TEMPE, Ariz. -- Bruce Arians hopes the Arizona Cardinals' first three trips to the East Coast this season can serve as a teaching tool for this weekend’s cross-country trek to Miami.
Mainly, the coach wants his team to figure out how to win in the Eastern time zone, something it hasn’t done in 2016. Arizona lost at Buffalo in Week 3, at Carolina in Week 8 and at Atlanta in Week 12, after falling to the host Panthers in the NFC Championship Game in January. But Arians said he won’t change the team's routine with the goal of sparking a win. The Cardinals will fly to Miami on Friday to give players a full day in Florida to get their bodies right after a long trip.
“Hopefully we will show up and play better and learn from the last few times we didn’t,” Arians said.
Arians insisted the Cardinals’ East Coast woes this season have been more a result of poor play than a grueling travel schedule.
“The majority of it is mental,” Arians said.
Until this season, he pointed out, the Cardinals were successful playing across the country, going 6-3 in Eastern time zone games under Arians from 2013 to 2015 -- though their playoff losses the past two seasons also came on the East Coast. That early success under Arians was drastic shift from making trips back East their first 24 years in the desert. From 1988 to 2012, the Cardinals were 27-74 on the road in the Eastern time zone; from 1988 to 2001, Arizona was in the NFC East and played at the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles every season.
Arians has done his part to prepare from a logistical standpoint to prepare his team. The Cardinals begin practice between 11-11:20 a.m. Mountain time, which translates to 1-1:20 p.m. Eastern, right in the window of their kickoffs at Buffalo in Week 3, Carolina in Week 8, Atlanta in Week 12 and Miami on Sunday.
“We practice at that time every day for a reason, so it’s never a problem,” Arians said. “It shouldn’t be a problem as far as your body waking up and playing at that time of the day. We’re in meetings at that time in the morning so we did it for a reason. It hasn’t been a problem until this year.
“I think it’s the play of our team more than the start of those games ... the start in Buffalo, the non-call in Carolina. Those things are hard to overcome on the road.”
In Buffalo, the Cardinals punted on their first five series while gaining a total of 2 yards. In Carolina, a botched fumble call that couldn’t be overturned because the replay system was down led to an early Panthers touchdown. In Atlanta, the Cardinals’ defense let the Falcons tie the game a series after Arizona's offense scored on an opening drive for the first time this season.
Left tackle D.J. Humphries said leaving Friday helps the players’ bodies readjust after being cramped in an airplane and dealing with the plane’s air pressure.
“I like traveling Friday to give you a full day to set in,” Humphries said. “When we do trips like that Minnesota trip, when we flew the [day before] and then was right in there, that’s a little bit more difficult.
“But when the game’s going, you’re ready to go.”