JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Despite everything the Arizona Cardinals accomplished last season, there was one thing they failed to master: the East Coast.
The defending NFC champions were 1-6 on the East Coast last season, including lopsided losses at the New York Jets, Philadelphia and New England. They were winless in five trips east during the regular season before beating Carolina in the playoffs. Three weeks later, they lost the Super Bowl in Tampa.
The Cardinals (0-1) will try to end their East Coast slump against the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) today.
“All I know is you show up and you have to play, no matter where it is or when it is or what the time change is or what the weather’s like,” Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner said. “It doesn’t matter.”
It seemed to matter last season. Far from the desert, the Cardinals lost in sunshine, rain, wind and snow. Maybe it was the cross-country flight. Maybe it was the two- or three-hour time change. Maybe it was just the challenge of winning on the road in the NFL.
“It’s something people talk about because the records and the numbers show that it’s hard to do that,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We’ve traveled to the East Coast enough times in the last two years that we feel like we know what we’re doing as far as what’s best for our team and how we can be best prepared.”
Although the Cardinals opened the season at home last week, they looked anything but comfortable. They had penalties, dropped passes, errant throws, a botched interception and two turnovers. The struggles might have surprised some, but Warner saw problems last year, and not just back east.
“The one thing that we talked about last year, even before we made the Super Bowl run, was we weren’t consistent all year,” Warner said. “We’d beat one team and lose to another. It was just back and forth. We finally got consistent there through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl, but we haven’t sustained that.”
Few Super Bowl losers have.
Seven of the last 10 Super Bowl losers have failed to finish .500 the following season, and only two (Tennessee in 2000 and Seattle in 2006) got back to the playoffs.
“Coming off a Super Bowl, it’s easy to put pressure on yourself like, 'Well, man, we got all the way there and we didn’t do it. Now, this year we have to do it,’” Warner said. “You start putting too much pressure on yourself and you start wanting to be too perfect instead of just relaxing and playing the game. That’s what we have to fight because we haven’t played up to our standards during the preseason and even into this first game.”