With a convincing 40-11 victory at home over the Indianapolis Colts at home, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians could have gone a lot of different directions for his postgame talk with the media.
He went with one theme -- winning.
He typically will open discussing something about the game, a stat to cite, but not on Sunday. With the Cards firmly in the playoff discussion, "it doesn't matter about third down statistics, red zone statistics, rushing statistics, or anything like that; it's just winning damn games."
Indeed, it is about just winning, but the Cardinals were firing on all cylinders on Sunday. They outgained the Colts 410 to 239. They limited Andrew Luck to 163 passing yards and scored a defensive touchdown on a Karlos Dansby interception. They allowed only 80 yards rushing, and 22 of those came when the game was already decided late in the final few minutes, and 28 came from one Luck scramble.
Offensively, they rushed 30 times for 120 yards, with both Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington gaining over 75 yards from scrimmage (Ellington had 50 yards rushing and 43 yards receiving, while Mendenhall rushed for 54 and a score and had a 24-yard catch). Carson Palmer threw for over 300 yards with a pair of touchdowns to Larry Fitzgerald and was not intercepted for the second week in a row. 10 Cardinals players caught passes, lead by Michael Floyd's seven receptions for 104 yards. They converted on 50 percent of their third downs
The defense sacked Luck once, hit him eight times, intercepted a pass, scored and got their hands on eight other passes.
Jay Feely kicked four field goals, although he did have one blocked.
So while Arians says that all that matter is winning, all those little things and all the stats were there.
What does that mean? It means that the respect could be coming.
Larry Fitzgerald said earlier in the week that the team had to win a game like this to prove that they are in fact a playoff team.
Carson Palmer called it "a respect game."
"I don't think we're well respected throughout the league, and that's not anyone's fault but our own," he explained after the game. "But I think that we're better than people think. I think that when you beat a good team and a team that has beaten good teams, it ups your respect amongst your peers and throughout the league."
Palmer said that he doesn't necessarily hope that the respect comes too quickly, as he would prefer "flying under the radar."
Bruce Arians knows that the respect is coming and that it is a problem.
"That's going to be a problem and we've talking about it for a while," he said. "Just don't listen to the noise. The noise is going to get louder each week and you've got to tune the noise out. The only thing that matters is what's going on in the locker room."
At 7-4, this is where these players and coaches believed they would be -- contending for the playoffs. Respect or not, that's all that matters. If they win, they will keep it up. Whether they are respected or not doesn't matter. Teams will respect them. If they just win, they will get where they want to be.
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