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Arians: Some players concerned with getting on stat sheet instead of doing their job

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watch play against the Atlanta Falcons during the first of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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The Arizona Cardinals entered their game against the Atlanta Falcons with the league’s best defense in terms of yards allowed as well as the best mark in defensive points allowed.

If you had not know that ahead of time, however, you probably wouldn’t have guessed it.

The Cardinals struggled mightily with the Falcons’ offense, allowing points on six of nine completed drive, while surrendering 360 total yards and an average of 5.4 yards per play.

Now, Arizona is not the first team to fail in stopping Atlanta — you don’t get the top-ranked offense for no reason — but when assessing what went wrong, Arizona coach Bruce Arians did not necessarily point to talent.

“I thought defensively we had some guys get out of their lane again and try to do too much, tried to get on the stat sheet instead of just doing their job,” he said.

Only the coaching staff and players know for sure what an individual player’s responsibilities are on any given play, so if the coach says players are trying to do too much, they probably are.

But is that really so bad, players trying to do a little extra in order to help turn around an underwhelming season?

Yes, as Arians said, if some are more concerned with their stats than anything else.

“That’s the selfishness instead of selflessness that has crept in,” he said.

Safety Tony Jefferson said he’s unsure of why the Cardinals have not been able to nail down any kind of consistently solid play 11 games into the season, because they practice and prepare well during the week only to find by Monday morning there are too many players on the mental errors sheet. Everyone is ready to turn things around, however, because they believe the playoffs can still be a possibility.

But as for whether or not selfishness has anything to do with the team’s problems, the Jefferson deferred to his coach.

“Coach knows better than I do — he’s been doing this for a while,” Jefferson said. “I can see that, but like I’ve said, we’ve just got to pin our ears back, and head down, and try to win ballgames.”

At 4-6-1, the Cardinals currently find themselves 11th in the NFC, where only six teams will make the playoffs. Plenty has to happen if they are to make a push, though Arians noted how a few of the teams they need to leap in the standings remain on their schedule.

Because of that, Arians said the focus is on one game — the next one — and not what needs to happen in order for them to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

“Just win this week and we’ll keep adding them up,” he said. “You can’t look at big pictures right now. It is just too crazy of a season for everybody. You just have to win this week, and this is a hell of an opponent.”

Up next is one of the teams the Cardinals are chasing in the Washington Redskins, who at 6-4-1 are two games better than the Cardinals currently occupying the conference’s sixth seed.

The attitude of focusing on the next game and nothing more is one defensive lineman Corey Peters reiterated, and Peters, who Arians praised for his performance in Atlanta, said he believes everyone will be “locked in and focused this week” in part because they are running out of opportunities to get things fixed.

They just have to be focused on the right things.

Peters said there is a snowball effect that when the team falls behind, guys tend to start pressing and try to do more than they need to do.

“I really can’t fault them for wanting to make a play, but at the same point, the discipline of the defense is probably the most important thing,” he added.

Peters could fault his teammates for caring more about statistics than wins, though like Jefferson, he was not willing to jump on board with idea that the Cardinals have too many selfish players on the roster.

“It’s hard to judge somebody’s intentions,” he said. “Sometimes people make plays or do certain things on tape they probably shouldn’t do, but you don’t want to take away a guy’s aggressiveness and his want to make a play.

“I would be hesitant to call somebody selfish, but we definitely have to do a better job of playing team defense.”

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