TEMPE, Ariz. — Bruce Arians delivered a pre-emptive strike at his weekly Monday press conference. It was aimed at those pondering the immense playoff possibilities after the Cardinals’ gut-check, 39-32 win on Sunday night in Seattle.
“It was a great game. It sets up this one,” the Cardinals coach said, targeting this week’s matchup with the once-beaten Cincinnati Bengals. “No need to talk about stretches and all that bull(expletive). This is a big game here.”
Arians knows what is on Cardinals fans’ minds, and he knows which storylines will be weaving their way through the various media outlets. With the Green Bay Packers’ recent struggles, and with the NFC mostly mired in mediocrity, the Cardinals are in position once again to earn a first-round playoff bye and a second-round game at home, putting them within shouting distance of the NFC Championship.
By grabbing the mic before any reporters could ask questions on Monday, Arians made it clear his own team is reciting a different message instead of playing out the next seven weeks in their heads to see if they can earn all those spoils.
“Right now, it’s just add ’em up at the end,” Arians said. “Let’s stay in the moment to make sure that those kinds of things happen. If you start talking about them too much I think you start looking at the wrong goals. Right now, it’s to have the best Wednesday practice we can have.”
The message had already been delivered to the players by the time Arians spoke.
“We’ve got a tough game coming up with Cincinnati so just prepare for that one,” receiver Jaron Brown said, when asked about the significance of the win in Seattle. “Wednesday’s practice is right around the corner. We’re going to start looking at film and just prepare for them.”
As Arians noted, the win in Seattle set this one up and that week-to-week progression is how the Cardinals will and must proceed from here on out. Arizona has one of the NFL’s most difficult second-half schedules, with the Bengals, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers still ahead, before a rematch with the Seahawks in the season finale at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The weekly tests pose an enormous challenge for Arizona, but they also play right into Arians’ hands when trying to keep his team focused on short-term goals.
“No chance of a letdown,” he said. “There might be a letdown today but there won’t be any for Sunday. Our guys know (what it means) when you get an undefeated team coming into your house.”
By winning in Seattle, the Cardinals did more than ratchet up the buzz around this next game and put themselves in position for greater achievements. They added another layer of confidence to the coat of armor they began constructing with a 17-10 win in Seattle two seasons ago (Arians’ first season) against a team that went on to win the Super Bowl.
“We don’t lack any confidence, for sure, but it reassures it when you go there and win,” Arians said. “It just helps to build it and a week like that can really lead to a good week of practice, which leads to better weeks.”
With a 4-1 road record, the Cardinals also know they can win anywhere now. That’s a big step over each of the previous two seasons when the team went 4-4 away from University of Phoenix Stadium. Beating the two-time defending NFC champs in their own stadium helps fortify the belief system, and the manner in which the Cardinals accomplished it — by overcoming some late adversity — helped all the more.
“If it had been a coaster all the way, who knows if we could handle adversity down the road,” Arians said. “Now that you’ve done it on the road, it proves to you that you can. I think there’s a lot of growth from that win — more so than had it been 19-0 the whole way.”