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Arizona Cardinals Hard Knocks Episode 3

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Background: MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 21: Colt McCoy #12 of the Arizona Cardinals passes during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Estadio Azteca on November 21, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images.

Overall, I think that HBO did a very good job of capturing the human elements of the Cardinals’ week of preparation and how things played out in the football game.

The segments where HBO featured the plights of Colt McCoy, Antonio Hamilton (with his family) and Will Hernandez (with his family and friends) were outstanding and very insightful. More on those features to come.

What disappointed me to no end was HBO ignoring the fact that this supposed international home game for the Cardinals was anything but. With 80,000 49ers fans booing the “home team” Cardinals BEFORE the game as the team ran out onto the field, it was something unprecedented for an international game, particularly for a so-called home team. The British fans in don’t boo teams as they run onto the field. Nor do the Germans. They are very grateful to host the games.

To me, the Mexican fans booing the Cardinals who agreed to play this game in the first place, was an absolute disgrace.

49ers’ head coach Mike Shanahan said during his post game presser how in awe he and his team was at the red carpet reception they received from the Mexican fans before, during and after the game. He said that he and his players fed off the fans’ superior level of enthusiasm.

Why in the world then would the NFL put the Cardinals through this type of humiliation?

First of all, if anything, the 49ers should have been the home team.

Secondly, of all of the Cardinals’ opponents, the NFL could have chosen another team to make the game more fair.

But, of course, the NFL is in love with money the way Mexico City is in love with 49ers’ gold.

For the 49ers —- this game brought them to the equivalent of El Dorado.

For the Cardinals —- this game brought them to the equivalent of Custer’s Last Stand.

For the Cardinals, it was the consummate booby trap.

Everything imaginable was working against the Cardinals in this game —- made worse by the sudden firing of offensive line coach and running game coordinator Sean Kugler —- and made more difficult by facing one the NFL’s healthiest and hottest teams —- playing at 7,350 feet —-amidst an utter 49ers love fest from 80,000 roaring fans —-

And the very second the Cardinals got the football, it started to rain.

To the Cardinals’ credit, they forged their way through the rain pretty well. But, once the rain abated, the superior team took full control of both lines of scrimmage and of the game.

Another angle that HBO ignored was how during the week of prep the 49ers’ owner flew his team out to Colorado Springs, while the Cardinals elected to stay put.

Is it any wonder then why the 49ers had their legs and wind in the second half, while the Cardinals were swooning?

McCoy’s Last Stand?

Not only did this game feel like Custer’s Last Stand for the Cardinals, it also felt like Colt McCoy’s Last Stand.

I will never forget the segment HBO did with Colt while he was sitting alone studying film the night before the game at the Mexican hotel, while his offensive line coach and running game coordinator who was supposed to make the run play calls the next night, was allegedly committing a sex crime.

Amazing that over the course of 13 NFL seasons, Colt was preparing for only his 35th start. Yet, he talked about how nervous he gets before every game, whether he is starting or not, and how devastating it is to lose whenever his team loses because of the effort he and his teammates put in to try to do what it takes to win.

These words were spoken like a champion.

Champions are always nervous before games. And champions are always devastated by losing. Michael Jordan said that his biggest fear was always “the fear of failure.” That is precisely the way champions think.

And look at how close Colt McCoy came to making this game a doozy. If four plays had gone differently , who knows what this game could have been for the Cardinals if they could have managed to keep it close. Like Colt said in exasperation to Kliff later, “I was seeing everything, “

  1. The excellent third down conversion to DeAndre Hopkins turned sour by D-Hop’s taunting penalty.
  2. Two plays later, James Connor’s deflected drop of a well thrown pass over the middle that was intercepted.
  3. Stephen Anderson’s near TD catch on what was a total dime of an end zone pass.
  4. Greg Dortch not “sitting down” in the 49ers. zone on 4th and 3 for what should have been an easy conversion.

Momentum in football games is a tricky thing. Did you watch the seesaw affair between the Bills and Lions yesterday?

Man, HBO did a great job of documenting the pounding that Colt took in that game. I hope Colt’s teammates took special notice of the cheap shot Nick Bosa took on Colt in addition to Bosa stepping on Colt’s hand (whether it was inadvertent or not).

The team gets a rematch in Palo Alto in Week 18 and hopefully the Cardinals can make it a point to give Bosa his just desserts.

But, the most poignant clip of the night was being able to see and hear Kliff Kingsbury sit next to a sore and dejected Colt McCoy to offer praise for Colt’s efforts and strong level of play. I love what Kliff did there.

While Colt said the right thing during the week that “I know what my role is” and how “Kyler can do so many things that I can’t”, you just know the fierce competitor in Colt McCoy understood what winning this game could have meant to the team and to Colt’s football legacy.

I was very emotional watching the exchange between Kliff and Colt and it reminded me of the denouement of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses” (about Odysseus’ last stand on the sea):

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

There is no yield in Colt McCoy. None whatsoever.

Happy to know that Colt is signed through 2023., I wish him a better fate moving forward, if and when a precious opportunity like this one comes his way again.

I also wish that Kyler Murray is feeling inspired by what Colt has done for the team in his absence the last two weeks.

No Encore This Game for Hamilton.

Antonio Hamilton is a lovable man. He’s a devout Christian, husband and father. It was so wonderful that HBO was able to capture him a few weeks back making his first career interception —- and then to see him screaming in joy and are on the sidelines: “It took me 7 years! it took me 7 seven years!” That segment gave me goosebumps.

The account of his cooking accident, as told by Ham and his lovely wife, was harrowing. It certainly adds texture to what is a Cinderella journey of a no-name NFL wannabe turned into a bona fide starting caliber player with sudden star potential.

But, as is so often the case in journeys such as Ham’s, success doesn’t happen every week.

Ham had a rough game.

But, the good news is he is the first person to recognize his mistakes.

He said he thought George Kittle had stepped out of bounds on the TD play in which Joe Buck and Troy Aikman excoriated him for his lack of effort.

Just one week ago, Antonio Hamilton led the Cardinals in tackling with 11.

I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

I went back a saw where Hamilton made a couple of big hits on the sidelines earlier in the game and one time it looked like the ref was warning him about being close to getting a late hit penalty.

What this episode confirmed to me is the quality of Hamilton’s character. I believe he has the humbleness and the exemplary resilience to bounce back from this past week’s setbacks with a renewed fervor.

Good Will

Absolutely loves the segments on Will Hernandez. Man, I hope the Cardinals keep him on board for years to come.

The highlight of the dinner with Will and his friends eating chili roasted grasshoppers was awesome. The most poignant moment was hearing Will’s uncle thank him for how much he has done for the family and for being able to see a game at Estadio Azteca for the very first time.

I also loved the little sideline conversation Will had with Matt Prater after Matt’s long field goal that made the score 3-0 Cardinals. Will was curious to know what Prater’s range was at 7,350 feet.

Then, the scene after the game with Will surrounded by family and friends, one of whom was carrying a Fat Head poster of him, was very moving. Not only was the love in that circle so heartwarming, so was the spirit of keeping faith and hope in the team.

Kliff Hanger

With six games remaining and the Cardinals reeling as a team and as an organization, one has to wonder if this season is Kliff’s Last Stand in Arizona.

Much could depend on whether Kyler Murray and Kliff can show that they can win late season games. As the whole NFL world knows, both have yet to do so in their 3 23 years together.

What the HBO episodes have shown thus far is how assertive and communicative Kliff is behind the scenes. Man, I loved not only how Kliff consoled Colt McCoy after the game, but how about the segment during the week where he pep talked Colt about dialing up an array off downfield strikes during the game. Clearly, Kliff’s confidence in Colt is very high.

What I believe Kliff can do a stronger job of is talking to the team —- by standing directly in front of them. It seems like Kliff is always staying off to the side, even in conversations during practice. In communicating, eye contact is very important. Eye contract encourages engagement. The other thing is that Kliff is always talking to the team rapid fire —- which after a while —- will tend to tune the players out.

I thought Kliff’s apology to the team on behalf of the coaching staff in light of Kugler’s firing was poignant, as was his urging of the players to not be the ones having to answer for any off the field “crap”.

But, what was awkward was Kliff asking the team twice, “you got me?” And no one said a thing the first tine. Nor, alas, the second. This is what’s likely to happen when someone speaks in a super hurry from the side of the room and there is absolutely no eye contact.

Kliff’s messages are always right on the money. Therefore, if he learns to deliver them more deliberately and directly, he could enhance the players’ confidence in him as a leader.

I think Kliff is very likable. I also believe that with a good defense and a nifty fit at QB, he could win a lot games in the NFL, or wherever he coaches.

Let’s ee whether Kliff can prove once and for all whether his team can finish strong.

His future with the team and oras an NFL head coach could lie in the balance.

Steve Keim, unlike Kliff standing to the side, was shown sitting on the center of the stage in front of the coaches and scouts. So he gets the front and center communication part right. But, man, how ho-hum was he about the coaches being stuck with the players they have because there aren’t many other decent players available? Rings very hallow from a GM who did absolutely nothing at the trading deadline for the second key year in a row. Even when he suggested it was a good time to give more snaps to the younger players, his message sounded unenthusiastically flat.

The #1 Priority for the Cardinals 2023: