Cardinals showed fight for Wilks in triumph over Packers
Short is the list of fireable offenses in the NFL. Losing to the 2018 Cardinals is one of them.
No matter what happens to Arizona coach Steve Wilks, he’ll always have Green Bay.
The much-maligned head coach did something very special on Sunday. He led a 14-point underdog into the snowy den of Lambeau Field and escaped with victory. He brought a warm-weather dome team that featured the NFL’s worst offense and beat the conditions, the mystique and the best quarterback in football.
The snowflakes were part of the experience. So was the look of disgust on Aaron Rodgers’ face, along with all those angry glares at the sideline. And in the aftermath, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy became the second NFL head coach to lose his job in 2018.
The irony is stunning:
Wilks was occupying one of the hottest seats in football, and he helped get another head coach fired. McCarthy, no less. A head coach who seemed to have lifetime job security after winning a Super Bowl with the Packers in 2010. The guy who looks like Northern Wisconsin, completely comfortable in a snowmobile suit.
Remember, the Packers don’t knee-jerk or act compulsively. McCarthy was just the 14th head coach in their illustrious history and the first to be fired in-season. But that’s how much his relationship with Rodgers had soured, and how low the Cardinals have sunk in 2018.
The game was not a masterpiece. It was survival at its finest, built on the mental strength of rookie quarterback Josh Rosen; another highlight-reel moment from Larry Fitzgerald, who always shines when sharing a field with Rodgers and the Packers; a solid foundation for new kicker Zane Gonzalez, who once starred at ASU; and the dizzying declaration of Chase Edmonds.
Edmonds had his best game as a NFL rookie, rushing for 53 yards on five carries and scoring two touchdowns. He showed savage mindset barreling into the end zone after his previous touchdown was overruled by replay review. This season, he is running harder than David Johnson. Against the Packers, he was awarded with crucial goal-line carries even though Johnson was available.
Edmonds should get plenty of work over the final four games. He could be part of a masterful 2018 draft class that saves Steve Keim’s job, one that also features Rosen, Christian Kirk, Mason Cole and Korey Cunningham. Edmonds might’ve even made Johnson tradeable in the offseason, before his value sinks any lower.
This much is also true: The 2018 Packers aren’t that good. Beating them sounds better than it looks, especially on the road. But the Cardinals have struggled with everybody outside of the 49ers. They scored six points in their first two games, fired their offensive coordinator and lost to the Raiders. They needed a moment of credibility.
On Sunday, their defense did not play like a team quitting on its head coach. That was the team on the other sideline. And that’s a victory for Wilks.
A confession: I made fun of Wilks for his sappy approach to Sunday’s game, how he stole a coaching gimmick from the movie, “Hoosiers.” Wilks said he made it a focus to remind his players that the football field in Green Bay was 100 yards long, just like the one in Arizona. I envisioned grown men rolling their eyes, groaning in response to high-school level motivation.
Except they didn’t. They played hard. They played well enough to beat the Packers and not self-destruct at the end. They beat Old Man Rodgers and Old Man Winter, rewarding a chunky number of diehard Valley fans who went along for the ride, spending hard-earned holiday money to watch a frigid football game on a bleak December Sunday in Wisconsin.
It was worth it. The first real triumph of the season.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.