EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.-- This laugh was different than the usual chortle coming from Larry Fitzgerald.
It had seven weeks of futility built up behind it, and all the frustration and emotions that go with the second-longest losing streak in the NFL. All Fitzgerald could do, though, was shake his head and laugh.
The Cardinals haven’t won since Sept. 30 when the Miami Dolphins visited University of Phoenix Stadium, a stretch of seven games spanning two months. Each week in the NFL is important. But the importance of each week during a losing streak is magnified even greater.
The urgency to stop the skid has reached proportions players would rather not talk about.
“It’s off the charts … It’s off the charts,” Fitzgerald said. “It would be like (if) you would be drowning. Have you ever been in a pool and (were) struggling for air and how hard you fight to get to the top? That’s kind of how we all feel right now. We’re drowning and we’re struggling and fighting to do anything we can to get to the top. And if you’re close enough to me I’ll pull you down to get to the air. So that’s where we’re at with it.
“We’re desperate. We’re desperate. We’re desperate for a win.”
It’s a word players don’t like to use. Linebacker
“I don’t want to say it, man, but if I can use another word for it I would,” Washington said. “That’s pretty much what it is.”
Playing with their third starting quarterback of the season, the Cardinals’ lineup has been decimated by injuries all year. They lost center
Regardless of who is – or isn’t – in uniform, the Cardinals’ urgency to win is growing. The same can be said of Sunday’s opponent, the Jets.
New York has lost four of its last five and six of the past eight, and although its slide hasn’t been as steep as the Cardinals, Sunday will pit two teams against each other both starving for a win.
“Well, obviously, for both teams you’re fighting for your life like crazy,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “And you know both of us are an extremely hungry football team. I’m sure Ken (Whisenhunt) feels the same way. We both feel we are better teams than what our record indicates but at the same time there’s the old saying, ‘You are what your record says you are’.”
For Jets linebacker Calvin Pace, who played five seasons with the Cardinals, the sense of urgency to win shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Teams should treat every week with the intensity the Jets and Cardinals are treating Sunday.
But, in New York, as in Arizona, the need to win has bypassed the desire to win.
“I think we are past the must-win phase,” Pace said. “In this situation, we kind of just need to win by any means necessary.”
So what happens when two teams face each other amidst a long slide while in a mindset described by Pace?
“It’ll be a competitive game, hard-nosed football, two teams going at it that are desperate for a win,” Washington said. “It’s going to be a crazy game. Who wants it more? May the best man win.”