Cardinals can regroup, prove strength as road warriors after loss to Panthers – The Arizona Republic

The Arizona Cardinals’ Red Sea home crowd began to bleed itself dry during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

As the Panthers bulldozed toward a 31-3 lead at the 5:34 mark, Cardinals fans left in droves from State Farm Stadium to collectively waved the white flag with their team.

But the Cardinals faithful and the team could look to their 5-0 road record this season for consolation.

Four of their final seven games are away.

“I think our group’s done a nice job of just embracing the challenge of playing on the road and things that go into it,” Kingsbury said to reporters on Monday. “The communication, the focus during the week to make sure everybody’s locked in and we’ve played well so far. It will be a great challenge going up to Seattle, one of the best environments in the league and hopefully we can keep that rolling.”

Some people say the Cardinals were due for blowout loss after their undefeated start at 7-0.

Others say there are several reasons to panic after they lost 34-10 to Carolina, which entered Sunday’s game on a 4-5 record.

The poor in-game performance grades, nosedive in Monday’s NFL power rankings, and worries related to Arizona’s two-year history of second-half collapses under coach Kliff Kingsbury are warranted.

Yet the Cardinals became the league’s third-best team in both scoring offense and defense categories through Week 9, That was largely because they produced 34.8 points and held their opponents to 16.6 in their five road wins.

The first of their two home losses was a 3-point loss to the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 28.

But the Cardinals have talked heavily about maintaining a 1-0 mentality, and persevering through adversity amid the loss of many of their injured top players.

The most notable players who have missed time are Kyler Murray (ankle) and DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring), with Arizona playing their past two games against the San Francisco 49ers and Panthers without them. Running back Chase Edmonds went down early in the first quarter from a high ankle sprain against the 49ers, and was out against the Panthers after he was placed on the Reserve/Injured list on Saturday.

But the Cardinals were hurting before Murray, Hopkins and Edmonds went down.

Offensive linemen Justin Pugh (calf) and Max Garcia (Achilles) missed Sunday’s game. Celebrated pass rusher J.J. Watt and starting defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence were placed on the IR on Nov. 6 after were out against the Packers.

“Obviously everything was all flowers and daisies when we were 7-0. But when you realistically look at the NFL, it’s a week-to-week league, everyone is gonna hit adversity at some point in the season,” Edmonds said to the media on Nov. 5. “Whether adversity hits from Week 1 to Week 4, on Week 12, whatever it is, you’re gonna hit adversity. We just gotta find a way to really weather the storm, band together, stay together, and just find a way to win a game.”

Edmonds gave a great example that the Packers were seemingly in shambles to NFL pundits after their 38-3 season-opening road loss to the New Orleans Saints.

It was preceded by future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ request for a trade during the NFL Draft in April, and his summer-long impasse with the team’s front office.

The Packers won seven consecutive games thereafter and emerged with a three-way tie for the league’s best record at 8-2 with the Cardinals and  Tennessee Titans as of Sunday.

Another example is Carolina’s 3-0 start in September. The Panthers dropped their next four games. Starting QB Sam Darnold went down with a shoulder injury in their win over the Falcons on Halloween, and his replacement P.J. Walker and Cam Newton both led their team to beat Arizona.

Among their four final road games, three of those games are against teams with losing records. 

After traveling to Seattle and getting a timely Week 12 bye, Arizona travels to Chicago. They don’t return for a home game until Dec. 13 to host the NFC West foe LA Rams. Two of their final four games are on the road — at Detroit on Dec. 19 and at Dallas on Jan. 2.

But Kingsbury acknowledges any top team can be beaten on any given Sunday.

“We just played a team that was a game below .500 and got beat up. So, we understand that each and every week in this league you better bring it or you’ll get embarrassed, and you see that around the league every week,” Kingsbury said. “In some of these scores, there’s a lot of parity this season as there always is, so we’ve definitely learned our lesson there.”

The Cardinals are looking to enter the bye week during Thanksgiving on a high note with a division game victory, and keep their morale high as they try to get healthy entering the final full month of the regular season.

Besides the injuries, the Cardinals’ biggest adversities this season thus far was at Cleveland when Kingsbury, Chandler Jones, starting defensive end Zach Allen and Corey Peters entered the COVID-19 protocol. The Cardinals won, 37-14, on Oct. 17.

Then the Cardinals pulled off a season sweep of the 49ers, 31-17, on Nov. 17, their first game without Murray.

Since they’re not undefeated anymore, their next biggest test is if they can bounce back to beat the Seahawks, staying unbeaten as road warriors.

“One thing that really great teams do in the past years in football is just that they don’t lose back-to-back weeks,” Edmonds said. “That’s the sign of a really good football team. If you’re not losing back-to-back weeks, if you stay in the flow and find ways to tag wins in week in and week out, you’ll be OK.”

Have tips for us? Reach the reporter at dana.scott@azcentral.com or at 480-486-4721. Follow his Twitter @iam_DanaScott.

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