Arizona Cardinals’ Tyrann Mathieu: Team motivated by last season’s finish
The Arizona Cardinals began the 2014 season winning nine of their first 10 games.
After dropping consecutive matchups at Seattle and Atlanta their record fell to 9-3, but they went on to win their next two, with the second — a road victory over the St. Louis Rams on Thursday Night Football — ultimately clinching a playoff spot.
But even at that time it was obvious the Cardinals were not the same team they were in the first half of the season.
Arizona lost its final two regular season games as well as the playoff matchup with the Carolina Panthers, giving them defeats in their final three contests as well as seven of their last nine.
To say it was a rough finish would be an understatement, and it has led to a different mentality leading into the 2015 campaign.
“I think there’s enough motivation in that, how we finished last year,” Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “Even before we got to the playoffs, those last six or seven games, it was just horrible. Defensively, we couldn’t tackle — miscommunications.
“I know if we could go back we’d fix it, but we’ve got a season coming up and hopefully do our job and do our part.”
Plenty went wrong down the stretch.
It likely starts with the team’s offense, which lost quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, along with running back Andre Ellington, to injury. Though the team put on a brave face with its “next man up” mentality, it was clear that the Cardinals were suffering without so many key players.
Still, at the time it was hoped the defense, which had played well all season, would continue to carry the team.
It didn’t. Quite the opposite, actually.
The Cardinals had been great against the run and had not yielded a 100-yard rusher in 21 games (spanning 2013 and 2014) saw someone eclipse that mark in six of their last seven games. Opposing offenses pretty much had their way with Arizona, and despite some big plays or moments of dominance, nothing was sustained.
Blown assignments, missed tackles — the Cardinals were doing it all, and it cost them.
“Probably missed 100 tackles in that timeframe,” Mathieu said. “So it was tough to give up those big plays, those big yardages, and just watch. Because our offense couldn’t move the ball at that point in time so it was really all on the defense to keep the field position, and we just couldn’t do it.”