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Cardinals Need One For The Road

Posted Nov 30, 2013

As postseason draws nearer, Bruce Arians' team have to capture wins away from home

The Cardinals play three of their final five games this season on the roed, including Sunday in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Cardinals couldn’t feel much more comfortable at home these days.

The team is 5-1 at University of Phoenix Stadium this season, including wins over the Lions, Panthers and Colts. That excellence has put them in the midst of the battle for the two NFC wild card spots.

The determining factor on if they make the postseason, though, may be how they fare on the road. The Cardinals are 2-3 away from home this season and have three of their next four games out of town.

They already felt like the season opener at St. Louis was a game they should have won. The Week 6 contest at San Francisco was another one where the Cardinals battled but fell short.

“We’ve got to be able to do it on the road, because probably in the playoffs we’ll be on the road, and we’ve got to learn to win on the road,” coach Bruce Arians said.

The Cardinals are one of the hotter teams in the NFL right now, but the margin for error is still slim. The Panthers and 49ers both won last week, keeping Arizona just outside the current playoff picture. On Sunday the Cardinals play at Philadelphia, followed by trips to Tennessee on Dec. 15 and Seattle on Dec. 22.

Most teams would be happy with a 2-1 result through that trek, but the players continue to preach that they cannot afford even one slip-up. Even though an 11-5 record guarantees a playoff berth most years, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said with such stiff competition, that isn’t a sure thing.

“Maybe. Maybe not,” Fitzgerald said. “Carolina is surging right now. San Francisco got (wide receiver) Michael Crabtree back. They’re playing good ball. Seattle is at home this week against the Saints on Monday night and you know how they play at home. Every single game is huge. We can’t afford to drop anything. That’s just how the NFL is. Once you have your opportunity, you have to seize it, or you lose it. “

Philadelphia is 6-5 overall but just 1-4 at home this season. The Eagles lost to the Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys and Giants earlier this year before finally beating the Redskins in their most recent home game on Nov. 17. Some of the woes can be attributed to quarterback injuries and the quality of the opponent.

Philadelphia is 5-1 on the road, but coach Chip Kelly doesn’t see any significance in the unusual records.

“I look at the individual games,” he said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with home or away.”

Arians said playing in Philadelphia will pose a challenge to his team.

“I saw those games where everybody was bundled up and I said ‘Damn, I got to do that again?’” Arians said. “I’ve had enough of that for 10 years (in Pittsburgh). The elements will play a huge part of this game at the Linc (Lincoln Financial Field). That field is a great field, a great stadium and a great crowd.”

The Eagles have been playing well of late, winners of three straight. LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 1,009 rushing yards and quarterback Nick Foles has thrown for 1,554 yards with 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions, excelling after stepping in for an injured Michael Vick.

The Cardinals are second in the NFL in rush defense and tied for third in interceptions, so it will be a battle of strengths.

“I know they’re going to come out and try to throw a bunch at me,” Foles said. “They’ve seen our game film. They’re an NFL team with a lot of great players and coaches. (I have) a lot of respect. They’re playing great football, so I expect them to come out ready to go, ready to try to mess (the interception-less streak) up. That’s what a defense does, and they’re a talented defense.”

Arians is happy with his team’s progression. He doesn’t think the Cardinals have peaked, but believes they are continuing to get better. The NFL is beginning to take notice, as the four-game winning streak has made Arizona relevant.

“December football is what it’s all about,” Arians said. “You want games to matter in December, and that’s what people remember.”

If the Cardinals can navigate this road stretch successfully, January football could be up next.


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