Rams safety T.J. McDonald intercepts a last-ditch Hail Mary pass in front of Larry Fitzgerald during the Cardinals' loss last weekend.
Larry Fitzgerald looked around the huddle, and while Carson Palmer wasn't there and Drew Stanton was in to take his place, the Cardinals' wide receiver wasn't concerned.
"I didn't see in anybody's eyes, 'Oh, we're not going to win today,' " Fitzgerald said of his team's late possession after falling behind the Rams in the fourth quarter last weekend. "That wasn't the look. It was a look of excitement, a look or preparation. Guys were ready to take on the task and that's what you would expect."
The Cardinals' attempt, of course, fizzled. They lost, 17-13, in a result that stung just as much as the season-opening two-
point loss to New England when a final field goal attempt veered wide.
The final score was also surprising. These are games the Cardinals have made a habit of winning under Bruce Arians.
"In the past, we've been the ones who have usually won those and we are kind of on the other end now," safety Tony Jefferson said.
Last season alone, the Cardinals either nursed a one-score lead, faced a one-score deficit or were tied during the fourth quarter in 10 games plus the Wild Card game against the Packers. The Cardinals won eight of those games, whether it was Palmer hitting Jermaine Gresham and then Andre Ellington for touchdowns (in Seattle) or Chandler Catanzaro booting a late field goal (Cincinnati) or Jefferson making an end zone interception (Baltimore).
The season before, examples included Palmer hitting a 75-yard touchdown to Smokey Brown or Drew Stanton finding Brown deep against the Rams. In 2013, Palmer found Michael Floyd in the end zone late to quiet the Seattle fans, and the Cards won on the road in Tennessee in overtime.
"We haven't won those close games this year but I know we have the ability to," Fitzgerald said.
The mindset hasn't changed, players insist, although Arians said it would help to come out on the right end of one.
"Winning them helps a bunch, and we've done that more than anybody the last few years," Arians said. "It is a matter of getting that first one. Each team is different. Stopping someone on a drive, making them kick, make that tackle when he was four yards short down there and not letting him get that first down, make them kick that field goal and go to overtime and let the offense win the game."
Arians as a head coach has been masterful in close games. According to FootballOutsiders.com, since 2012 – when Arians was interim head coach of the Colts for most of that season, before coming to the Cardinals – his teams were 19-8 coming into the 2016 season when his team had the opportunity at a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.
More amazingly, Arians' teams were 31-1 when holding a one-score lead at some point in the fourth quarter.
This season, the Cardinals are 0-2 in both categories.
"We have to do better situational football," Jefferson said. "Execution and playing smart is what got us those (close) wins, and I don't think we have been 100 percent playing smart at end of games. For the most part, it's been us beating us."
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during the Week 4 home game