Cardinals: Season ends, future begins

Jan 2, 2012, 8:32 PM | Updated: Jan 3, 2012, 5:57 pm

And just like that, the 2011 Arizona Cardinals season has
come to a close.

There is nothing left after a 17-week season, as the team
did not win the NFC West nor earn one of the NFC’s two
wildcard spots.

No, there is only finality, the end of a campaign that
was, in a word, fun. And hell, even the ending seemed
right for this team.

Sunday’s 23-20 win over the Seahawks was the team’s fourth
OT victory of the season, a number that established a new
NFL record.

“Boy, we sure get our money’s worth at home,” head coach
Ken Whisenhunt said. All four OT wins were at University
of Phoenix Stadium, and the only game the Cardinals never
trailed in was Sunday’s finale.

So if it was entertainment value you were after, you got
it. Of course, though, the NFL is about wins, and there
weren’t nearly enough of those – this season.

That little six game losing streak early on was pretty
bad, as it proved to be too much to overcome, and the fact
that the team still hasn’t found a reliable quarterback is
concerning. But, like the Diamondbacks who the Valley fell
in love with, these Cardinals – flaws and everything –
found ways to consistently rally late in games, never
giving up and often-times coming away with a victory.

While an 8-8 record wasn’t enough to make the playoffs and
mediocrity should hardly be considered a good thing, it’s
hard not to feel optimistic with this team going forward.
The defense found an identity, the offense found a running
back, and we were all reminded of just how great Larry
Fitzgerald is. Oh, and there is belief in the coach again,

Coach Whisenhunt joked that he is giving the team an extra
long “Victory Monday,” a reward for winning Sunday’s game.
Indeed the team heads into the offseason on a high note,
carrying momentum into the offseason. That fact should not
be understated.

“Coach Whisenhunt talked about it last week,” Larry
Fitzgerald said, “In 2007, when they first got here, we
were 6-8 playing the last two games of the season.

“We were able to win both of those, and I really feel like
that positive momentum led into the offseason. Guys worked
extremely hard, and we were able to parlay that into a
playoff appearance and Super Bowl run.”

Granted, 2007 saw the re-emergence of Kurt Warner as a
top-flight QB, and nothing of the sort happened in 2011.
But the point is there was a good vibe surrounding the
Cardinals that offseason, a feeling that they were heading
in the right direction.

The same can be said once again, even though it seemed
like that wouldn’t be the case just a couple months ago.
The team moved on from its losing ways, and as Fitzgerald
said, you can’t shortchange winning games.

“They say losing is contagious, but so is winning,” he
said. “When you get the taste of it, you want to continue
to have it.”

The Arizona Cardinals are undefeated in 2012, and only the
Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and New England
Patriots finished the year with a better mark over the
last nine games.

“To go 8-8, to go 7-2 over our last nine games is a pretty
strong statement,” Whisenhunt said.

It is, as it says while this may be the end, in a
way it’s just the beginning.

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Cardinals: Season ends, future begins