Employing a '1-0 mentality,' Arizona Cardinals are blocking out the hate and the love
Judging by their comments and posts on social media, the Cardinals are maintaining constant vigilance against the idea that a 4-0 start has a deeper meaning beyond that it was a very good month.
“As far as being 4-0, I'm trying to go 1-0 each and every week,” quarterback Kyler Murray said after Sunday’s 37-20 victory over the Rams.
“It’s a 1-0 mentality each and every week,” safety Budda Baker said.
“4-0 means we can’t go 3-14,” tweeted defensive line coach/staff actuary Brentson Buckner. “Nothing more, nothing less.”
It’s a mantra born after last season when the Cardinals started 6-3, then lost five of their last seven to miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. One reason for the collapse, they determined, was too much long-term thinking and not enough focus on the job that week.
“Collectively, after last year we made a point to stay in the present,” said coach Kliff Kingsbury, “to focus one week at a time and trying to improve each week. I think our guys have done a nice job of that so far.”
The pursuit of humility and mindfulness is noble, and it can’t hurt as the Cardinals try to build upon a 4-0 start.
But what will help more is talent. And the Cardinals have shown over the first month they have enough of it to make the post-season and perhaps contend for something larger.
Some will want to stomp both feet down hard on the brake pedal of that notion. It is only early October. And it’s not as if the Cardinals have a track record of sustaining success.
It’s the first 4-0 start for the Cardinals since 2012, a season that serves as a caution sign for getting ahead of ourselves. That team won just one more game and coach Ken Whisenhunt was fired afterward.
But these are not the 2012 Cardinals. They are much better than a team that couldn’t survive the loss of quarterback Kevin Kolb.
They are better than the 2020 version, which needed help in the middle of the offensive line and additional playmakers around Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Rodney Hudson has been a revelation at center. Christian Kirk has thrived in the slot, where Larry Fitzgerald used to play. Rookie Rondale Moore can make something out of nothing. Hopkins is as good as ever. A.J. Green leads the team in receiving yards. And tight end Maxx Williams is thriving because defenses have to pay so much attention to everyone else.
Murray is playing like an MVP candidate. He leads the league in completion percentage (76.1) and is second in yards per attempt (9.5), about 2.5 yards more than he averaged last year. That’s a huge jump in that category.
The offensive line is solid. Practically anyone who touches the football can do something dynamic with it. The defense has a nice mixture of weathered and fresh faces and should improve as the season progresses.
The Cardinals lead the NFL in scoring (35 a game) and are second to Buffalo in point differential (13.8 points). Three of the victories have been on the road, two have been blowouts against teams that made the playoffs a year ago (Titans, Rams).
The Cardinals got lucky when the Vikings missed a game-winning field goal on the last play, but some seasons are like that. Luck sometimes is the difference between winning 10 games and 13 or so.
Just as importantly, Kingsbury appears to have grown into his job. His game plans, play designs and play calling all have been on point this season.
He still fidgets in front of cameras, but he seems comfortable on the sideline and in front of players.
After Sunday’s game, he said he would probably celebrate by going home and watching Ted Lasso on Apple TV+.
“There's some real parallels between Ted Lasso and myself,” said Kingsbury, who was hired despite having no NFL coaching experience, “like the epic YouTube dance video. Y'all were at my (first) press conference, it was essentially the same press conference as Ted Lasso had whenever it's like, ‘Is this some kind of a joke?’”
Right now, the Cardinals are doing their best to act like goldfish, the happiest creatures on earth, according to Lasso, because they have 10-second memories.
Reach Kent Somers at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @kentsomers. Hear Somers every Monday and Friday at 7:30 a.m. on The Drive with Jody Oehler on Fox Sports 910 AM.