The Arizona Cardinals lost to the San Francisco 49ers 32-20 on Sunday. There was good and bad to be had from the game. Down 22-14 at halftime, Arizona rallied for a touchdown to bring it to 22-20 and then were driving down the field late in the third quarter. In the red zone, Larry Fitzgerald fumbled the football, which led to a San Francisco touchdown to put the game our of reach.
Here are some of the things (as cited from the Cardinals' official team site) that Bruce Arians and some of the players said after the game, with some of my own thoughts.
Bruce Arians: "We had the game in our hand. That's what we learned from it, that if we can't stop beating ourselves, we can beat anybody."
This is a perfect synopsis of what happened. They had two first half interceptions, which led to the Cardinals being down only 22-14 at the half. Arizona scored and then was set to get at least three points, which would have given them a lead. The Cardinals were in control. There is no moral victory to be had for the players, but fans can take some solace in the fact that the Cardinals will match up with any team on their schedule.
Larry Fitzgerald on his fumble: "I'm not going to sleep at all. I let my team down."
Too many fans are handling this fumble with kid gloves. There is no reason to go easy on Fitz for this. He isn't. Yes, he is a superstar. Yes, he scored a touchdown. yes, he does so many things to help his team. But in this instance? His fumble all but cost his team the game. They were going to take the lead. Then San Fran took the momentum and powered down the field -- 18 plays, 89 yards and 9:32 later, they put the game out of reach.
Yeremiah Bell on the decisive touchdown drive by the Niners (as quoted on Arizona Sports): "That's kind of a slap in the face to our defense. We know we are better than that. We showed it for the first three quarters but in the fourth quarter we just didn't get it done."
Bell is right. The defense played really well overall. The final numbers don't show it, but they were good against the run...except for one drive. When San Fran drove 18 plays in over nine minutes, they ran the ball 12 times. The Niners said metaphorically, "we know we're better than you," and then showed it.
Running back Andre Ellington on the physicality and the silver lining that perhaps came in the loss (as quoted on Arizona Sports): "I had fun out there, even though we didn't get the win. I feel like we got better. We can go in and watch film and correct our mistakes."
The truth is for professionals, there are very few moral victories. However, even in loss, that doesn't mean that they can't build on the loss. They stood up against one of the league's most physical teams and was equally physical for most of the game. Te truth is they beat themselves. Knowing that, they can have the confidence to move forward and hopefully win more games.
Darnell Dockett on the loss: "There have been times in my career we have been (in San Francisco) and you just don't feel like you're going to win. This game, we came in confident. Physically, we matched up. It sucks."
This is what is most frustrating about the loss. It feels like they should have won. The players know it. That's what makes it worse. It is also why this should hopefully be a step to build upon. It sucks, DD is right. While it is a loss, it is a tough loss to swallow. It is also a loss to give fans perhaps a little bit of hope.