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Cardinals Aware Bye Week Must Be Handled Better In 2020

Besides COVID concerns, Kingsbury wants to avoid flat game showing like 2019

Teammates (from left) Angelo Blackson, Jonathan Ward, Kylie Fitts and Chris Banjo congratulate kicker Zane Gonzalez (5) after Gonzalez's game-winning field goal against the Seahawks.
Teammates (from left) Angelo Blackson, Jonathan Ward, Kylie Fitts and Chris Banjo congratulate kicker Zane Gonzalez (5) after Gonzalez's game-winning field goal against the Seahawks.

Usually during a bye week, D.J. Humphries would – at least for a short while – shift his focus from football to fashion.

"Bye week is usually when I head to L.A. to buy my winter clothes and look snazzy in the cold weather," the Cardinals' left tackle said. "We have to take COVID tests every day so I'll be here. I'll do some online shopping."

The coronavirus certainly has changed the complexion of the bye. Required daily tests of players, coaches and staff mean even if there was a private island to which to escape, logistics would get in the way of any trips.

Then again, it would've been different anyway, after what Kliff Kingsbury went through in his first season as coach. The Cardinals were on a losing streak heading into the bye but had been competitive. The idea was that it would carry over into a home game against the Rams after the rest.

It most certainly did not. The Rams blitzed the Cardinals, 34-7, and Rams quarterback Jared Goff piled up 405 yards passing by the 8:44 mark of the third quarter.

This year, the Cardinals – a better team at 5-2, with the Dolphins visiting State Farm Stadium next week – plan to be more prepared.

"I think just addressing it and understanding last year coming off the bye was the one game since I've been here that I felt we were just non-competitive," Kingsbury said. "I thought we had a bad week of practice. It rolled right into Thanksgiving. It was kind of a combination of things, and we were awful against the Rams. They kind of embarrassed us.

"We have to individually take it upon ourselves to keep the focus and stay dialed in and stay on this energy that we're on right now."

Humphries said getting away from the facility to "reset" is important. But wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said Kingsbury told the team in a meeting that while players should take time to "clear your mind," the Cardinals also don't want to squander what they have built through seven games.

"Understand we have the stretch run of the season ahead of us," Fitzgerald said. "(He was) reminding us about what happened last year when we came off the bye and what the Rams did, embarrassing us at home."

Not that the Cardinals are unhappy to have some time off. They have created some momentum with the three-game winning streak, but enough injuries have cropped up over seven weeks that health is an issue. The injured reserve list has grown, although some (like safety Jalen Thompson) should be coming back. And any extra time between games benefits the rest of the wounded.

Besides, the hindsight of last year's post-bye disappointment gives General Manager Steve Keim confidence the Cardinals won't repeat it.

"I think we are a team and particularly a coach that is humble enough to learn from mistakes we've made in the past," Keim said. "Coming off of a 'Monday Night Football' game on a short week and then playing overtime against your division rival, there's no better time than a bye right now. We certainly need it. We need it both mentally and physically. I think our guys will come out and respond."

With a chance to win the NFC West – the best division in the league – the Cardinals can't afford to throw any games away because they aren't ready to play.

"This is year two for me, so understanding what happened last year, what I did last year," quarterback Kyler Murray said. "For me there is no bye week. Last year we kind of treated it like there was a bye week, this year the head stays down. There is no bye week for me, so I'm going to keep at it and be ready to come back and lead these guys."