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Cardinals Keep Fighting Forward

Posted Dec 16, 2013

With Seahawks on deck, nine wins in hand and playoffs tough to see, Arians and players focused

The Cardinals' win in Tennessee assured them of only their fourth winning record since moving to Arizona in 1988.

Victory Monday ostensibly gives the veterans an extra day off after each of the late-season wins the Cardinals have compiled.

But throughout Monday morning, the weight, meeting and training rooms were buzzing with most of the roster.

“The captains have just about everybody in here to watch the tape this morning, which is a great sign, and get started on Seattle,” coach Bruce Arians said Monday, the day after his team moved to 9-5 with a 37-34 overtime win in Tennessee.

That’s what happens this time of year when the playoffs are a possibility – and something that’s been absent the past couple of seasons.

Arians became the first Cardinals coach since Norm Barry back in 1925 to record at least nine wins in his first season. It’s only the fourth winning season the Cardinals have had since moving to Arizona in 1988, and there are still two games left. Only the 2009 team has reached double-digit wins for the franchise after the move west. No group has won 11. The Cardinals still have two chances left to win.

Yet it’s hard to get revved up for success when the ultimate goal – the postseason – remains hard to get and something for which the Cardinals need help.

“It’s still grind it out every day and see if we can win 10,” Arians said. “Ten has kind of been the benchmark since the team moved to Arizona.

“Those would be nice, but they don’t mean anything if you don’t get to the dance.”

Needing to get a win in Seattle isn’t inviting either. Arians called the game a barometer to see how far the Cardinals have come in the division; No one around the Cards who was around last year forgets the 58-0 loss in Seattle last season.

It doesn’t help that the Cardinals are banged up. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald suffered a concussion Sunday and will go through the league’s concussion protocol during the week. His status for the game probably won’t be known for certain before Friday at the earliest.

Quarterback Carson Palmer (low-grade high ankle sprain) and running back Andre Ellington (thigh bruise) each should be OK, but starting free safety Rashad Johnson – who was already replacing injured Tyrann Mathieu – suffered a high-ankle sprain that Arians expressed concern over. Rookie Tony Jefferson would start in Johnson’s place if necessary.

Defensively, the Cardinals must be better than they were against the Titans. The last six minutes of regulation was a surprising defensive disaster, and allowing 400 yards passing to a team that gave up on the run was hard to fathom.

Arians wasn’t happy with the pass rush overall in the game, saying that was a bigger problem than the Mathieu-less secondary. The message continues to be wins above all else, however, and the Cardinals emerged with that win again Sunday.

“I think it just goes to the character that we have,” kicker Jay Feely said. “We don’t quit or don’t get down on each other. You didn’t see the offense yelling at the special teams or the defense or anything. The guys in this locker room really like each other and that comes through in those moments when you have adversity.”

Arians has worked hard not to talk about the playoffs much, and his players have parroted the same things. Ultimately, they have to keep winning and then see what happens. That’s why guys show up on a given “off” day looking for a game plan that isn’t prepared by the coaches until Monday night and Tuesday.

As the season draws to a close – only a home game against San Francisco remains after the Seattle trip – the postseason possibilities are become less vague and more important. Arians admitted it would be “really weird” if the Cardinals were to finish 11-5 and not make the playoffs, which is a distinct possibility.

“I’m used to winning the division with 11-5,” Arians said. “It’s a great division and the NFC is playing extremely well this year. We’ll just wait and see.”

EXTRA POINTS

Fitzgerald did pass the tests needed to fly home with the team Sunday night “but that’s still a long way to go from being cleared,” Arians said. …

In light of the Fitzgerald concussion trying to recover the onside kick, Arians said he thinks the Competition Committee needs to address it. However, he acknowledged the Cardinals messed up a blocking assignment that should have protected Fitzgerald. Arians also said “onside kicks are part of the game; I’d hate to see them change.” …

Arians said he has confidence in cornerback Patrick Peterson bouncing back but “it was not his best game, by far.”

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