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After Loss, Cardinals Regroup

Posted Dec 2, 2013

Following first setback in more than a month, Arians wants to focus on NFC West

After the loss in Philadelphia, the Cardinals are looking forward to the Rams Sunday.

Before Monday, the last time the Cardinals woke up dealing with a loss the previous day was Oct. 18.

That’s a long time to forget what it’s like.

Such a stretch “needs to happen more often,” tackle Eric Winston said. “I think it tastes even worse when you haven’t had it in a while and you lose a game, especially the way we did. I think it hurts worse and I think guys are yearning to get back out there.

“I expect a lot of people in here (on the player’s off day Tuesday) and I expect a lively practice Wednesday. Hopefully that’s where we are heading.”

In the wake of Sunday’s 24-21 loss in Philadelphia, the Cardinals (7-5) suddenly find themselves in a difficult position with just four games remaining. The postseason remains possible, but the loss made such a result much more difficult.

Coach Bruce Arians acknowledged the Cardinals “regressed back” to the team they had been earlier in the year – a team that turned the ball over too much and couldn’t get game-changing plays when needed. Losing the turnover battle three to zero and still having a chance to win late is an accomplishment in itself, although it means little if the Cards are sitting home in January.

Instead, Arians has turned the focus toward the NFC West, which provides three of the Cardinals’ final four opponents and within which the Cards have not won a game in their last eight attempts. The Rams, who beat the Cardinals in St. Louis to open the season, visit Sunday.

The last time the Cards won a division game, they beat the Seahawks in the 2012 opener, in Russell Wilson's first game. But that was a long time ago.

“We haven’t won a division game in two years,” Arians said. “If we’re ever going to do anything we better start winning our division. I don’t want to hear about anything else in our locker room except winning a division game, so that’s the message.”

The Cardinals are now sitting eighth in the NFC, not a great place when only six make the playoffs. Because Dallas currently owns the tiebreaker over Philadelphia for the NFC East lead – the teams still have to play again – the two teams immediately ahead of the Cardinals have beaten the Cards head-to-head: The Eagles and 49ers.

Controlling their own destiny is possible, but reality says the Cards probably want the Eagles to eventually win the NFC East and shove the Cowboys out of the mix. Because the Panthers must still play the Saints twice, there is still a chance Carolina – which lost to Arizona earlier this year – could come back to the Cards, but right now, the Panthers have a two-game edge.

With four games left across the board, however, little is resolved.

“I think it is easy when you are in such a heated race for the playoffs to get caught up, ‘What do we need to happen, who do we need to lose?’ ” Winston said. “It doesn’t matter unless you win the games.

“Everyone wants to bring up scenarios and everyone forgets you have to win the games. I really believe if we win out, we will be fine.”

That would certainly rid them the taste of the most recent loss.

“There’s a lot of football left and a lot of crazy things happen this time of year,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “We just have to keep our heads down, continue to fight, continue to work and we have a big divisional game, fortunately at our place this time. We want some payback against that team. One game at a time, that’s all you can worry about right now.”

EXTRA POINTS

Arians said running back Andre Ellington (knee) and linebacker Kevin Minter (shoulder) are day-to-day. …

Kickoff for the Cardinals game in Tennessee Dec. 15 has been moved from 11 a.m. Arizona time to 2:25 p.m. Arizona time.

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