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Confidence Making the Cardinal Difference

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The Cardinals are playing entertaining football again and there’s one big reason why it’s so different from the 2018 team

NFL: SEP 15 Cardinals at Ravens Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cardinals under Kliff Kingsbury are a MUCH better coached football team than a year ago and it’s not even close.

There’s a number of stats that could probably demonstrate this well.

Whether it’s moving the ball on offense with back-to-back 300+ yard passing games without a single one last year.

Or it’s the offense averaging at least 10 points per game more than last year so far.

Maybe even the defense limiting opposing (non-QB) rushers and holding up well in their overall interior gap integrity.

Perhaps even the play calling you could argue is a big lift.

Even some would argue that the quarterback in Kyler Murray is essentially part of the reason the team’s gone from one of the worst in the league to average (and pretty much statistically churning out a lot of plays on offense).

Granted, it’s still a honeymoon phase and if the certain “kinks” that are correctable aren’t ironed out some of the newfound enthusiasm will fade.

But the key difference so far between the two teams? It’s been team confidence.

Last year when the Cardinals opened the season they began down 21-0 with an inept offense, and very little changes in the 2nd half.

The next week, the team was down 34-0 and didn’t cross the field until after halftime. The team showed some fight against the Bears and Seahawks early but there came a tipping point for the team.

In each of those previous games, the Cardinals were up on their opponent at the half and playing well.

Even the 49ers and Vikings games, the Cardinals got off to quicker starts with a deep TD on the first drive and were only down by 3 at the half to Minnesota. The Rosen era, they’d at least been competitive.

However, that all changed during the Broncos game where everything CRUMBLED. It crashed and it was the first time it looked like the team legit gave up on their coach, and not just their offensive coordinator.

They got a little bit of it back in a comeback win against the Niners, their first time showing resilience despite playing TERRIBLE all game long. But slowly after that, things took their toll.

They lost faith.

...And it was hard to regain.

In future games, the Cardinals experienced more blowouts, from a 45-10 loss to the Chargers to a 30-9 loss to the Rams and while the team kept up the fight, the resilience was there on one condition:

If Arizona started the game competitive and maintained being competitive, then they were competing. In boxing terms, as long as they didn’t take too big a sock on the mouth, they felt they could compete and did. They had CONFIDENCE that they could do it. Ultimately, however, that confidence in the staff was lost.

So what does that have to do with the 2019 Cardinals through two games? Well...

Because this season it’s been the opposite so far.

In both games, the Cardinals got clocked and in a hole early and in both they managed to climb out of it and have a chance to win the game at the end. Clearly, there’s been growing pains but it goes without saying that the belief in the team, the coaches and the quarterbacks to go and win the game is there in a different way than it was last year.

(At least at this point).

Things could change, sure. But for now it’s been all over the team. In fact, the only player who doesn’t seem overly confident right now is David Johnson, in his running ability at the least.

It goes from Kyler Murray rallying himself of all things when the team was down, to Kingsbury’s choices to kick field goals and add points so that in the 4th the team has had two chances to go down and tie or win the game. And the confidence to throw up a few 50-50 balls to the receivers in which they came down with it and a big play happened.

One comeback try succeeded enough to tie. One did not last Sunday, and the offensive line performance could have dragged even Tom Brady down with how godawful it was.

And if it trends down, maybe that confidence will still fade. Maybe it could build, and that’s the dream after all. Obviously.

But at least for now, the players seem to have far more faith in this coaching staff, and themselves, than they did last year.

And if you can take a punch and stand up and keep fighting, sooner or later, you’re gonna connect with their face for a knockout blow.