Undrafted – The Network

Arizona Cardinals – Dare to dream, a Welsh fan’s view

The strangest thing happened on Saturday afternoon, I was having my photo taken next to the Lombardi trophy in my Cardinals jacket when an Eagles fan sniggered… “closest a Cardinal logo will ever get to the Lombardi”. This in itself was not strange, but my reaction was… I was annoyed. In previous years I’d have acknowledged this, laughed along, understood where this Cheese-steak loving fan was coming from… but not this year. I’ve always been proud to be a Cardinals fan, but once again I’m proud of what my team could potentially achieve. 

2021 – Cardinals in review

We came into the season undervalued by all, the NFC West is the toughest division and Cardinals were expected to prop it up, “I think Arizona lack the consistency to make more noise across the NFC” wrote Neil Reynolds of Gridiron magazine. However, looking at the quality of players coming in, Conner, Green, Hudson, Watt, supplemented by clever draft picks Collins, Moore and Wilson, we felt we could push higher than the predictions foretold. 

Week 1 allowed Arizona to put their blueprint for success onto the field against the Titans, D-Hop and Kirk shredding the opposition defence, Isaiah with 7 tackles, CJ55 with 5 sacks. The league was on notice. 

Week 2 saw a back and forth against Minnesota that had us behind in Q1, ahead at the half, and ultimately reliant on a missed 37-yard field goal by the Vikings to progress to 2-0. This was our wobble, Cook sliced us in a way that Henry had been unable to a week earlier, and yet we were deserving of victory with 400 passing yards for K1. 

Week 3 would serve only as appetiser for the main events, as divisional rivals were to follow. The Jaguars were brushed aside, with nods to Byron Murphy for his two picks. And here it was, an acceptance that although we looked improved this could be the high-point of our season. 

In previous seasons, this is where the story would have taken a different turn, as reality set in when Stafford would exploit the holes in our defence, or the 49ers would edge a close-match as we’d fail to capitalise on our opportunities. As a result, I’ve gone through many stages in terms of my response towards the teams performances, from disbelief (Titans), to Imposter Syndrome (Minnesota) to sheer delight and realisation that this team is very, very good (Rams, 49ers, Browns).

Credit: USA Today

Indicators of ongoing success

This year, the squad feels like a far more mentally strong group, one that doesn’t know how to take anything but a winning mindset onto the field. This has shown itself in key moments, such as the withering look that Kyler gave AJ Green after a key drop, 

Notable performances in recent weeks have seen:

  • JJ Watt collect eight tackles, six QB hits, a forced fumbles, a sack over two games.
  • Isaiah Simmons put his body on the line to prevent a certain rushing touchdown against the 49ers, averaging 5 tackles per game and 2nd in the league for forced fumbles.
  • Jalen Thompson, an unsung hero in the backfield who has achieved 39 tackles in 6 games so far this season and is on course for his best season as a Cardinal.
  • An RB core that allows Kyler Murray to focus on the best available play rather than being pressured into 100 rushing yards per game to secure a win. 
  • The individual play of our WR core D-Hop, AJ Green, Rondale for creating separation,  executing spin moves, toe-drags and one-handed theatrics to get the job done.
  • Christian Kirk for picking himself up after the Rams game and making himself available averaging over 11yards per reception against 49ers and Browns combined. 

These are the traits that have got us over the line against the Rams the 49ers, and the Browns. These key games are where the Cardinals have stumbled in recent years however they showed once more the leadership and experience that has organically developed over recent years, coupled with clever off-season acquisitions. The signing of Zach Ertz is further proof that while Cardinals are on top, the franchise is pushing to retain it’s advantage by responding to barriers and issues of injuries etc. in a positive way.

London Pride

At the London Games I was proud to wear the Cardinal on my chest, and a core group of fans were noted across the stadium. I’m not going overboard just yet, however, it’s an exciting time to support the Red Sea and there are indications that this team could dominate the NFC West for many years to come. Cardinals, it’s time to dream about what we can achieve.

Matt is a founding member of Arizona Cardinals Fans UK, if you are a Cardinals Fan based in the UK, come and join us here:

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