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Cards’ Late Season Fades

NFL: DEC 19 Cardinals at Lions Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In response to since61’s question and comment on the “Cards’ 4 Losses By The Numbers” thread, I wrote a rather thorough response, which I thought everyone might appreciate as its own thread. After all, at this point, we all are worried about another late season fade from the Cardinals.

since 61 wrote:

Walt, have the coaches around the League figured out our patterns on both O and D and have we not adjusted?

Very surprising we didn’t run the ball more and change our offense to adjust for the loss of DHoo in our loss Sunday.

Yes, 61.

Common late season denominators:

1. Kyler injured and not playing nearly as well as he had earlier in the season.

2. Key drops by WRs.

3. Kliff not making quick enough adjustments to the formulae that opposing DCs come up with to slow the Cardinals’ offense down. Last year it was loading the box on Kyler and this year it is teams playing ball control keep away from Kyler while exposing the Cardinals weakness in trying to stop the run.

4. Defense’s poor play against the run. Deserves its own category.

5. Sloppy tackling.

6. Penalties that extend drives for the opponents and derail drives for the offense.

7. Major 10+ yard losses on the opponents’ sacks of Kyler which tend to derail drives.

One of the major adjustments that college players and coaches have to make when they come to the NFL is how to physically and mentally handle the challenges of a 17 game season and potential post-season playoff games.

Coming into the NFL, Kyler had played 42 games in high school (13 a year) and he only played one full year of college football that was 13 games (including Big 12 Championship Game) with a few weeks off to play 1 bowl game (NCAA semis).

Kliff’s seasons at Texas Tech were mostly 12 games, most of which were over by the end of November.

College players and coaches have to re-set their yearly football clocks --- because they are conditioned to play mostly 3 months of the the season, not 4 to 5.

For example, I needed to make a significant adjustment when I made the transition from 15 years of private school teaching to 23 years of public school teaching, because the private school year was September to the end of May, with a week off for Thanksgiving and two weeks off for Christmas/New Years and two weeks off for spring break in March.

The public school year., often because of snow days that have to be made up, stretches on into late June. Now that might not seem like a lot having to go 3-4 weeks more, but, let me tell you, when your yearly inner clock is having to adjust, the physical and mental fatigue is a challenge to deal with.

Like the saying goes, sometimes players, coaches and teams “hit a wall.”

The daily and weekly routines that were the hallmarks of the team’s early success by now have become monotonous —- but remain essential, particularly during the short weeks and during the holidays.

I what happened to the Cardinals, having to play 2 games in 6 days, while having to deal with losing several key players, caused them to hit a wall of sorts. It wouldn’t surprise me if the team was watching the Colts beat the Patriots in their hotel rooms the night before the Lions game and started to shift their attention to the Colts, perhaps thinking the Lions wouldn’t be hard to beat.

The question is —- can Kliff, the coaches and the players push back and rediscover the magic they had the first two months of the season? I think that because the bye week came later than normal this year, the Cardinals may be in better shape to mount a strong push down the stretch.

The late season fades are now yet another monkey the Cardinals need to get off their backs —- and this one, for sure, is starting to feel like King Kong.

Teams that keep their “eyes on the stars and their feet on the ground” (Teddy Roosevelt) are the ones who prevail.

I think the Cardinals can do that this year because their eyes are still very much on the prize.

What do you think?