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Cardinals Won't Quit Against Saints

While playoffs are no longer realistic, team hopes to play well for fans in home finale

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The Cardinals have compiled four of their five wins at home this season.

From the Hail Larry to John Brown's late-game theatrics to blowouts du jour, fans have gotten their money's worth watching the Cardinals under Bruce Arians.

But for the first time in his four-year tenure, the Cardinals will take the home field in Sunday's game against the Saints with all-but-no hope of the playoffs. It's been a challenging week already, from three season-ending injuries to the release of Michael Floyd, and it wouldn't be a shock to see a flat performance as a disappointing season winds down.

However, from center A.Q. Shipley on Monday through cornerback Patrick Peterson on Friday, the players stressed they won't be mailing it in. This is foreign territory to this team, and Peterson is hoping a strong finish can help keep it that way moving forward.

"You want to go out there and make plays for 60 minutes, and give fans something to look forward to for the 2017 season," Peterson said. "Obviously we know we had a lot of expectations this year and fell a little bit short. The good thing about it is, we'll have another opportunity at it next year."

The Cardinals (5-7-1) are hosting a Saints team which also hoped to be in the playoff picture but are all but out at 5-8. They still have star quarterback Drew Brees and a potent offense, but the defense has again been a letdown.

Before the season, it wouldn't have been crazy to forecast this game as a critical matchup between a pair of teams jockeying for playoff positioning. Instead, they each must find other motivation.

"It's mainly competitive fire," said Brees of what keeps him going during a lost season. "It's my job too. It's my job to go out on Sunday and play my very best and put my team in the best position to succeed and try to win football games. I take a lot of pride in that, and just in being a pro, being a quarterback, the guy who pulls the trigger around here. I want to be my best for my teammates."

While team goals are extinguished, there are things to watch at a micro level. Running back David Johnson is aiming for another big game as he continues to etch his name in the record books. The defense has once again ascended to No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed but has to face the league's top offense in yards gained.

Then there is the Cardinals' passing game, which is far from the well-oiled machine of yesteryear. With Floyd's departure and John Brown's lingering sickle cell trait issues, the wide receiver group is thin. J.J. Nelson should get the bulk of the playing time opposite Larry Fitzgerald, while bit players Brittan Golden and Marquis Bundy should see action.

The trick will be giving quarterback Carson Palmer time to throw, as the Cardinals will have a backup left tackle (John Wetzel), right tackle (Earl Watford) and right guard (Taylor Boggs) protecting him. Arians said the gameplan will need to be tweaked with so many new players in the fold, but he also made it clear maximum protection isn't always the answer.

He learned that lesson as a coach of the Browns, when they tried desperately to slow a potent Tennessee pass rush.

"We kept everybody in and nobody was open, so we got sacked anyway," Arians said. "You've still got to block him. It's your job."

The Cardinals have personnel obstacles to hurdle in order to finish the home slate with a victory, but Arians isn't worried about motivation.

"I've never been on a group of guys that packed it in," Arians said. "Everybody had pride."

That might be all that's left to play for, but it's something.

Images of the key players for this week's opponent, the New Orleans Saints



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