GLENDALE, Ariz. — As the cliché goes, there is no such thing as an “ugly” win in sports.
As the 2013 Arizona Cardinals go, there is no such thing as a “pretty” win.
At least, not yet.
Sunday, the Cardinals beat the Carolina Panthers 22-6, though the final score belies what this game actually was.
Arizona was down 6-3 at the half, saw quarterback Carson Palmer throw three interceptions, averaged fewer than four yards per carry on the ground.
But, they won the game.
“You can call them ugly wins or any kind of wins you want,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said after the game. “As long as they’re wins, I love them.”
Indeed, no one ever hated a victory.
That said, not one person in the home team’s locker room seemed satisfied with what transpired Sunday. Because while the defense was dominant to the tune of seven sacks, three interceptions and a safety, the offense was lacking for the fourth-consecutive game.
But again, the Cardinals improved to 3-2 on the season.
“I think the win keeps you sane a little bit,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. We’ve just got to get better.”
It would behoove the offense to start improving now.
Coming up next for the Cardinals, is a pretty brutal stretch to the schedule. Arizona heads to San Francisco to battle the 49ers next week, and will return home to face the Seattle Seahawks just four days later. From there the Cardinals will square off with the Atlanta Falcons on the road.
Looking at that, being 3-2 at this point in the season seems less like a luxury than it does a necessity.
If anything was learned from the train wreck that was the 2012 season, it is that any start, no matter how good, could be long forgotten if certain holes and issues are not addressed. Last season, Arizona’s play along the offensive line and at quarterback sabotaged the team’s chances while continually wasting strong defensive efforts.
So far this season, the defense has remained stout while the offense has once again struggled to do its part.
Yet, even with all that has not gone according to plan, the Cardinals are one game above .500 and one of a handful of teams in the NFC that can make that claim.
“Our defense is playing great, special teams are doing a fantastic job,” Fitzgerald said. “They’re keeping us in the game.
“We’re doing enough offensively to put some points on the board, but it’s not enough to be one of the better offenses in the game right now, and that’s what our expectations are.”
Can the Cardinals, at least offensively, play better? That’s really the question facing them now, because odds are the status quo — great defense and special teams with a less-than-impressive offense — will not get this team to the postseason.
Then again, so far, so good. Or, at least, so good enough. And isn’t there a sports cliché about the ability to win when not playing one’s best?
“Right now we’re trying to leg out wins, and they’re not pretty but they’re wins,” lineman Daryn Colledge said. “And in the NFL, that’s what matters.”