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On The Road To A Successful Season, The Cardinals Just Win

Across the NFL, visiting teams win 50 percent of the time in 2021

Defensive lineman Michael Dogbe (91), safety Budda Baker (3) and linebacker Isaiah Simmons celebrate during the Cardinals' win in Cleveland earlier this season.
Defensive lineman Michael Dogbe (91), safety Budda Baker (3) and linebacker Isaiah Simmons celebrate during the Cardinals' win in Cleveland earlier this season.

The Cardinals leave the state, and they win.

They won in Tennessee shutting down the best running back in the NFL. They won in Jacksonville despite giving up a painful Kick-6. They won in Los Angeles against a team that had beaten them eight straight meetings. They knocked down the Browns in Cleveland without their head coach, and whipped the 49ers in the Bay Area without their quarterback.

None of the victories were by less than 12 points.

The Cards have had their issues at home, sure. But on the road, they have been excellent, and they'd like to continue that trend Sunday in Seattle in their final game before the bye. They may or may not have starting quarterback Kyler Murray yet, but the way things have played out so far, that may not matter.

"There's something to going into a hotel, going on a plane together, all of your meetings are right there, you're around each other the entire time," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "When it's a home game, you stay at the hotel but in the morning everyone kind of goes their own separate way before the game, sees their family, all those things. I think just that aspect does bring you together, and kind of that 'Band of Brothers' feel as you roll in there taking on the opposition."

(No, Kingsbury added, it does not make sense to him to replicate a road game stay at home and force players to spend all of Sunday in the hotel.)

Kingsbury, however, isn't sure that's the entire answer to the road success. Linebacker Jordan Hicks and tight end Zach Ertz also said they didn't really know. Ertz suggested the increase over the years in non-verbal communication, as well as up-tempo offenses, perhaps makes it harder for an opposition crowd to make a difference.

The Cardinals, 5-0 on the road this year, have had as many road wins only twice since the league expanded to 16 games in 1978. In 2009, the Cardinals were 6-2 on the road during a 10-6 season (losing their lone road playoff game.) In 2015, the Cardinals were 7-1 on the road during a 13-3 season (losing their lone playoff road game.)

Perhaps they are at the forefront of road success – the Patriots are 4-0 on the road heading into Thursday night's game in Atlanta – but there has been a lot of road success in general around the league.

Heading into Week 11 games, the road team has won exactly half – 75 of 150 – of 2021 games thus far.

Why? "Last year with Covid (and limited to no fans) it was understandable a little bit," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "This year I'm not sure."

The Cards have dealt with the flip side of road success. They are 3-2 at home, but even in the three wins they have not looked like the team that plays away from State Farm Stadium. Joseph said with the 8-2 overall record, the two losses look similar – turnovers, falling behind, unimpressive run defense – and the coaching staff knows the blueprint to both victory and loss.

The better teams want to play at home in the playoffs, not the road.

"Home games have to be your advantage," Joseph said. "Right not it's not good for us."

The road, however, has been. And that's where the Cardinals will find themselves Sunday before a stretch run that includes three road game and three home games post-bye.

"The guys understand what we're getting on the plane to go do, and we've been challenged," Murray said. "We've heard all the talk all year before the season. Obviously, it's here now, none of that matters. I think the guys have taken care of business and I think we're playing with a chip on our shoulder."

Images from Thursday's practice in Tempe.

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