As the Cardinals came off the field last weekend in Seattle, there was little question – no matter how difficult it can be to win there – the team felt the collective gut-punch of a loss expected to be a win.
Across the country, the New York Giants were at the other end of the emotional spectrum, finishing off a week of hype by knocking off their heated NFC East rival Eagles in Philadelphia.
That the two teams face off Sunday in the wake those results makes for an interesting dynamic as the Cardinals return to University of Phoenix Stadium for the first time since the opener.
“A game of this magnitude, I’m not trying to say it’s ‘The Game,’ but we know everyone is going to be watching – whether it’s watching us or just paying attention (because it’s the Giants) – and everyone just has to show up and do their job,” Cardinals tackle
The Cards certainly don’t want to take the emotion out of it on their side. They can be boosted by the home crowd. The Giants have to travel cross country, and didn’t come to Arizona until Saturday morning.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he didn’t think there would be a letdown after the Philly win, saying “I hope we’re preaching the right things.” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, meanwhile, isn’t sure anything like that can carry over from week to week.
Whisenhunt said only “aspects” of a game can carry over to the next week – confidence in the running game if a team is running well, for instance, or a defense forcing a glut of turnovers and thinking it can continue.
“But the way the whole game is going, I don’t know about that,” Whisenhunt said. “If you make a lot of plays and play well, that can build your confidence and that can help carry you over.”
Certainly, the Cards’ confidence isn’t exactly soaring after Seattle. Frustration is the more apt description, and the knowledge that, after the defense finally had a game with which it was satisfied, the offense backtracked.
Whisenhunt has never started worse than 2-2 since taking over the Cardinals in 2007. He faced a similar situation in his first year, sporting a 1-2 record and coming home to face a perennial power. In that case, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Cardinals managed to win, 21-14.
A letdown for the Giants is possible. But this is a team working with emotions all season, having had a slew of injuries – including some season-enders – that have played havoc with the lineup. Yet New York sports a 2-1 record.
“The way you overcome that is you have to be relentless,” said Giants safety (and former Cardinal) Antrel Rolle. “You have to take pride in what you’re doing and you have to trust the man beside you. It’s unfortunate we have so many injuries, but that’s going to happen.”
The Giants will be getting defensive end Osi Umenyiora back from injury, while the Cards expect to have running back
“We will have our work cut out for us,” Cardinals quarterback