Late in the third quarter, as the Cardinals nursed a 10-point lead in Seattle and quarterback Colt McCoy broke down still photos with quarterbacks coach Cam Turner, Kliff Kingsbury had something to say.
He called over the rest of the offense, which had hit a lull after halftime. Kingsbury was animated as he forcefully delivered a message: Stop waiting for the game to end and go finish it.
"The way he pulled us together on the sideline was something I don't think he would've done when he first got here," tackle D.J. Humphries said
The Cardinals indeed finished it with two solid drives (one ended in a missed field goal, but the other a game-clinching touchdown) as they knocked off the Seahawks.
Kingsbury's team was 6-0 on the road heading into the bye. They were 9-2, locked into the top spot in the NFL. They maneuvered through three games – winning two – without their quarterback and top wide receiver. The won another game in Cleveland with Kingsbury's gameplan while he had to sit at home with Covid. Yet another win came with Kingsbury on the sideline only after he had to miss the entire week of practice, again with Covid protocols.
The Cardinals are assured their first winning season since 2015 with six games to go. They have upped their victory count from five to eight to nine-and-counting in each of Kingsbury's seasons.
He was hired to rehab a team and an offense that was the worst in the NFL in 2018 by a large margin. Two-and-a-half years in, his team has the best record, and one of the best offenses. He is a Coach of the Year candidate in a season when some were ready to put him on the hot seat before the year began.
"It's just fun to watch him have success," said defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who became a key part of the staff when Kingsbury arrived, after two seasons of his own as a head coach in Denver. "It's a hard job, it's a public job and you get criticized on so many levels constantly, even when you are winning.
"For him to endure that, ignore that, and work through that stuff, that part I enjoy for all coaches. When you are winning and you're building a special team, and you can feel it's special, that's a joy."
Kingsbury, at least publicly, isn't going to flaunt whatever he might have accomplished. He was acutely aware of the people that doubted he could succeed in the NFL when the Cardinals hired him; he has made self-deprecating jokes about it.
So no, Kingsbury said, with where the Cardinals stand at the bye at 9-2, he's not getting any particular personal satisfaction of proving people otherwise. Although he does see a benefit.
"The only thing I like is, family members and people that believed in me forever, that actually don't have to hear me called a dumbass all the time," Kingsbury said.