Arizona Cardinals make powerful statement with 3rd straight win
Three-game winning streaks are impact statements. In the NFL, they don’t happen by accident.
The Cardinals return to Arizona with momentum we haven’t felt in years.
A sturdy 27-21 victory over the New York Giants in New Jersey represents their first three-game winning streak since 2015. They are now 3-3-1 with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. They are unbeaten in October, even though they still occupy last place in the NFC West.
At the very least, they have everyone’s attention.
Start with the offensive line, a group that took a stand long before this soggy afternoon on the East Coast. It wasn’t that long ago that “several” Arizona offensive linemen told NFL analyst Mark Schlereth that they weren’t happy with new head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
The timing isn’t clear, but the Cardinals allowed 24 sacks in their first three games. The offensive line was excoriated after allowing eight sacks against the Panthers in Week 3. The room’s leader, offensive line coach Sean Kugler, challenged Kingsbury to change his approach.
On Sunday, Chase Edmonds rushed for 126 yards and three touchdowns. He continues to prove that he deserves the bulk of the carries, and that the Cardinals can thrive even without their former MVP candidate, David Johnson. He proved that the offensive line might be more than serviceable in 2019, after undergoing another round of offseason alterations.
They might be Steve Keim’s second greatest achievement in 2019, following the visionary coupling of Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.
Great offensive lines provide swagger. They provide a tangible identity. They win in bad weather. They are reliable and dependable and show up every week. The offensive line in Arizona is doing all of that now, rescuing a struggling head coach along the way. On Sunday, they opened an interstate for Edmonds’ first touchdown run, and you could almost feel a new era taking root in Arizona.
Skeptics will parse and nitpick the current winning streak on the lack of competition. The Cardinals beat the hapless Bengals in Cincinnati, before a sparse, apathetic crowd. Their lone home victory occurred against the one-win Falcons. They beat a bad Giants team that made numerous stupid decisions, especially down the stretch, from play-calling to clock management.
But for the third consecutive game, the Cardinals held a double-digit lead in the second half. That’s rare altitude in the NFL. They’re growing familiar with playing from ahead. And this time, the defense didn’t cough up a hairball or give it all back.
The beleaguered unit benefited from a highly-motivated Chandler Jones. Jordan Hicks came up with the team’s first interception of the season. Patrick Peterson’s return was mostly good, save for a couple shaky moments. And his strip sack of Daniel Jones on a safety blitz in the fourth quarter was more than a pivotal moment.
It was the kind of play that could knock the rust off a relationship.
The same is also true of the Cardinals and their fan base in the Valley, a television audience that exceeds 600,000 households when things are going really well. Like now.
Following last week’s win over the Falcons, Larry Fitzgerald asked a rhetorical question in my direction:
“Why can’t we win 10 in a row?” he asked.
It sounded facetious, laced with humor, a show of defiance for all the doubters who predicted five wins in 2019 and a hopelessly low ceiling in Murray’s rookie season. Now, anything seems possible. Even with an upcoming road trip to New Orleans and rough stretch of schedule fast approaching.
That’s the power of a good football team with an elite quarterback.
That’s the power of a three-game winning streak.
That’s the power of belief.
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.