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The Push For 11 Victories

Posted Dec 23, 2013

With playoffs out of team control, Cardinals trying to keep right attitude

Wide receiver Michael Floyd hauls in the game-winning touchdown catch during the Cardinals' 17-10 win over the Seahawks in Seattle.

When Karlos Dansby was in college at Auburn, a sign on the wall in one of his meeting rooms had a message.

“Attitude is contagious,” the sign read. “Is yours worth catching?”

The veteran linebacker referred to that Monday when talking about the confidence the Cardinals have built to this point, which currently means a 10-5 record after knocking off the Seahawks in Seattle Sunday. The confidence, Dansby said, hasn’t changed for him.

“My attitude has always been the same: Let’s win it all,” Dansby said. “That’s getting contagious right now.”

It’s a great sentiment -- “I don’t think too many teams want to see us in the playoffs,” coach Bruce Arians said Monday – but winning it all means actually getting in the playoffs. Assuming the Cardinals beat the 49ers in the season finale, a postseason spot can only come if the Saints would have to lose at home to the Buccaneers next weekend, an unlikely occurrence. (The Saints could also tie to make it work for the Cards, but that’s even more unlikely.) The Cards had been hoping for a Falcons' upset of the 49ers Monday night and nearly got it -- until an interception with the Falcons driving with less than two minutes to go delivered a gut punch to that particular Cardinals' dream.

That doesn’t mean the Cardinals can’t push for the one thing they can control, which would be 11 wins. The most wins for the franchise since moving to Arizona was the 10 the 2009 team had in winning the NFC West. And 11 would equal the most wins the team has ever had in a season, matching the total the Cardinals had in 1975 (11-4), 1948 (11-1) and 1925 (11-2-1).

“We can’t start looking at (playoff) scenarios,” safety Yeremiah Bell said. “If we start looking at scenarios it takes the focus off what we need to do next week.

“We knew about (the 11-win mark). That’s the next big thing. We heard they’ve only won 10 so we can set the record with 11. We feel like we can do it and we are going to prepare that way.”

Winning the last game against San Francisco will be predicated on a defense that is playing as well as it could be. A week after getting sloppy late in an overtime win in Tennessee, the refocused unit dominated the Seahawks, giving up just one touchdown and making quarterback and MVP candidate Russell Wilson look below average.

Defensive end Calais Campbell said it might have been the defense’s best performance of the season. Of Seattle’s 14 offensive possessions, nine netted fewer than 10 yards. Only two surpassed four plays.

Arians said he’d be “shocked” if defensive coordinator Todd Bowles didn’t at least interview for head coaching jobs this offseason, and linebacker Karlos Dansby admitted he didn’t want to see Bowles go anywhere.

The Cardinals now have the sixth-ranked defense overall and still have the top-ranked rush defense. It’s the reason the team could endure Carson Palmer’s four interceptions and be in position to have Palmer throw a game-winning touchdown pass late in the game.

“We are a very confident team right now,” Campbell said. “We feel if we get to the playoffs we can do some damage. We just have to get lucky.”

The luck has nothing to do with the Cardinals, of course. It’s other teams losing games they, on paper, shouldn’t.

Ultimately, that’s what is sticking with Arians. The Coach of the Year candidate has more wins for a first-year Cardinals coach than anyone but Norm Barry, who had 11 in that memorable 1925 campaign. Getting to 11 – or even going 10-6 – will still be a bit hollow without a 17th game.

“It’s all about the ring,” said Arians, who has two Super Bowl rings from his time with the Steelers. “You play the game to get a ring. You want to get in the dance. (To get 11 wins) is a nice foundation, but I’m not really about that stuff.”

That doesn’t mean Arians is worrying much about it. He didn’t watch the 49ers-Falcons game Monday night even with its crucial significance to his team. Too much work to do.

It’s the only attitude to have right now.

“I want to be 11-5 and let the chips fall,” Arians said. “There is some joy in that. If we’re watching the playoffs, we’ll be watching a bunch of teams we beat. That’s a little sour.

“We should have won 12. We had our chances.”

 

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