Turn on any sports TV or radio program discussing the NFL postseason, and the one team nearly unanimously panned at this stage is the sinking Arizona Cardinals.
Right now, the Cards are the highlighted team in any talk about who could be swiftly swept out of the postseason. Losers of three straight and five of their last eight games following a 7-0 start, it’s not hard to see why few trust Arizona to turn it around once the competition gets stiffer in January.
Star quarterback Kyler Murray, however, thinks it’s balderdash for people to consider the Cards a lousy team.
“I don’t buy into the whole ‘cloud over us, we’re trying to get to the playoffs,'” Murray said Wednesday, via the team’s official website. “The guys, mentality-wise, we were already there. We already knew we were going to be in the playoffs. It was more about executing in the game that we’re in. Nobody has been looking forward to the playoffs or anything like that. I just think we’ve got to execute, and we’ve got to be better. Individually, everybody has got to be better.
“People are making dramatic statements and all that stuff about the team. There’s nothing crazy that needs to be done. It’s just everybody has got to do their job. Everybody has got to be a little bit better. Stop turning the ball over, stop making mistakes, penalties, and stuff like that and we’ll be fine.”
The Cards backed into the postseason, clinching last Sunday when the L.A. Rams beat the Minnesota Vikings.
It’s not the first season the Cards have struggled down the stretch under Kliff Kingsbury. Each of the coach’s seasons in the desert has ended on a losing streak.
It’s not just that the Cardinals are losing. It’s that they’re coming up short in every phase.
The defense has become a sieve since J.J. Watt exited, unable to plug the leaks. After leading the NFL in points per game allowed (16.3) and opponent’s third-down percent (28.7) through the first seven weeks, the D is giving up 24.0 points per game and allowing 43.3 percent conversion rate on third downs in Weeks 8-16.
The offense put up 32.1 points per game and 402.1 yards per tilt to open the season. In the last eight games, they Cardinals are scoring 21.1 points per game and 354.1 yards.
Even special teams is struggling, with kicker Matt Prater missing six kicks in the past five weeks (three in Week 11, three in Week 16).
Injuries have certainly played a role in the Cards’ struggles, as the offense isn’t as dangerous sans DeAndre Hopkins on the outside, and an already suspect run defense has turned to swiss cheese sans Watt. But every team deals with injuries throughout a season. Every. Single. One.
The greats overcome.
Murray noted that the losing isn’t OK, but he rejected the negative narrative surrounding his club.
“There are tons of people out there who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about,” Murray said. “When you win all that stuff gets swept under the rug. It’s like I said last year, we were winning, and we were still doing some of those same things and then we started losing and everybody started pointing them out and everybody is talking bad about us. It’s the same this year.
“You’ve got to do the little things right, no matter what you’re doing in life. People don’t have a clue but if you watch the film and you know what you’re looking we’re not far off.”
Murray got away with some dangerous throws early that turned into highlights. But, recently, the magic has turned tragic, and the Cards haven’t been able to overcome their mistakes like early in the season.
But wins in September count just as much in the record books as the ones in December — even if they’re perceived differently. The Cards are in the postseason. And there, they have a chance to turn it around and prove the skid didn’t define their season.
“Me personally, I’m not panicking,” Murray said. “I don’t think anybody on this team is panicking. Yes, we’ve lost three in a row. The Rams lost three in a row, everybody was counting them out, the Chiefs. It’s not a thing where it doesn’t happen. This is the NFL, it’s not easy. When you do things right and you don’t hurt yourself, you don’t beat yourself, I like us in those situations.”
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