There’s a quote from one of the all-time great movies (or books if you may) in Shawshank Redemption that talks about hope.
Or, more accurately, about how ironic something so positive can be seen in a negative light. Essentially how dangerous hope can be as when all might be lost, the hope of change or some sort of turnaround being nigh is something scary to behold.
And maybe comparing the lack of home success for the Arizona Cardinals isn’t quite a comparison to a prison sentence, there’s certainly been a level of insanity this season for the Arizona Cardinals.
After all, the main character of Andy Dufresne digging and tunnelling his way to freedom, driving on through the mere thought of a better life helped drive his entire being toward that thought of being able to escape.
Hope carried him through and makes one do crazy things.
Speaking of crazy, well, we should probably talk about this Cardinals season now.
No, it hasn’t been crazy in the “How is this team 7-0?” sort of craze.
Maybe the polar opposite.
A team that simply needed to be a middling meddler up until Week 7 had been downright awful and playing as one of the worst teams in football with a 2-4 record.
And perhaps last night’s victory is still a bit too fresh, a bit of salve on what was an open wound from October 2021 onward for this team having only won 6 games since A.J. Green didn’t turn his head.
There’s certainly things we can’t gloss over...the lack of getting stops early, or how the offense was essentially neck and neck with the Saints until two incredible interceptions put the game all but out of reach for New Orleans DESPITE being down to the dregs of their cornerback depth.
That argument between Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray certainly will be national talk show fodder at best, and sinister speculation at worst.
But...there’s this magical idea of Hope, and it’s something that’s returned to the Valley once again following some incredible tenacity between not only the Cardinals, but also a Phoenix Suns team coming back down from 22 points.
There’s no denying after a brutal offensive showing against Seattle’s 31st ranked defense that the Cardinals were driving toward a proverbial cliff running on empty with the gas needle pointing at “E”, short of luck and short of hope.
Instead, perhaps the only thing that a team running on “E” needed to regain their hope was to add a “Hop” to the mix.
...Okay, maybe that’s a little too corny. But still.
DeAndre Hopkins didn’t blow the masses away with his performance, yet his impact on the field was impossible to ignore.
His mere presence taking a below average passing game outside of some stellar play by Hollywood Brown, and brought it back to 2021 status.
Hopkins made the Cardinals look like the fully functional NFL offense that it hasn’t been for most of the year. And now that he’s back, it’s obvious just how much he’s been missed.
And while that cliff may have been avoided for the Cardinals falling to 2-5, the bigger avoidance was one for another cliff: Kliff Kingsbury and the rumors of a hot seat and talk or removing play-call duties.
It wasn’t just Hopkins, as while he outscored the rest of Arizona’s receivers combined, the rest of Arizona’s offense was able to execute in a way that brings promise of potentially an even brighter future.
- Protection for Kyler Murray shored up once Cody Ford, a backup entering the game due to injury, took over for an ailing Max Garcia, and despite a poor snap in pre-game warmups, new center Billy Price did an adequate job in replacing Sean Harlow.
- The running game was boosted from a week ago, with Eno Benjamin looking like a potential star and steal in the making, and a 6th round running back that Arizona kept a roster spot for scored a touchdown and had cutbacks and broken tackles that make you think that Arizona might stand a chance in this NFC West division after all.
- To not ignore the defense finally generating some takeaways, the play of Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons was central to Arizona’s success. With Alvin Kamara tearing the Cardinals up early, the latter actually dropped back into middle of the field coverage and made yet another miraculous interception and return just like he did against a certain Russell Wilson.
- To top it off, the Cardinals saw not one but two field goals actually converted by their new kicker, one of them being NAILED from 50 yards out, which as far as vibes go, had to have been relieving for a coaching staff and general manager who’s been under the microscope for the decisions.
Maybe these positives are overblown in the relief of a home win. The Saints themselves with Andy Dalton, who’s now lost every game he’s played against Arizona since his first, look like a team that went all in for two players and have instead been ravaged with injury along the rest of the NFL. They seem set to get a potential top 5 pick, in a draft with multiple quarterbacks, not for themselves but for an Eagles team that is currently undefeated.
I’m not as low on the Saints long-term as others, but if you don’t have a QB, you really don’t have a chance or a prayer at all in this league when the going gets tough.
Kyler Murray still has to show some better decisions himself at the position—missing an open Hopkins over the middle of the field to take a sack, and taking yet another loss in scrambling to make a deep play over simply taking a checkdown. But the improvement in his ability to deliver the football accurately certainly seemed far better than the Seattle game, and a lot of that might come from just having a reliable #1 receiver like DeAndre Hopkins around.
The Cardinals could be in a 4 way tie for first place depending on the results of the Seahawks-Chargers and Niners-Chiefs matchups.
Heck, those two teams are already expected to lose and a Rams team that looks about as lost as Arizona had to get right against the Panthers just to stay within striking distance of the Niners. The addition of Christian McCaffrey puts San Fran as “all in” with a division in which the Seahawks’ 34 year old quarterback and multiple draft picks are looking at two other teams with almost no capital to speak of and plenty of problems of their own.
Perhaps this Cardinals team has a better shot at winning the division than any of us think.
And for that little piece of hope...it might be a bit too dangerous. We’re Arizona Sports fans after all and have become used to disappointment. Driven mad, one might say, time and time again!
But just like Hope, the New Orleans Saints and the rest of the NFL found out tonight...Hop is a dangerous thing too. And if this Cardinals season does or doesn’t turn around, it’s reassuring at the very least that, for now, hope can stay just a little bit longer this time around.