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Arizona Cardinals, Week 5: No Shenanigans

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There have been no shenanigans in practice this week. No tomfoolery. Such is the mood after a team loses at home to a division rival in a game it was expected to win.

The Arizona Cardinals fell to the St. Louis Rams last week 24-22 in a game that left them seething, searching, and pondering what a 4-0 start and a two game division lead might have felt like.

The unfortunately-named Todd Gurley chose University of Phoenix Stadium for his NFL coming-out party, and the Rams’ newly-minted starting RB shone brightly under cloudless skies. Gurley ran wild in the second half, finishing the day with 146 yards at a gaudy 7.7 yards a pop. And QB Nick Foles wore down the Arizona secondary, violating the No Fly Zone with three TDs, no picks, and and a flashy 126.9 passer rating.

NFL coaches and pundits–and possibly your dry cleaner–will tell you that to succeed in the NFL a team must win the turnover battle. By those lights the Cardinals faltered, finishing minus-three in turnovers. More snapshots of misery: Arizona failed to score a touchdown after a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, and Carson Palmer was sacked four times after being sacked only once the first three games.

Were the Cards overconfident against a 1-2 Rams team that had lost two straight? When asked prior to the game why the Cardinals are so confident right now Palmer replied, “We are confident because we are good. And we know it.” But one man’s seemingly hubristic utterings are another man’s cool recitation of facts. The truth is, Arizona’s good. And coach Bruce Arians has the team believing that this season it can come whirling out of the desert like some malevolent sirocco, in full battle dress, primed to vanquish any foe.

Even the best teams can stumble at some point in the season, and this one doesn’t come at a high cost. Arizona fans’ hand-wringing serves to prove how far this team has come.The Cardinals are still perched atop the division at 3-1. On to Detroit.

The Lions are hungry for their first win after starting the season 0-4. But they haven’t been blown out and if not for a controversial late penalty, should have taken down the Seahawks last week. Matt Stafford still throws a nifty ball and receiver Calvin Johnson is still producing in the latter stages of his career. Defensive End Ezekiel Ansah can get after the passer and is averaging a sack per game.

But tackle Jared Veldheer is hell-bent on stopping Ansah, and the entire Arizona line is primed to open holes for Chris Johnson, who continues to impress at 5.2 yards per carry. The line is also tasked with keeping Palmer upright and his uniform clean. Palmer has weapons he can utilize all over the field.

Today’s game is shot through with urgency on both sides of the ball. For Detroit, it would be unseemly to lose and fall to 0-5 in front of home faithful desperate for a victory. For the Cardinals, it’s a test of resilience and mettle. Can they shake off a tough home division loss? Can they resume the soaring trajectory of the last season and a half? Can they win the turnover battle? They must–just ask your dry cleaner.

Eric Forgaard

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