Fixing the 'Little Things' 2021 Goal of Cardinals

The Cardinals finished the 2020 season with a 2-5 record and were hampered by the “little things” that haunted them.
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A stirring Sunday night victory over the Seattle Seahawks. A miraculous win over the Buffalo Bills that ended with the improbable Hail Murray from quarterback Kyler Murray to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

The Cardinals were flying high at 5-2 and then 6-3, seemingly on the way to the playoffs.

But the season crashed with a 2-5 finish and out of the playoffs when they failed to beat the Los Angeles Rams in the final game of the season.

Now, nearly seven months later, it’s time to start a new season with the opening of training camp. There’s been plenty of time to dissect where things went wrong and try to figure out a way to have a different outcome.

There are new players, but the Cardinals still play in the rough-and-tumble NFC West where being improved isn’t always enough to continue playing in mid-January.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t want to dwell on 2020, but he knows it also can’t be avoided.

“Nobody was happy with how that ended,” he said Wednesday prior to the first practice of camp. “It's just an abrupt end; you don't expect that to happen. And then you kind of go your own way. And so we've definitely addressed it in the team meeting. And there's a lot of new faces that weren't around for it. But they understand how it happened and what it looked like. And there's a lot of highly motivated players.

“I think we want to touch on it early, and then move past it. And that there are enough things that we needed to address from last year and make sure we understood where it went wrong to try and not make those same mistakes this year.”

Lost in the negatives is that before Kingsbury’s arrival, the Cardinals were 3-15 in 2018, a record that earned them the first overall pick in the 2019 draft, which was Murray. They won five that year and eight last season.

Players talk openly that this should be a playoff team.

“I think we're all excited to see what this team can do,” Kingsbury said. “I don't mind them having that expectation. Obviously, the progression we've made five wins, eight wins. I mean, we'd like to keep that going and see where it takes us.”

Successful teams know how to finish consistently. The Cardinals had too many games where they were unable to put teams away and they weren’t able to finish, losing the last two games to the San Francisco 49ers and Rams while scoring a total of 19 points.

Kingsbury was asked about those that say it’s the “little things” that need to be corrected.

Defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence said, “You go back and watch the film even on days when you're just in the hotel and you're like, we're one two plays away. And that's so important to understand and really hone in on your skills and your technique because we had a chance to get in last year. We played well on defense, but it wasn't good enough and we have to play better.”

Kingsbury said of main problem, “Offensively, we led the league in stalled drives due to penalty. And we're a top six offense (in total yards). And had we not done that, who knows what it could have been? That's a lot of drives to give up throughout the NFL season with limited possessions. So there's no question, little things that happen every day that we got to get better at.”