Cardinals on the rise? Team gives reason to believe

Dec 5, 2011, 2:58 AM | Updated: 3:42 am

At 5-7, the Arizona Cardinals find themselves just two
games out of an NFC Wild Card spot.

Let that sink in for a moment, you know, the fact that the
playoffs are not out of the realm of possibility for a
team that started the season losing six of its first seven

And with three of their final four games at home…OK,
they’re probably not going to make a late postseason run,
but to even be in the conversation is something that
didn’t seem possible not long ago.

Funny what kind of difference a few weeks can make.

As the dust began to settle after LaRod Stephens-Howling’s
game-winning 52-yard reception in overtime, one undeniable
fact remained:

For a team that had seemingly found every
different way to lose a close game, the fact that punt
returns, blocked field goals, clutch fourth down
conversions and excellent defense have led to success
means there’s increasingly more reason to believe in Big

Remember, this season does not have to be a waste.

“When we were 1-6 we were fighting just as hard as we’re
fighting right now, and just as hard as we were fighting
the first week,” quarterback Kevin Kolb said. “I’ve said
that multiple times, and you don’t see that everywhere.

“That’s a big reflection of our leadership and our
coaching staff and the players we have in the locker room.
We just need to keep plugging and keep getting better.”

Improvement is really all there is for the team now, and
while many were ready to throw dirt on the Cardinal and
their head coach (this writer included), the fact remains
that the Cardinals, somehow, seem to be coming around.

To wit: Arizona has now equaled its win total from one
season ago, and there are still four games left. Sure,
five wins is nothing to write home about, but just more
than one month ago it appeared that only a miracle would
prevent the Cardinals from landing another top-5 pick in
the draft.

Now, it seems as if the only thing the team needed was
time, especially the defense.

“Without minicamp or OTAs, you’re not so comfortable with
your teammates and the defensive scheme,” linebacker Daryl
Washington said, “but now you can see it.
“We’re all on the same page, everyone’s making plays.”

“We compliment each other.”

The offense is still learning each other, especially after
Kolb missed four games due to injury. But of course, his
return went pretty well, and maybe now the offense can
begin to form an identity, too.

Kolb talked about it, saying he wanted the offense to “get
to know ourselves” in the second half Sunday, and
Whisenhunt said his quarterback’s performance was exciting
because it gives the team “something to build on and build
with him.”

There’s optimism now, a belief that he Cardinals may no
longer be the team that lost 15 of 18 games dating back to
last season. While they may not make the playoffs, simply
moving on from that stretch of barely watchable football
would be enough to classify this season as a success.

Of course, there are still four games left, and with each
one a chance for the Cardinals to take another step

“I think we’re really playing well down the stretch of the
games we were able to win,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald
said. “Guys are consistently making plays down the

That wasn’t the case earlier in the season, where fumbles,
drops, interceptions and otherwise bad play cost the
Cardinals game after game. Things are different these
days, and it would be wise to not underestimate the impact
each win can have on this team, especially with so many
young players who really haven’t experienced success as an
Arizona Cardinal.

“It was really a great feeling because all year we’ve been
through so much adversity,” second-year pro O’Brien
Schofield said. “It shows our ability to stick together as
a team and everyone has faith that we’re going to prevail
and win the game.”

One week at a time, the Cardinals are doing just that, and
with each victory comes a belief that the Cardinals are
rising once again.

Adam Green

Arizona Diamondbacks starter Zack Greinke adjusts his cap between pitches against the Colorado Rock...

Adam Green

Concerned about Zack Greinke? Yes, I am

It's early, yes, but Zack Greinke's struggles this season are unexpected and concerning.

8 years ago

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones, who was acquired in a trade with the New England Patri...

Adam Green

Chandler Jones is the most exciting addition in Arizona Cardinals history

The Cardinals added Chandler Jones not to make them good, but to get them to the Super Bowl.

8 years ago

Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin (46) prepare to hit during a spring t...

Adam Green

Money, expectations change the game for Diamondbacks

If the Diamondbacks are concerned about big heads due to being "offseason winners," they need look no further than to a division rival as a cautionary tale.

8 years ago

Phoenix Suns' P.J. Tucker (17) and Devin Booker (1) react to a foul call during the second half of ...

Adam Green

Who knew the Suns bottoming out could feel so terrible?

While the Phoenix Suns being bad may actually be a very good thing, the way they have hit the bottom is difficult to stomach.

8 years ago

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches during the second half of an NFL football game ag...

Adam Green

Trust leads to Arians’ aggressive approach with Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals had just coughed up a 14-point fourth quarter lead and had the ball at their own 16 with just 58 seconds left in a tied game.

8 years ago

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, left, greets Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palm...

Adam Green

Cardinals show road to NFC West title goes through Glendale

Prior to the game there was plenty of talk about how the Cardinals had yet to beat a winning team and were not nearly as good as their record may have indicated.

8 years ago

Cardinals on the rise? Team gives reason to believe