Ready or not, Cardinals players with zero playoff experience are about to get an awakening

·6 min read

Chase Edmonds wasn’t afraid to hide the fact that to get even further super hyped up for Monday night’s NFC Wild Card playoff game against the Rams at Sofi Stadium he started watching replays of some of the NFL’s greatest postseason games in history.

“It’s an exciting time for me, man,” the Cardinals running back said. “I’m truly going to be amped up to get out there Monday.”

Edmonds wasn’t the only one.

“I was just talking to him about that,” quarterback Kyler Murray said. “I have actually been doing the same thing, just because as a kid you don’t realize or understand the magnitude of the playoffs. As you get older, as you start going to college, the closer you get to that level, you start to realize it’s a big deal and the impact it has.

“Now that we’re in it, you can definitely feel a sense of urgency around the building to try to not make this our last week coming up here. I think the guys are excited and ready to go.”

Dec 13, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) is chased by Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (54) at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic
Dec 13, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) is chased by Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (54) at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic

Playoff football in the NFL isn’t for the faint of heart, especially if you haven’t been there before. As of Sunday, a total of 31 players on the Cardinals’ 53-man active roster have never played in a postseason game. It’s a place where players and franchises alike can define themselves, create lasting legacies and be remembered forever.

It’s also a place where the intensity gets insanely high, from the hits that seem to get harder and louder, to the mistakes, which seem to become more magnified and troublesome. Momentum swings carry more weight and yet sometimes they can disappear in a heartbeat.

Until a player experiences all of it, he can only imagine.

“Yeah, at the end of the day, that happens naturally just because of the anticipation of the game, the emotion of the game, it’s different. It is, there’s no doubt,” said Cardinals inside linebacker Jordan Hicks, who won the Super Bowl with the Eagles four years ago.

“Monday night is going to be different than a Sunday at noon kickoff type of game, right? It’s the only one in the world. All eyes are going to be on us, and emotions and adrenaline are going to be high. That’s just how it’s going to be.”

Outside linebacker Markus Golden appeared in each of the Cardinals’ two playoff games during the 2015 postseason. He made it a point to talk to several of his teammates who will be making their playoff debuts, giving them a sense of what they can expect in terms of elevated physicality and the enormity of every play.

“I come to practice with good energy every day, letting them know this is a big opportunity,” Golden said Saturday. “I’m not going to sit around and act like this is a regular game, because it’s a big game and you’ve got to embrace that you get to play in an NFL playoff game on a Monday night. That’s a blessing, man, and that’s big time.

“I don’t want to scare guys and make them feel like it’s the biggest game ever. But you don’t want to sit back and act like this is just a normal game. This is one of those games that you live for as a football player.”

One day, perhaps, the Cardinals will be able to treat making the playoffs as a routine experience. One day, maybe, it will just be business as usual and then they can just focus on fine-tuning all parts of their game instead of worrying about how to handle the hype.

They’re not there yet, though, so managing their anxieties remains a necessity. Golden spread the word not to get too jacked up when the team hit the practice field at the start of last week. He told teammates to let the intensity slowly build until game day. Then, go seize the moment.

“You can’t shy away from it. You’ve got to run to it, man,” he said. “When the day comes, it ain’t about the bright lights. It’s still a football game and at the end of the day, you get to get out there and do what you love. I feel if we keep that mindset, people won’t be too rattled and when it comes, you’ll be ready and prepared as long as you put the work in during the week.”

The only person the Cardinals want to see get rattled is Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, who tied for the league lead this season with 17 interceptions. Four of his picks have been returned for touchdowns this season, which was the most in the league. Last season, his final year in Detroit, he also led the league in that department by throwing three pick-sixes.

If the Cardinals are able to generate a solid pass rush on the outside between Golden and Chandler Jones, plus get some real push inside from their defensive linemen, including veteran J.J. Watt – if he’s able to play – they know they can pester Stafford into making more mistakes.

“Of course, you do. Of course, you do,” Golden said when asked if he’s licking his chops to get after Stafford. “You watch film and you see those types of things. But with a guy like him, you also see him making big throws and making throws that a lot of quarterbacks can’t make.

“For me, I just want to get pressure on him because if know if we do, I’ve got a better chance to help my team win. You never want to give a guy like him a clean pocket because if you do that, man, he’ll pick you apart.”

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, meanwhile, will chew you up and spit you out. Like Watt he is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, and the last time he met the Cardinals he sacked Murray a season-high three times and had 14 quarterback pressures.

“Aaron Donald is a different animal,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “When he gets going like that, sometimes it’s hard to slow him down no matter what you throw at him.”

In addition to Donald, the Cardinals also must contend with outside linebackers Leonard Floyd and Von Miller, who can easily wreck a game themselves.

“They’ve got big-name guys that are big-time players that have played in big games,” Murray said. “As a competitor, these are the games you’ve got to step up in and make plays and execute. There’s no shying away from this. We know who we’re playing. We know the caliber of guys they have over there, guys that can wreck a game.

“We’ve got to match the energy and be ready to play. There’s no way around it. To get to the Super Bowl you’ve got to beat everybody. It just so happens we have to play the Rams first. We understand, yes, they have a great D-line. Yes, they get after the passer. We’ve got to play well.”


The team announced it has released cornerback Breon Borders.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: The playoffs are finally here, are the Cardinals ready for business?