Hard loss in Mexico and coaching changes have made for challengeCraig Grialou
The focus is on football.
When the Cardinals take the field on Sunday, there will be but one thing on the mind of every coach and player: The game. It will be a welcome relief after a week-and, really, an entire season, even going all the way back to the offseason-of distraction.
"You have things that happen in the National Football League. It's always something different, something you've never seen before and I've never been apart of anything like this," right tackle Kelvin Beachum said. "You just got to find a way to battle and find a way to just right the ship. We're at a point in the season where there's still hope. We got to find a way to make sure that we keep providing hope not only to ourselves but to the fans out there as well."
At 4-7 after losing three of their last four games, the Cardinals have dug themselves a hole. They can begin to climb out when they host the Los Angeles Chargers, another desperate team.
The Chargers (5-5) have lost two in a row. While they sit in second place in the AFC West, they find themselves as the ninth-seed in the conference. The top seven make the playoffs.
Led by third-year quarterback Justin Herbert, the Chargers own a top-10 passing offense. Herbert ranks second in the league in completions and fifth in passing yards.
"He can throw that deep ball like nobody else in this league," safety Jalen Thompson said.
Veteran wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both returned last week from injuries. Williams, however, reaggravated a high-ankle sprain and isn't expected to play.
In their absences, Herbert has leaned on second-year wideout Joshua Palmer, who is coming off an eight-catch, 106-yard, two-TD performance against the Kansas City Chiefs. Running back Austin Ekeler is among the league leaders with 11 total touchdowns.
Defensively, the Chargers have struggled against the run. They have allowed 150 or more yards in four consecutive games. Opponents are averaging 5.5 yards per carry, last in the league. Injuries to cornerback J.C. Jackson (groin) and edge rusher Joey Bosa (groin) have not helped. Jackson, a free-agent addition in the offseason, is done for the year and Bosa's return is uncertain.
At the end of the day, however, the opponent is secondary. The Cardinals remain focused on themselves and focused on winning one game. Nothing else matters.
"Nobody really thought it was going to go this way," quarterback Kyler Murray said. "But everything happens for a reason. Like I said, one game at a time. This thing is still alive. I'm not looking too far ahead, but there is a lot of football left."