Following first loss, it’s all about how Cardinals respond
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Last week, after the Arizona Cardinals destroyed the San Francisco 49ers 47-7, they were the talk of the NFL.
After all, any team that can do that must be one of the best in the NFL, if not the best.
This week, after that same Cardinals team fell to the St. Louis Rams 24-22, there’s no doubt some of the talk will be about how they were being overrated, that they had yet to face a competent team and upon finally doing so, lost.
Somewhere in the middle of the two extremes lies the truth. The Cardinals are not a great team, but they are a good one — perhaps even very good.
They weren’t necessarily outplayed by the Rams — the Cardinals outgained St. Louis 447 yards to 328, had twice as many first downs (26 to 13), got at least one first down on every possession and possessed the ball for 33:13. The Cardinals lost, really, because they shot themselves in the foot for most of the game, turning the ball over three times, converting just two of 11 third-down chances and scoring a touchdown on just one of their five trips inside the red zone. Carson Palmer wasn’t particularly sharp, and the defense had just enough lapses to allow the Rams to burn them.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said the game came down to his team just not making plays that were there for the making.
“We didn’t get it done,” he said. “We just didn’t play well enough to get it done.”
But did putting themselves in position to do so only to continually fall short make it even more frustrating?
“Hell yeah,” the coach answered.
If you’re looking for a silver lining in Sunday’s loss, that could be it. The Cardinals were not outclassed or out-talented. While it would be foolish to not give the Rams any credit as they made plays when they had to and did not make mistakes, it’s not unreasonable to see this loss as one due more to what the Cardinals did to themselves or didn’t do at all than anything else.
Some may view their issues as stemming from overconfidence leading into the game, but the Cardinals say that wasn’t at all the case.
“No, no, we’re not that kind of group,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said when asked if maybe the team needed to be humbled. “We’re a bunch of blue-collar guys, we come to work every day. We’re not one of those kinds of teams that needs to be humbled.
“But it’s the NFL. I’ve been in it for a while, you’re always going to get served some humble pie. It’s just how it happens in this business. Personally, as a team, it just happens that way. The good teams are able to be resilient and bounce back from this type of loss. We’ve got two on the road so our mettle’s going to be tested the next couple weeks.”
Indeed, the Cardinals were going to lose sooner or later, and while it was expected to be later, it counts as just one loss. And following it, the message has been about bouncing back.
“I told the team at the end it’s how you respond,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. “You lose a game, it sucks, it happens in the NFL. You’re still 3-1 and we’re still sitting in a good situation, so if we go out there and respond and play football we’ll be OK, it’s as simple as that.”
So how do the Cardinals respond?
As Fitzgerald noted, they will hit the road for a pair of road matchups, first with the Detroit Lions and then the Pittsburgh Steelers. There’s a good chance the Cardinals will be favored to win each game, meaning if they take care of business, they could be 5-1 by the time they return to Arizona for a Monday Night Football tilt with the Baltimore Ravens.
That wouldn’t be a bad record at all. In fact, it’s one that most people probably would been more than happy with had they been asked before the season began.
Should the Cardinals have won Sunday against the Rams and extended their record to 4-0? Probably, but for a variety of reasons, they did not do that. Whether they needed to refocus after a couple of cushy wins or not, their only concern is making sure this does not become a habit and something that snowballs into the rest of the season.
“Just go back, watch the film, see what you did wrong, work on it this week and go get a win,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “I mean at the end of the day the season isn’t over. We’ve still got a lot of ball left to play. We’re 3-1, still on top of the NFC West, and the ball is in our court. We control our own destiny.
“We get to work and do what we’ve got to do, we look back at this game and it was just a game. It was something that motivated us to get back to where we needed to be and not let it happen to us again.”