Running back Rashard Mendenhall breaks off a run during the Cardinals' opener in St. Louis.
A loss is a loss, but Bruce Arians saw something slightly different come out of it last week for his Cardinals.
"I told the team last week I don't think they knew how good they were," Arians said. "That was my biggest fear for this team, that they didn't really realize how good they were.
"Now, they know. They know how good they can be. We have to go out this Sunday and prove it."
The home opener beckons, against the Detroit Lions at University of Phoenix Stadium. It's the first time since 2009 the Cardinals have gone into the second game saddled with a loss, although it didn't mean much for them in the long run in any of those three
seasons. And the opening loss in 2009 didn't stop the Cards from posting a 10-win season, their best ever as a franchise in Arizona.
No one is proclaiming this year's version a 10-win team yet, even with Arians' optimism. But the uncertainty that followed the Cardinals into the regular season – some pundits had them a three-win team this season, some a 10-win team – is slowly being washed away.
"You have to understand how many new faces, how many young faces we have," linebacker John Abraham said. "I think we are still jelling together. The more we get to know each other, the more comfortable we get with each other, the more we stick with each other, it will show up more on the field. I think the confidence will show up at the end of the game a little more than it did (last week)."
The Lions (1-0) are coming off a good performance against the Vikings in Week 1. They gave up a 78-yard touchdown run to Adrian Peterson on his first carry of the game and then allowed just 15 yards rushing to him the rest of the game, while new running back Reggie Bush made his presence known with team-leading rushing (90) and receiving yards (101).
Detroit is a far cry from the team that came to Arizona in December and was wiped out, 38-10, as quarterback Matthew Stafford suffered through a wretched three-interception day that proved to be is worst game since his rookie season.
"It was a bad day," Stafford said, adding "we had some injuries and frankly just didn't show up and play hard enough."
The Cardinals were going through some turmoil at the time themselves. That game was the lone win after September for the team, a slump that led to Arians' arrival and the influx of half a new roster – and one of the reasons the Cards weren't totally sure what to expect.
"We didn't know who we were," center Lyle Sendlein said. "Our identity of our offense is still building. You always believe you will be great, that's what you practice for, and that's what you fear, that you will not be great."
Starting with a loss wasn't ideal. The Cardinals also have back-to-back road games in New Orleans and Tampa Bay the next two weeks, creating an even greater sense of urgency as the Lions arrive.
Arians, however, said while he was disappointed the Cardinals couldn't hold on to a lead last week he certainly wasn't discouraged and is counting on his players' collective epiphany to drive them forward.
"When you take last year into consideration and all the new faces – coaches, players – it's hard to figure it out until you play a game for 60 minutes and not just 20 or 30," Arians said. "When you play the Rams like we played them, and you have an 11-point lead and you have a chance to win a game like that, sometimes you don't know until the wrong thing happens.
"I think we now know we can be pretty good."