GLENDALE, Ariz. — More than a few far-fetched statements have fallen from Bruce Arians’ lips lately.
There is no risk in letting Bradley Sowell start at left tackle.
He won’t have to worry about turning down HBO’s “Hard Knocks” because the Cardinals will be in the playoffs.
But the craziest one may have come this week when, after a four-turnover, we-were-so-close loss in San Francisco, Arians asserted the Cardinals’ belief that they could compete in the NFC West, arguably the best division in football.
It’s what a coach has to say. We get that. You don’t roll over and admit the obvious — even if it is obvious after Seattle’s 34-22 thumping of Arizona before a national television audience on Thursday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Cardinals have lost eight straight division games since their last win on Sept. 9, 2012, last year’s season opener against the Seahawks. They are 0-3 in the division this season, having lost road games in St. Louis and San Francisco along with this one at home. Sure, two of those were close, but when you’re only playing with half a deck, it’s nearly impossible to utter more than if-onlys in the postgame locker room.
“No excuses as far as Thursday night football and all that crap,” Arians said. “We didn’t break a sweat all week, so we should have been fresh.”
The Seahawks looked far fresher, jumping out to a 14-0 lead, sacking quarterback Carson Palmer seven times and holding the Cardinals to a meager 234 yards of total offense.
In road losses against the Rams and 49ers earlier this season, the Cardinals offense gave us a glimpse of what it might become if the players were all on the same page. But we are seven games into the season now — nearly halfway home — and it’s clear that those two efforts are the exception, not the rule.
Those better (still not great) performances were just a tease. The Cardinals offense is bad, maybe just as bad as it was in the three years following Kurt Warner’s retirement.
Palmer has 13 interceptions after his two-pick outing Thursday, leaving him just two shy of Eli Manning’s NFL lead. Sowell was a risk every time Palmer dropped back to throw on Thursday. The run game is still pedestrian, and the Cards receivers still aren’t on the same page as Palmer.
How long do you keep droning on about fixing problems before you admit that the talent simply isn’t there to fix those problems?
“We can be frustrated today and tomorrow, but we’ve got to move on. It’s a long, long season,” Palmer said. “Sometimes it takes just one game to get on a little bit of a roll and get that confidence.”
It’s too bad it’s lacking for the offense, because the defense is making plays on a weekly basis — big plays, including a pair of strip sacks inside the Seahawks’ 20-yard line that led to 10 points.
Calais Campbell shook off the scare of being carted off the field on a stretcher four days earlier to record a monster game with seven tackles, a fumble recovery and some blown-up plays at the line of scrimmage.
The optimist says that with efforts like the defense is providing, the Cards can still go into the bye week with a 4-4 record if they can beat the struggling Falcons — assuming Atlanta is still struggling by the time it arrives after its bye week and a game with woeful Tampa Bay.
There aren’t any runaway favorites for the NFC wild-card spots at this point of the season, and the Cards’ schedule gets more forgiving over the next few weeks.
But this offense isn’t jelling, and it has had long enough to at least achieve competency. Palmer finished with a sub-80 passer rating for the sixth time in seven games Thursday.
So is it really getting better, or is that just crazy talk?
“It’s not what you’re anticipating. It’s not what you expect,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said of the loss to the Seahawks. “When you step out on the field, you go out there to play to win. To fall short in three division games is not a good feeling.”