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Cardinals Stay The Course Heading Into Crucial Game Against Giants

With playoffs still in reach, group not panicking despite three-game losing streak

QB Kyler Murray will look to find the right balance against the Giants after an off-kilter last few weeks.
QB Kyler Murray will look to find the right balance against the Giants after an off-kilter last few weeks.

The armchair coaches are out in full force this week.

The Cardinals (6-6) have lost three in a row to put their once-strong playoff hopes into limbo heading into Sunday's game against the Giants, and coach Kliff Kingsbury has received plenty of not-so-subtle-suggestions to heal his ailing offense.

Move DeAndre Hopkinsaround. Get Kyler Murray out of the pocket. Take more deep shots.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, a former head coach himself, is one of the few with actual access to Kingsbury, but he isn't advocating mass changes.

"We talk every single day about our team," Joseph said. "We talk from 5:30 in the morning to 9:30 at night about this team. It's good conversation. I keep encouraging Coach that he's doing the right things. It does take time to transform from being a young team that wasn't very good two years ago to a team that's in contention.

"We are in contention right now, and it took us, what, a year-and-a-half to get there? This team is a good, young team. We have a chance to make the playoff if we win games, obviously. It hasn't been perfect and it hasn't been easy, but we're still getting better."

Kingsbury spoke this week of the NFL being a cyclical league -- and how the Cardinals were in the midst of a down period. If this is indeed just a blip, then there is still plenty to look forward to.

If the Cardinals beat the Giants (5-7) on Sunday, they will move back into one of the wild card playoff spots with three games remaining. However, a loss would send the team under .500 for the first time all year and put a huge dent in its postseason chances.

"We have to get a win," left guard Justin Pugh said. "We have to get a win to keep our playoff hopes alive, and the Giants are in the way."

The Cardinals' offense had one of its worst games of the year against the Rams last time out, totaling only 232 yards due to an abominable first half. Murray was limited on the ground for the third straight game and only averaged 4.4 yards per pass attempt.

Kingsbury and Murray have been criticized heavily this week, but running back Chase Edmonds says the blame should spread further.

"You know how it goes," Edmonds said. "Quarterback and coach are going to take the heat, first and foremost. Football is a team game. There are 11 men on the field at one time, and we've all got to find a way to help Kyler out, help him get better, help him feel more comfortable. It's clearly not on those two at all."

Murray said external opinions don’t faze him. He is concentrating on getting the offense back on track after three consecutive games of substandard performance, and doesn't see a need for panic.

"I'm being serious when I say we've just got to go back to practice," Murray said Wednesday. "We've got to be better each and every day. We've got to execute better. We've got to pay more attention to details. We're not far off."

The Cardinals' defense was on the field too much against Los Angeles, but even so, the performance was poor in the fourth quarter, when the Rams kept answering Cardinals scores with touchdowns of their own.

The Giants have struggled offensively this season, and quarterback Daniel Jones is listed as questionable to play, but it would be a surprise if he did not.

"I believe he's the guy that's going to be in there," safety Budda Baker said. "(I'm watching) as much Daniel Jones film as I can."

The Giants are riding high right now, as four straight wins have zoomed them into first place in the NFC East after a 1-7 start.

The Cardinals have a better record, but it sure doesn't feel like it because of their downward trajectory. While others are sure the sky is falling, the team seems to be keeping an even keel, led by its head coach.

"It's a hard league, and when you invest so many hours each week, it's easy to be broken after those losses, but he's always so positive," Joseph said.

Kingsbury said it's not in his nature to ride the emotional waves.

"I just try to be consistent in my approach," Kingsbury said. "That's how I am generally, and I don't waver based upon wins and losses. If we're not playing at a high enough level, I'll definitely let people know. When we need to get things corrected, we'll let them know. But I'm not going to come in here and be a doomsdayer. It's just not who I am or what I want this place to be about."

Images from the Dignity Health Training Center, presented by Hyundai.