Some may say the grind of a long NFL season is beginning to take its toll on the Arizona Cardinals.
Truth be told the 2014 version doesn’t know any different, dating way back to August 18 in what appeared to be a routine training camp workout in Glendale. This blistering hot summer afternoon was the day Darnell Dockett suffered an ACL tear in his right knee and was done for the entire season.
It began an ugly and at times insurmountable trend in the desert.
It’s a situation head coach Bruce Arians and his staff have navigated through quite well as, despite a modest two-game losing streak, Arizona (9-3) still leads the NFC West and is tied for the most wins in the conference with a quarter of the regular season remaining.
Despite the rash of setbacks Arians realizes the nest could still get a little more empty this month.
“I said…do you think you’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” SI.com Senior NFL Writer Peter King told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat about a conversation he had with Arians a few weeks ago. “He said to me that day, ‘there will be more. That’s the only sure thing about the NFL.'”
Most recently one of the more glaring problems is at quarterback where, for the most part, Drew Stanton has looked shaky at best replacing Palmer who was playing some of his best football before tearing his ACL on November 9th.
King believes the Cards’ recent offensive struggles are two-fold.
“The one thing that hurts him a bit is that they really have not had the good running game to go along with him,” King explained. “There are people saying…’beat us with Drew Stanton because we don’t fear your running game.’ Ellington has been playing for the most part [but] he’s clearly not 100%.”
Although Arizona in many ways still controls their playoff fate, the road to the post-season and Arian’s ultimate challenge to the team to ‘not let anyone dress in their locker room’ with the Super Bowl being played at University of Phoenix Stadium in February, seems far more of a reach than it did just two or three weeks ago.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” King said regarding the Cards’ quickly dimming postseason hopes. “They needed a two-game cushion going into one of the toughest schedules down the stretch that any team has.”
The Cards hope a return home this weekend against an equally desperate Kansas City Chiefs team will be the perfect recipe to get back into the win column and keep pace in the ultra-competitive NFC.