When the NFL schedule was released, the Cardinals could have looked at today’s game at Atlanta and seen a opponent that, although no pushover, figured to be beatable.
Sure, the Falcons have Michael Vick, but he was limited in 2003 due to a broken fibula. And Atlanta also has a new coach and defense that ranked dead last in the NFL a year ago.
In the first two weeks, however, it’s been vintage Vick and a solid defense for Atlanta, which is undefeated. Arizona, meanwhile, has appeared lost at times en route to a pair of defeats.
As a result, the Cardinals are decided underdogs in a game that, at first, looked like one they could steal.
“You have to think you can turn it around,” quarterback Josh McCown said. “A lot of teams are 0-2, and you can’t just cut and run because things didn’t start out the way you hoped they would. We lost to two pretty good football teams, and we lost in a fashion that leaves a bitter taste.
“But there were instances in which we could have won those games, and that gives you hope that if you fix the mistakes and get on the same page, you can win a lot of football games.”
The Cardinals are trying to build the kind of confidence that the Falcons already are displaying.
The swagger in Atlanta starts with new coach Jim Mora, who said that — despite the team’s Super Bowl trip in 1998 and playoff appearance only two years ago — the environment was not conducive to winning and had to be changed.
“I think the two situations are similar to an extent,” Mora said. “Any time you go into a place, there is a reason a change was made. So you need to try and change the culture. You have to establish a high standard and put in the good ways of doing things.”
Receiver Peerless Price, who played on a national championship team at the University of Tennessee, said he feels Mora and Falcons management has laid the foundation for a Super Bowl squad.
“I think we have the pieces of the puzzle for this to be our team, a good team, for a long time,” Price said. “You get the good personnel, have good guys upstairs, and that is how you win championships.”
Green, in his first year as Cardinals coach, said that today’s game against another new regime provides a barometer on Arizona’s progression.
“I said from the start, I’m not a patient man,” Green said. “I enjoy playing well and would much rather be called (the coach of) a good football team rather than a bad team. You only do it by playing good football, and that’s our objective this week.”