said it was going to be extended Sunday against the struggling-but-still-favored Lions.
Arizona’s defense clearly had other ideas. The Cardinals picked off Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford three times — returning two of the interceptions for touchdowns — and allowed just a field goal in the second half. It was a far cry from what happened against the Seahawks, and more indicative of what the group is capable of.
“We were embarrassed the way we performed last week,” Rhodes said. “We just said to ourselves that we’re going to come out hard.
“We have three games left to show this NFL world what we’re about as a defense. We wanted to come out and dominate, that’s what we did.”
“We’re a good defense and we know that,” safety Adrian Wilson added. “The game last week kind of got away from us, and we just wanted to get back to being on the same page and just really playing good football.”
Wilson reached a milestone in Sunday’s win, becoming just the sixth player in NFL history to collect 25 sacks and 25 interceptions in his career. The veteran got teary-eyed when talking about the achievement.
“Believe it or not, I’m a very emotional person, and I put a lot of stock in what I do to play here and to give everything that I have here,” he said. “It feels good, and we won.
“A lot of the emotions that are coming out now are just thinking through the hard times and being where we’re at now.”
On the surface, this win does little to help the Cardinals going forward. The victory improved their record to 5-9 on the year, thus hurting their draft position. And with the playoffs long gone as a possibility, many are already looking towards April.
No longer is it just about wins; it’s about finding a new quarterback or help for the offensive line. And what happened Sunday likely did nothing to help that quest.
But it did give the Arizona Cardinals a reason to smile, which they haven’t really had for quite a while. In fact, some believed it wouldn’t happen again this season.
“There was a lot of talk about if our team had quit,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “When it was 7-0 (in the second quarter) and we were punting the ball there, I didn’t see any quit in our guys.
“I’m proud of them for that.”
At the very least, though, the win serves as a reminder that NFL football players do not quit — or, at least — these NFL football players have not quit. And for anyone looking for something to feel good about in a season that has brought little joy of late, that may be about the only thing left to hold onto.