Accepting Arizona Cardinals means understanding what they are
Like after every game this season, I fully planned on writing about the Arizona Cardinals’ 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday.
I didn’t (sorry, boss).
That it was Arizona’s third-consecutive loss should be cause for concern.
That the Cardinals lost a game win which the opposing quarterback threw for just 58 yards should be cause for one pulling their hair out.
That the Cardinals seem more likely to become the fourth team since 2008 to start a season 4-0 and miss the postseason should be reason to be upset.
But I’m not. Bummed, sure. But not upset.
Guess that comes with understanding and accepting who these Cardinals are.
A team with an outstanding defense, a solid special teams and an offense that even the 1994 Cardinals feel bad for.
For those who don’t remember, that was Buddy Ryan’s first year in the Valley, and his team scored fewer than 15 points per game. The Cards gave up fewer than 17 points per game that season, and rode that defense to an 8-8 record.
Actually, now that I think of it, the 2012 and 1994 Cardinals have a lot in common. Now all we need is Ken Whisenhunt to leave the final game of the 2013 season before it’s actually over and we’ll actually have something.
Anyway, the point is it’s taken seven games, but now we have a real good idea of who and what the Arizona Cardinals are and what they are not.
They are equal parts exciting and depressing, enjoyable and frustrating. They are severely flawed on offense and incredibly capable on defense. They are capable of beating anyone on any given Sunday.
Yet, as of this moment it’s tough to picture this team winning another game.
Until the offense starts getting out of its own way (or begins to get in a defensive lineman’s) this team will struggle to score points. As great as the defense is, it’s obvious the deficiency on the other side of the football is just too much to overcome.
We should have seen it coming.
The team’s formula success was something like great defense + mostly-competent offense + outstanding special teams = wins, and that was fun while it worked. But it was not sustainable. Certain areas needed to improve, and that they haven’t is now costing this team on a weekly basis.
Falling from 4-0 to 4-3 would be bad in itself, but a quick glance at the schedule reveals a likelihood of the Cardinals reaching 4-6. Think about it: this team could be in the midst of its second six-game losing streak in two seasons. That’s not acceptable.
A friend asked me the other day “let’s say the Cards finish 6-10, do you fire Whisenhunt and promote Horton?”
The thought behind the idea is that Ray Horton, who has turned Arizona’s defense into one of the best in the league, is too valuable to watch leave for another team. And Whisenhunt, for all the good things he’s done in the Valley, would have just finished with his third-straight sub-par campaign. Do you give the head coach more time to fix things, even if it costs you one of the game’s rising stars?
I didn’t have an answer for my friend, and I won’t for a little while.
If anything his question is one for later down the road, if it even must be asked at all. While it may be getting easier to project this team going forward, the fact of the matter is there is still more than half a season left to be played.
A lot can change. Or nothing will change.
Not long ago, my colleague Dave Burns wrote if we want to love the Cardinals we’ll have to learn to live with their flaws.
Problem is not only will we have to learn to live with their flaws, but accept the fact that they will ultimately be too much for this team to overcome.