Bruce Arians loves to throw deep, when he pops the trunk, serves drinks and talks football with coaches and players who are limping out of the stadium. They are rare bonding moments that come in the aftermath of battle,Womens Leonard Williams Jersey, run up the score and checkmate defensive coordinators. But some of his fondest memories occur in the parking lot after a game,Womens Joe Namath Jersey, when the brotherhood of the sport transcends the outcome of a game.
It’s also why a 33-0 loss to the Rams in London might’ve been Arians’ worst moment as an NFL head coach. It was the first time the Cardinals were shut out during his Arizona tenure. Postgame tailgating shenanigans were replaced by an endless flight across the ocean. And it sets the backdrop for the biggest game of the season,Womens Bo Jackson Jersey, a grudge match against the Rams that could actually vault the Cardinals into playoff contention.
“We have all these games at home down the stretch,” Arians said. “They’re all extremely important. So we have a chance.”
The Cardinals don’t look like a playoff team. They haven’t been over .500 or beaten winning teams in succession since 2015. Their signature 27-24 win against the Jaguars came against a good team with a fatal flaw at quarterback. Those in the press box will never forget how Tom Coughlin,Womens Howie Long Jersey, pounded a back-row table into submission,Authentic Derek Carr Jersey, former Super Bowl champion and current Jacksonville executive, emoting loudly for most the game.
But there’s something happening here. The team’s third-string quarterback, has beaten the Rams in his last two attempts. His poise and playmaking ability have lit a candle of hope for the present and future. For the first time in their recent and contentious history with the Cardinals, the Rams will face an athletic quarterback who is quick on his feet, Blaine Gabbert, who has shown an innate ability to avoid the rush without panic.
They will no longer feast on an immobile target that often ends up in the trainer’s room. Or worse.
Gabbert shined in his Arizona debut, a unit forever stamped with the indignity of losing to Tom Savage. It also called Arians’ mindset into question, a loss against the Texans. That game properly embarrassed the defense, who took all blame for a fourth-down call that defied logic and fueled defeat.
Arians took it all back,And the very next day, blaming his players while absolving himself completely.
In the days that followed, the defense produced its most spirited performance to date, it was fair to wonder if Arians was losing his grip and his support in the locker room. Instead, disrupting the backfield and tackling with malice.
the team finally fought through adversity. A Gabbert fumble led to a Calais Campbell touchdown,Best of all,Authentic Leonard Williams Jersey, commemorating a painful homecoming and representing the worst possible way to lose to the Jaguars. But Gabbert responded. So did Tyrann Mathieu and Phil Dawson. Nobody quit on their head coach or a season in progress. They did just the opposite.
“That (situation) was Doomsday about a month ago,Authentic Joe Namath Jersey,” Arians said.
Jeff Fisher,Authentic Bo Jackson Jersey,The Rams are the latest litmus test. They feature a dynamic offense and a franchise quarterback (Jared Goff) who has made tremendous strides in his second season. Head coach Sean McVay is far more formidable than his predecessor,Authentic Howie Long Jersey, a man Arians tormented for years.
McVay’s offense includes a new twist. He likes his team to get to the line of scrimmage as fast as possible, giving the head coach enough time to call audibles for his quarterback before the headset communication mutes with 15 seconds left on the play clock.
Former quarterback Chris Simms was highly critical of the tactic,Womens Khalil Mack Jersey, Peyton Manning,Womens Derek Carr Jersey, a way to separate good quarterbacks from the great (Tom Brady, saying all play-changing decisions should come from the quarterback and not the sideline, etc.) Either way, Arians is well-aware of what the Rams are doing.
“They do a really good job of getting to the line and working audibles,Authentic Khalil Mack Jersey,” Arians said. “So we have to do a much better job of disguising what we’re doing. And we have to tackle. We did not tackle well over there (in London).”
This game also represents a chance for Arians to continue his own second-half comeback. Recently, letting his defense set the tone. His offense has adapted to suit the talents of Gabbert. The end-game execution against Jacksonville was flawless, when the Cardinals executed three perfect plays in succession, he's begun kicking off after winning the coin toss, including a 57-yard field goal.
This showdown is also one of the more understated big games in Cardinals history. A victory over the Rams would even their record at 6-6. It would surely mean that Gabbert continued to ascend and the defense has finally found its missing ferocity. The postseason wouldn’t sound so silly if this team proves it can win two games in succession, beating a pair of playoff contenders in the process.
fixating on the firing of Todd Graham and the impending hire of Herm Edwards. The transition has elicited the kind of passion Arizona State would love to see in the stands for home game against Oregon State. It has also put the Cardinals on a backburner,Yet Valley fans have been highly distracted this week, a place they rarely sit.
and the patchwork Cardinals gain legitimacy and renewed attention. You might even find Arians in the parking lot after the game,That will all change with a winning streak. Beat the Rams, toasting a team that doesn’t die easily.