Cardinals at Falcons: Arizona aims to avoid consecutive losses
Nov 29, 2014, 10:00 PM | Updated: 10:00 pm
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals won six consecutive games before dropping last week’s contest to the Seattle Seahawks 19-3.
Now, the goal is to not let that losing “streak” reach two.
“Some of us have learned how easy it is to snowball a bunch of losses,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “In saying that, it’s just as easy to stack up wins when you have that confidence, and that’s why you don’t want to lose two in a row.”
Just two years ago, the Cardinals at one point lost nine in a row, four of which were by seven points or less. There is often a fine line between winning and losing in the NFL, and being on the wrong side of it can have disastrous implications.
While no one would expect this Cardinals team to start stacking losses, until they get back into the win column, it will remain a possibility.
Head coach Bruce Arians has often stressed the importance of not losing back-to-back games, adding it’s up to the team’s leaders to make sure everyone has the right mindset going forward. Last season, Arizona lost consecutive games just once — in Weeks 6 and 7, against the San Francisco 49ers and the Seahawks.
“They come to work and keep it a daily process,” he said. “The Seattle game is over with. To me, it was a month ago. It’s that far in the rearview mirror already, and you’re always ahead coming to work getting ready for what you control. You don’t control that game anymore. You control today.”
“Always, especially when you lose one ballgame, the main focus is not to drop two,” cornerback and captain Patrick Peterson said, pointing to the team’s division lead. “We want to make sure we keep that distance between us and our opponents in our division. Our main focus is to definitely not drop two games.”
Right now, Arizona is 9-2 and holds a 1.5 game lead over the Seahawks in the NFC West, as well as a one-game lead over Green Bay for the NFC’s best record. While the loss in Seattle did nothing to help their record, it’s possible they could have gained something from it.
After all, while the Cardinals have kept the right mentality all season, focusing on one game at a time and treating the next game as the most important game of the season, losing can help a team refocus.
“I think sometimes when you win, especially when you put like six, seven wins together like we were doing, you can overlook some of the small things,” linebacker and captain Lorenzo Alexander said. “Often times when you win, that’s what happens. When you lose, every little detail is kind of examined and re-examined. So I think it’s good at some point to do it now versus later so we can correct those things and get back on the winning streak and end the season the right way and have a chance to get into the playoffs.”
That’s not to say the Cardinals wanted to lose or even that they will surely be better off for it.
Calais Campbell, another captain, said it’s tough to win as many games in a row as Arizona did, so eventually there could be a lapse, but as long as they keep “respecting the process” things will be fine.
Starting Sunday in Atlanta.
“When you’re on the field and you lose a game, you want to make sure you bounce back the next week and I mean, you just have a little more desire, a little more chip on your shoulder,” he said. “But for the most part, we don’t have to do anything special. Just play football, play with energy and play with good technique and discipline, and we’re a tough team to beat.”
Things to Watch For
Does the record belie the talent?
The Falcons are a strange team in that they are 4-7 but tied for first in the NFC South. To a man, everyone on the Cardinals offered plenty of respect for their opponent, saying the record is not indicative of the talent on the roster. But do they really believe it?
Who will be there to catch the ball?
Each team could be without a key receiver Sunday, as Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald is listed as “questionable” after practicing on a limited basis Friday and Atlanta’s Roddy White has the same designation after not practicing at all during the week. Fitzgerald leads the Cardinals in receptions and receiving yards while White is second on his team in both categories.
Not much of a test for the run D?
The Cardinals have now gone 21 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, and don’t figure to get much of a test from Steven Jackson, whose highest single-game rushing total this season is 81 yards. In fact, after facing off with the likes of Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy over the last handful of games, Jackson may seem like a walk in the park.
Oh offense, where art though?
Arizona has gone seven quarters without a touchdown. When asked about it early in the week, Bruce Arians said he wasn’t overly concerned because the team has had its chances, but just shot itself in the foot too many times. While true, continued struggles in Atlanta — which comes in ranked 31st against the pass and 23rd against the run — would be moderate cause for concern.
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin thinks the offense is not far off, though.
“To me, we’ve got to; we’re too far to turn back. We know where we’re headed and we know what’s coming. We can’t turn back,” he said. “We’re on a mission, and in order for us to deliver on that mission, offensively we’ve got to do a better job. I told the guys the other day, defensively they’re holding up their end of the bargain, we’ve got to hold up ours too.”
Need more from the QB
For the most part, when called upon this season, Drew Stanton looked like someone who could lead the Cardinals to the playoffs. Last Sunday in Seattle, however, he looked more like a backup quarterback.
Asked how much of the offensive struggles he places on Stanton, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, “None.”
But that does not mean he can’t get better.
“I think sometimes I could have tried to stay in the pocket a little bit more, a half second trying to just reset my feet as opposed to getting out and trying to push the ball down the field, and trying to be more accurate underneath, obviously, with Dre (Andre Ellington), giving him a chance to catch and run and some other things,” Stanton said of his performance in Seattle. “It was difficult. Obviously, it’s a great defense going up there, and they presented a lot of problems like we thought they would. Cognizant of some of the things I’m going to try to improve on this week, and focus on that.”
Sacks, sacks and more sacks
Much was made of the Cardinals’ inability to get after the quarterback through the first eight games, in which they tallied just eight sacks. They have 17 over the last three games, however, with Campbell and second-year pro Alex Okafor leading the way with six apiece.
“At this point in the year, they’re getting a lot more familiar with each other,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said about his players and why the numbers are rising. “They do come in bunches, and we just keep working at it.”
Finally, a big back
The Cardinals have been looking for a big, short-yardage back ever since losing Jonathan Dwyer, and may have found one in veteran Michael Bush. Signed early in the week, it’s possible he will be active Sunday with a handful of packages and plays for him to run.
A little more Coop
Last week, guard Jonathan Cooper was on the field for five offensive snaps. The team liked having him in at tight end, giving them an extra blocker. That’s something that the team may turn to more in the future.
“He did pretty good last week, he did pretty good,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “I was proud of him. The biggest thing with him is, I tell him, ‘When your time comes, just make sure you’re ready, because you don’t want to fail.’ He’s getting closer and we’ll see what happens as far if he’ll be out there at tight end again.”