With losses piling up, Cardinals try to stay accountable
GLENDALE, Ariz. — There could be finger-pointing leading to tail-spinning.
Maybe the Arizona Cardinals, amid their six-game losing streak, begin turning to a youth movement to find out what they’ve really got.
As of 5:30 p.m. Sunday, none of that is the case.
Not after a 34-7 bomb of a performance against the Los Angeles Rams last week or a 23-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at State Farm Stadium.
“We played hard, had a chance to win it at the end,” Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I thought the fight was much better than last week.”
Kingsbury said it Friday: He is not looking toward playing guys to find out if they can be future pieces. He is all-in on winning the next game. The good news, if there was any coming out of the Cardinals’ sixth-straight loss, is that across the locker room, players were being accountable.
The bad news is that, well, a lot of people have a legitimate claim to be blamed.
“That was as much of a team loss as I’ve been a part of, all three phases,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “When one side of the ball isn’t playing as well, the defense or whatever has to be able to pick up the slack.
“That’s what good teams do. That’s what we’re trying to get to.”
It was a bad day for a lot of players. The special teams unit gave up an 85-yard punt return with three minutes left in the first quarter, spotting the Steelers a 10-0 lead.
Defensively, it was a bad night for rookie cornerback Byron Murphy, who had two pass interference penalties on Pittsburgh’s two scoring drives of the second half.
“I just have to play better defense,” he said. “I just have to finish. It starts at the line of scrimmage and (to) play better technique.”
Then there’s Arizona rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, who said the Cardinals would have won “if I don’t throw two interceptions.”
Murray completed 20 of 30 passes for 194 yards, two touchdowns and three picks, the last of which came on a desperate heave on Arizona’s final possession.
Running back Kenyan Drake has only been with Arizona for five games since a midseason trade, but he tried to take the blame away from his rookie quarterback to own it himself.
“I feel like if I’m not part of the solution, then I’m part of the problem,” Drake said.
“He’s a very mature person and player for saying that, but there were plenty of opportunities in the game besides those moments for us to go out there and try to get a win.”
The guy who’s been with the Cardinals the longest, Larry Fitzgerald, has been through times like this before. He said Arizona must develop a “bunker mentality” to get itself out of a losing skid.
“You have to stay engaged and focused on the things that you can control individually,” Fitzgerald said. “If everyone is doing that collectively, you’ll be able to dig your way out of the rut that we’re in.”
Will that come next week at home against the Cleveland Browns? Will it be pushed to road contests against potential playoff teams in Los Angeles or Seattle after that?
Only three games are left, and the pressure for visible improvement is mounting. A visibly frustrated Hicks probably best verbalized the blending of that frustration with the belief that better days lie ahead.
“Potential sucks. Potential isn’t anything,” he said. “We’ve got the guys in the locker room to win a lot of games.”