It might not be what Cards fans wanted, but they’ll take it
You wanted steak? You got it. Oh sure, you asked for it medium rare and it came out well done. You wanted the prime cut and instead, you got the petite. But you still ate steak.
If you’re a Cards fan you got what you wanted and, frankly, what your team needed: A 23-20 win over the 49ers that keeps a repeat trip to the playoffs alive and kicking. For some, that’s all that will matter. In an NFC where the Packers were destroyed by the Titans and the Vikings’ ship has sprung a leak, maybe that’s more than enough. The Cardinals are in the playoff conversation and that’s the only box that needs to be checked.
The suspicion here is that many were looking for more.
Like some inspiration. A rested team looking to bury the past and plan for the future. A home game against an inferior opponent that spoke to better days ahead. A checked box is great but passing the eye test would have been nice too.
But this is not a steak you can send back. You take it and hope for better the next time.
The reality is that this particular game is a hard one to win … even when you win. If the Cardinals crush the 49ers everybody shrugs because that’s the expectation. If it’s close everyone wants to know what’s wrong.
You take the win and you move on to Minnesota, a team that has eye test issues of its own.
Christmas decorations are going up and your team is in the playoff conversation. That’s still pretty good steak.
Other thoughts from the win over San Francisco:
Cat-man-do. Who wasn’t holding their breath when Chandler Catanzaro lined up for the game-winning field goal? Who wasn’t thinking about the Seattle game or the opener against the Patriots? Fortunately, he wasn’t. He calmly did his job and started to rebuild the trust that has been on shaky ground this year. And since we’re talking about special teams, I wonder how much thought Chip Kelly gave to going for two after the Colin Kaepernick run to tie it up?
Running on empty. Nothing was more surprising than David Johnson’s inability to get big chunks of yards on the ground. The holes weren’t there against a 49ers defense that had been humiliated the last several weeks. San Francisco was the first team in nearly 30 years to allow 170 or more rushing yards per game in five straight games. The Cards rushed for 80, mostly on 19 carries for 55 yards from Johnson. Nothing was more surprising from this game than that.
A first for everything. The struggles in the first quarter have been well documented. By no means perfect, Sunday was an improvement. Despite a J.J. Nelson fumble and a couple of punts, the Cards did take a 7-0 lead and on the first drive of the second quarter went up 14-0. At that point, they had a 145-4 advantage in total yards over the 49ers. The game was shaping up to be the contest most expected but turnovers and choppy play from the offense in the second half stalled most of Arizona’s efforts.
A change will do you good. Bruce Arians had said that Nelson was the starter at wide receiver and if somebody wanted it, they’d have to come take from him. Is that what happened on Sunday? Nelson lost a fumble and a pass that hit him in the chest was picked off. Michael Floyd, on the other hand, had the game that we’ve been waiting for all year by topping 100 yards and coming up with some huge catches. Enough to reclaim his gig? We’ll see.