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Cards here to play but not yet Birds of Prey

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The Arizona Cardinals got a team vibe check this last sunday, losing 31-9 to the New Orleans Saints

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals came into the game coming off a 3-game win streak in which they had protected their quarterback and managed to both throw and run the ball effectively in wins against the Bengals, Falcons and Giants.

They exited the game like it was one of those statistically out of the month of September, not this past October:

-Murray 19/33 57% completion for 220 yards no picks and no TD’s, taking 3 sacks.

-11 total rushing attempts and only 4 carries for 4 yards for Chase Edmonds, who limped off

-Inability to protect the edge rushers

-Only 2 catches for 8 yards by Larry Fitzgerald

-Gave up what should have been two TD’s to tight ends, let up a 100 yard rusher (backup no less) and over 373 passing yards and 3 touchdowns for Drew Brees.

The game started out stronger, with Arizona giving up a 10-3 lead early but then went as some games were prone to do down the stretch:

The defense couldn’t stop anyone and the offense couldn’t take advantage of moving the ball into or near the redzone.

While many will blame the play calling of Kliff Kingsbury (and there were other items on the day) most will point at the decision to go for it on your own 30 yard line and give it right to the Saints.

Kingsbury felt the team needed some positive momentum after a Brees INT to keep the ball out of the Saints’ hands and blamed his own playcalling.

I think that about sums it up, not the decision itself:

The calls were weird all game and maybe Kliff was spooked by such a heavyweight...or maybe it just came down to multiple facets including the team’s mistakes and poor performance on the field. The defense, for example, needed to get a stop and give the offense a chance after they scored and narrowed it to a one score game. The Saints went on to score touchdowns on their next two drives.

No, the Cardinals aren’t there yet to slug it out with the best of the best in the NFL.

But that’s not how many expected it to be for them today, as very few people picked them to win this game, much less even be in it for as long as they were.

The team’s a growing one, and that was made clear with Kingsbury and Kyler being unable to take advantage of the mistakes New Orleans made while being unable to avoid making some mistakes of their own. Granted, Kyler still didn’t turn the ball over but as a whole, there will be a lot of doubt cast onto this Cardinals team.

And that won’t change with the undefeated Niners coming to town this upcoming Thursday night. A blowout on National TV and it might only get worse.

But the Cards aren’t needing to be at the pinnacle of their craft right now or have made it to the summit. That’s not expected.

What’s expected is taking steps forward and making progress....they definitely took a step back and regressed some today.

Not nearly back to the 2018 year (goodness no) but the defense couldn’t get to Brees after an 8 sack performance, gave up plays to the tight ends and when Vance Joseph came after Brees, it essentially sealed the game, a horrible choice in that play and that down and distance.

And in that sense, it’s a sign of a long season to go and how green this team is. The Cards’ score might not reflect it but it’s not a 30-9 blowout game like the Rams did or having 40 hung on them like happened repeatedly...but some fans had likely wanted more progress for the team than they showed against New Orleans.

The rest of the season has games against the Niners twice, then the hapless Buccaneers. Opportunities to compete and maybe even land a win. If Arizona can do that, they are at least laying a foundation.

A foundation toward becoming a hunter that learns from experience and watching themselves become the hunted or seeing some prey slip out of their fingers.

They’re not a bad team. Well, maybe you could argue that this year’s squad earns a top 5 pick in the 2018 NFL draft while in the year 2019 of our Lord there’s 7 teams that are INFINITELY worse than them. But it’s a step forward nonetheless.

As long as today’s game doesn’t become the trend...I think that’s all that fans can ask for. There will be games and days like today. What matters is learning from it.