There is no better feeling in sports than tasting victory on the field, something that Arizona Cardinals‘ players and loyal supporters have not enjoyed much recently. The Arizona Cardinals ended the 2022 season with a run of seven straight defeats, and they started the 2023 campaign in the same vein: playing two and losing both. However, a shock 28-16 victory over the much-hyped Dallas Cowboys at the State Farm Stadium on Week 3 of the 2023 season has lifted the Cardinals’ spirits and could be the tonic they need to enjoy what will be only the team’s second winning season in eight years.
The Cardinals finished with an 11-6 record in 2021 but then slumped to 4-13 last season. Four of the Cardinals’ defeats were by three points or fewer, including a 16-19 overtime defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cardinals were losing but were not being brushed aside with ease. A little more offensive creativity in those narrow defeats could have seen the Cardinals come away with wins, and that 4-13 record could easily have read 8-8. What were the Cardinals to do? Hire offensive coordinator Drew Petzing was the answer the Cardinals’ senior management team came up with.
Petzing has been a breath of fresh air, continually coming up with creative plays to keep the opposition defense on their toes. While it is far too early to start backing the Cardinals for glory with the best betting sites online, Petzing’s influence was there for all to see in the defeats at the Washington Commanders and home to the New York Giants before everything came together against the then-undefeated Cowboys last Sunday. The fact that Petzing has managed to get a tube out of second-string quarterback Joshua Dobbs while Kyler Murray recovers from a torn ACL is nothing short of remarkable.
In addition to Dobbs making the most of his chance as the starting quarterback, wide receiver Rondale Moore and running back James Conner look reborn. Conner has already racked up 266 yards from 51 attempts through the opening three games of 2023; he only managed 782 yards from 183 carries through 13 games last year.
Week 4 sees the Cardinals on the road to the Levi’s Stadium of the much-fancied San Francisco 49ers (3-0). The 49ers beat the Cardinals 38-10 in Mexico City and 38-13 at the Levi’s Stadium last regular season, and they will be the toughest test the Cardinals have faced in 2023.
Cornerbacks Marco Wilson and rookie Kei’Trel Clark are yet to put together solid outings and must step up their game against one of the NFL’s best passing teams. Wilson and Clark sometimes struggled against the Commanders and Giants, two teams not known for their passing game prowess. The 49ers will provide a significant test for the Cardinals’ cornerbacks; their performance could be the difference between a close or one-sided affair.
Another area of slight concern is the inconsistency of the Cardinals’ offensive line. For the most part, they have done a superb job of allowing Dobbs time to get his pass away or opening things up for Conner, but there have been times when they seem to take plays off. The 49ers lead the league regarding hurries and pressures, so the Cardinals’s offensive line needs to gain more consistency and fast.
Week 4 against the 49ers will be the Cardinals’ most challenging test of 2023, but at least the players and supporters are heading to Santa Clara having remembered how to win and knowing that they are capable of causing an upset. Go Cardinals!