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Losses Give Cardinals Teaching Moment

Still in first place in the NFC, Arians calmly letting team know what needs to be fixed

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Safety Deone Bucannon has a friendly chat with Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers during Sunday's game.

At his heart, Bruce Arians is a teacher.

That's something he's repeated over and over since arriving in Arizona, and at the core of why – even after such a poor performance in a key game Sunday in Atlanta, leading to a bad loss – Arians isn't changing his approach.

"I'm just honest," Arians said Monday, the day after the Cardinals fell to 9-3 on the season with a 29-18 loss. "When you stink, you stink. You point out how you stunk and get it corrected. No, I don't throw chairs and holler and do all that stuff that's non-productive. That's not teaching. You have to teach in order to get things corrected."

There are plenty of things to correct. Nothing came through in Atlanta despite a universal belief the prep work leading into the

game was good. Arians joked Monday he has never in his long coaching career been able to gauge how a team will perform based on practices leading up to a game or even game-day warmups, and the loss to the Falcons just underscored that point.

The defense was leaky on both the ground and through the air. The offense generated only 11 points, and eight came late on a touchdown drive after the game had been decided, and converted only one third down out of only seven third-down opportunities.

Arians wasn't happy with the energy at all, and admitted, "I think some guys fell into the trap that the Falcons weren't very good. That's a bad trap to fall into."

But Monday, when there is no practice but meetings and video review, Arians was back to the same teacher he always has been.

"He just wants us to understand the position we are in," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "And as a ballclub, we don't want to (waste) away this opportunity.

"At some point it happens. Teams go through losing skids. If you want to be the ballclub you say you want to be, now is the time to show it."

Peterson said it can happen when players let the fundamentals slide this deep in the season, which is where Arians' focus is

now. When the Cardinals take the practice field again Wednesday, Arians' temper will undoubtedly flare, which makes sense when the work is being done.

When the work is being dissected, however, there is a different tone.

"When B.A. is in the team meeting, he never raises his voice," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "He hasn't done that not once.

"We are at the point of the season, it's different than the beginning of the season when you can be a little 'rah-rah.' The point we are in now, there is no need to panic, we are still in first place in the division, first place in the NFC. It's a matter of us getting back to the fundamentals."

The position coaches might get a little loud to make a point, Powers said, but that's part of the process. Arians is often looking at the bigger picture. The Cardinals cannot ignore the current two-game losing streak, or that the struggling offense will be playing a much better defense Sunday against the Chiefs than they saw in Atlanta.

"There are two pictures," Arians said. "A two-game losing streak, and you're 9-3. Why did you get to 9-3, and how did you get the two-game losing streak?"

The answers are simple, in Arians' eyes. Third downs have dragged down the offense for two games (actually, two-and-a-half, going back to the second half against Detroit) and the mere seven third-down opportunities underscored just how little the Cards had the ball against the Falcons. That alone is costing the Cards around 20 plays, Arians figured.

Then there are the turnovers. The Cardinals weren't turning the ball over when they were winning and getting big turnover advantages. In the past two games, the Cardinals have forced only one turnover, and turned it over four times (plus a blocked punt in Seattle that was essentially a turnover.)

While Peterson said there was no extra pressure on the defense to create turnovers, he acknowledged it is necessary to right the Cardinals' outcomes.

"It's a sense of urgency, because (defensively) we have to play lights-out football," Peterson said. "We have all the confidence in the world in Drew (Stanton) but we are still playing with a backup quarterback and that changes the dynamics of everything. As a defense, we have to do what got us here, which was taking the ball away, and as an offense, protecting the ball."

That message is understood. No reason for Arians to have to yell about it.

"The tape is so bad," Arians said, "it speaks for itself."

The top images from Sunday's game in Atlanta



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