Arizona Cardinals’ loss to Falcons felt like a victory

Jan 1, 2023, 4:02 PM | Updated: 8:03 pm

Valley sports fans absorbed great trauma in 2022. The hope is that a new year will bring redemption and joy to Arizona.

We’re off to a good start.

The Cardinals’ 20-19 defeat in Atlanta was their best loss of the season. It was a loss that felt like a victory. It came on a day when a victory would’ve been bittersweet, at best.

It unveiled an intriguing option at quarterback. David Blough shined in his first start since 2019. He was the 64th quarterback to start in the NFL this season, a statistic that makes league owners cringe. But Blough was poised, even-keeled and clear-headed. He made some nice plays. He’s an underdog with great perspective. He’s about to become a “Hard Knocks” star for a second team this season. And he looks like a very capable backup quarterback moving forward.

It featured a breakout performance from tight end Trey McBride, who had seven receptions and his first career touchdown. Earlier in the season, there was a fear McBride might’ve been a terrible reach and a potential bust from the 2022 NFL draft. He’s come a long way in the past few weeks.

It was a tribute to James Conner, who continues to run hard every game, every play. There is no quarter given anytime he’s on a football field. He has exceeded 100 yards from scrimmage in four of the past five games, and his strong finish is a tribute to his character.

It yielded just rewards for J.J. Watt, who found the sack he was looking for, exceeding the 10-sack plateau for the sixth time in his Hall of Fame career. Watt has been a shining light for the Cardinals, providing crucial leadership through one of the most dysfunctional seasons in team history. While Watt has announced his retirement, the mentoring he provided Zach Allen, Cameron Thomas and others will be invaluable down the road.

In the end, the last-second defeat gave the Cardinals 12 losses. And with all due respect to the men who play the game, nothing is more important than the team’s draft position following the end of the regular season.

The Cardinals risk great indignity if they lose their season finale in San Francisco. They might end the season on a seven-game losing streak, and a 13th loss will tie a franchise record for ineptitude. Given all the off-field drama and dysfunction, a 13th loss will unofficially commemorate this year’s team as the worst in franchise history. And if you know this team’s history, that’s a mouthful.

But 13 losses will guarantee the Cardinals a top four draft pick. They will be in perfect position to draft the best non-quarterback in the nation or, better yet, trade down for a bounty of future assets. Their draft position in 2023 could be a game-changing moment for the franchise, providing much-needed regeneration and influx of talent.

The Cardinals and their fan base badly need the consolation prize that awaits. The one that might’ve been ruined with a victory in Atlanta.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6–10 a.m. on 98.7.

Presented By
Western Governors University

Dan Bickley

Kevin Durant and Devin Booker look on...

Dan Bickley

Suns have 27 games to prep before chase for poetic justice begins

Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Suns fans can have a weight lifted if the 2023-24 Phoenix Suns can win an NBA championship this year.

5 days ago

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo NLDS Game 3 October 11, 2023 (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Spo...

Dan Bickley

Torey Lovullo has become the Diamondbacks’ Braveheart through the ups and downs

Torey Lovullo has endured criticism and success through his tenure with the Diamondbacks and has emerged as our version of William Wallace in Braveheart.

11 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: The growing feud of Draymond Green vs. Phoenix Suns’ Kevin Durant, Jusuf Nurkić

Draymond Green took to his podcast to share what he said to Kevin Durant after the Suns faced the Warriors on Saturday. Dan Bickley dives into the growing feud between the Golden State forward vs. KD and Jusuf Nurkić. Video: Felisa Cárdenas and Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports Photos: Chris Coduto, Thearon W. Anderson, Ethan Miller, Tim […]

11 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: With sights on a three-peat, could Patrick Mahomes be the Michael Jordan of the NFL?

After back-to-back Super Bowl wins and sights set on a three-peat, Dan Bickley makes a case for why Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes could be the Michael Jordan of the NFL. Video: Felisa Cárdenas and Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports Photos: Felisa Cárdenas/Arizona Sports; Getty Images

12 days ago

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)...

Dan Bickley

Bickley: WM Phoenix Open caps the weirdest, wettest and wildest tournament ever

Fans of the 2024 WM Phoenix Open experienced one of the weirdest, wettest and wildest versions of the tournament to date.

14 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Everything the Phoenix Suns did on trade deadline day was exhilarating

On the Bickley Blast following the NBA trade deadline, Dan Bickley said the Suns’ moves were “exhilarating.” Video: Felisa Cárdenas and Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports

16 days ago

Arizona Cardinals’ loss to Falcons felt like a victory