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What now?: Lingering questions after the Cardinals’ first loss of the season

The Cardinals suffered their first loss of the season last week. Let’s explore a few lingering questions in the wake of the Packers loss.

Syndication: Arizona Republic
This is how most Cardinals fans were feeling after the game last week.
Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

I’ve been saying for weeks that a loss was coming, and we got it last Thursday at home to the Green Bay Packers. That’s okay—even the best teams lose a game or two (or three or four) over the course of the season.

Losses are just part of the landscape in professional sports. I’m sure the Cardinals have already put this game in the rearview and are looking ahead to the 49ers this weekend.

But there are several questions that linger in the air after the loss. Let’s take some time to briefly ponder them today.

  • Does the loss change the national perception of the Cardinals?
  • What does the loss mean for potential playoff positioning?
  • Did the Packers show a “blueprint” for beating the Cardinals?
  • What do the Cardinals have to do to avoid a second-straight loss?

Does the loss change the national perception of the Cardinals?

This is an easy one: the answer is “not really.” The Cardinals are still viewed as one of the best teams in the league in most power polls, even if they fell out of the top spot in most, if not all, of them. (A lot of recency bias there, though.) But it would have been worse if the officials hadn’t (controversially) overturned that would-be Aaron Jones TD on the Packers final drive and the Cardinals hadn’t very nearly completed the comeback. (Thanks. A.J. Green.) A last-second loss is much easier to overlook than a double-digit one. But as it is, the Cardinals are still viewed as one of the main contenders in the NFC.

What does the loss mean for potential playoff positioning?

The loss hurts even more from this perspective, no doubt about it. The Cardinals only fell one spot in the conference, from first to second—but remember that there is only one bye week now. Granted that there’s still a ton of season left, but the Packers now own the all-important tiebreaker over the Redbirds. That makes our remaining games against the other NFC elite teams—the Rams and Cowboys—even more important.

Did the Packers show a “blueprint” for beating the Cardinals?

Yes and no. I think the “blueprint” the Packers put together is a blueprint for victory over just about any team. I’m not going to look up the exact stats, but I imagine teams that win the turnover battle 3-0 and dominate time of possession by 15 minutes (37:35 to 22:25) win the vast majority of the time. Aaron Rodgers took care of the ball, the Cardinals didn’t, Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon kept Kyler off the field—game, set, match for the Pack. But what teams on the Cardinals’ remaining schedule can enact this blueprint? Smart QB, strong running game, opportunistic defense. The Rams, obviously. That Cowboys game looks a lot more worrisome now, doesn’t it? Not a lot of other teams on the schedule check all those boxes. But one that might is this week’s opponent.

What do the Cardinals have to do to avoid a second-straight loss?

It depends on which Jimmy Garoppolo shows up, but the Niners are certainly a team that could do what the Packers did. And remember that the Niners very nearly beat us a few weeks ago with Trey Lance at the helm. But Jimmy G is back and he’s coming off his best game in a long time, and the Niners have a few other key guys getting healthy. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have their own health issues to be concerned with as we head out on the road. So how do we avoid a second upset in a row? It starts with the front seven—that unit simply has to be better against Eli Mitchell and a very strong San Francisco running attack. Kyler taking care of the ball better is also a must (and not losing so many yards on sacks either). But what I’d like most is to see the Cardinals use the Packers’ blueprint and pound the rock. This is still a run-first team, so we have to do better than 20 attempts for 74 yards.

Final Thoughts

A loss is always tough to get over, but I got over this one pretty quickly. It was just an off game against a good team on a Thursday night, which are always tough games. Honestly, I’m way more concerned about what’s been happening with the Suns and Sun Devils than I am with this Cardinals loss.

Two in a row, though? I’d be a lot more concerned. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.