Cardinals’ season hangs on what Arizona team shows up vs. Rams

Nov 9, 2022, 6:15 PM

TEMPE — If the Arizona Cardinals are going to get things backs on track, the turnaround must begin this week against the Los Angeles Rams.

After another dreadful loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Cardinals are once again the little brother of the NFC West, eyeing a last-place 3-6 mark with hardly any positives to hang their hats on.

Another loss to a divisional opponent, regardless of where the NFC currently stands, and the likelihood Arizona is stuck watching the postseason on the couch after posting a sub-.500 mark this season is even greater.

For weeks, the Cardinals have yet to really peg what is going on with this 2022 squad, highlighted by the offense’s inconsistencies. It sounds like Arizona truly does not know which team it is going to roll out there on any given Sunday.

Players and coaches have spoken ad nauseum of the difference they are seeing from practice to game day, acknowledging the mountain of issues under the bright lights isn’t as evident within the fences of the training facility in Tempe. So where is the disconnect coming from?

Injuries have undoubtedly played a factor in the team’s current state, especially those to key players like starting center Rodney Hudson and wide receiver Hollywood Brown, but in the NFL, that excuse only gets you so far. This league is about who’s on the field, not who isn’t.

At the end of the day, it’s on the players and coaches to right the ship before it’s completely sunk under the waves of NFL mediocrity.

“Everybody’s looking for these answers,” quarterback Kyler Murray said Wednesday. “The answer is, do your job better. Understand what you have to do. … There’s no magic wand for the mistakes. All you got to do is do your job. I can live with me throwing a pick — I’m going to be pissed off but I can live with somebody dropping a ball, somebody missing a block, somebody missing a cut. That’s just going to happen.

“But not knowing what you’re doing, the mental mistakes, stuff like that, that just can’t happen. We don’t have a chance at that point. Everybody makes mistakes on Sunday. … But the good teams don’t make those mental errors, make penalties and just doing stuff that’s not winning football. I don’t want to keep going on about it, but we clean those things up and we’re probably not looking the way we are.”

Outside of the Cardinals’ Week 1 debacle against the Kansas City Chiefs, who is the cream of the NFL crop through nine weeks, Arizona had chances at winning each of its five remaining losses up to this point. Only twice has it lost by no fewer than 10 points, both against the Seahawks.

Instead of capitalizing on their opponents’ weak spots and miscues, the Cardinals were stuck dealing with their own issues in the form miscommunication mixed in with poor execution.

The best example of these issues was last week against Seattle.

Arizona had done a lot of good, including scoring a touchdown on its opening drive and seeing the defense score for a fifth time this season behind a Zaven Collins interception.

The negatives outweighed the positives, however, with the Cardinals committing way too many penalties, the most glaring being five false starts and a handful of holding calls. Toss in a couple of unneccessary roughness calls, encroachment and a handful of offsides and it was clear Arizona had two opponents in Week 9: Seattle and itself.

On both sides of the football, the Cardinals are more talented than their record indicates nine weeks into the season.

For a team that consistently gets in its own way trying to press the issue or get creative, it could be as simple as getting back to the basics given the disjointedness we’ve seen on display regularly in 2022.

The trajecotry of an NFL team changes from week to week. Sometimes, all a squad needs is one of those get-right games that have seemingly eluded the Cardinals this season.

So why with personnel and miscommunication issues is this the most opportune time for Arizona to get back on track?

Just look at their Week 10 opponent.

Head coach Sean McVay and the Rams are coming off a Super Bowl victory and have routinely had Kingsbury’s number over the years — 7-1 all-time — but are in a much worse spot injury wise when it comes down to it.

The level of play has taken a noticeable shot, headlined by a lackluster offense that can’t seem to get it right behind a hobbled Matthew Stafford and an abysmal run game.

It’s clear L.A. has had Arizona’s number for years, which is why a victory on Sunday could go much further than just adding a win to the record.

Not only would they keep themselves afloat in the NFC Wild Card race with a W, the Cardinals would get an added jolt of confidence knowing they upended a team that has been public enemy No. 1 for Arizona out west.

It just has to (wait for it) execute. The Cardinals don’t have to right every wrong we’ve seen on paper over the weeks, but they have to take a noticeable and lengthy step forward on Sunday.

“All of us are frustrated with the little things piece of it,” Kingsbury said Monday. “You can never knock the effort when you watch our teams play. They’re giving everything they’ve got, but critical times and critical errors continue to show up. That’s something at some point, we’ve got to figure out before it’s too late.

“I don’t think we’ve shown what we can be. I think our team understands that, but we’ve got to find a way to get it cleaned up.”

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