TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals are just two days removed from their last-second win over the Minnesota Vikings, but they are already moving forward to their next game, which will see them take a cross-country trip to face 2021 NFL Draft No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Our saying in our receivers room right now is 'Don't take the cheese,'" Cardinals Wide Receiver Christian Kirk said. "Don't buy into any of the hype or the rankings or whatever. (Anything) positive that people are saying about us right now, just because we were in the same position last year."
In 2020, the Cardinals started 2-0 with wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Football Team before losing to the Detroit Lions at home. Arizona finished the season 8-8 and fell 1 game short of the playoffs.
Kirk talked about the loss to Detroit, saying, "Obviously, we respect our opponent, but we felt that we were a better team at that point, but they came in here and they beat us. It was just one of those losses where we look back at the end of the season and see where we could have won games to help us get to the playoffs. That was one of those big losses that led to us ultimately not making it to the playoffs."
Kirk reiterated that the team's focus is not on starting the season well and thinking about possibly missing the playoffs but is on Jacksonville.
"Our focus truly is 1-0 every single week this year and it starts with playing Jacksonville and focusing on them," Kirk said.
Cardinals’ linebacker Markus Golden also spoke about being focused on Jacksonville.
"You can't really look ahead," Golden said. "You know you've got a chance to be 3-0 and we're glad we're in that position, but at the same time, you know you've got to go out there and win the game and take it one game at a time. This week we've got Jacksonville and that's where our focus is."
But the team is still looking back on their first home game in front of their home fans, the Red Sea, in nearly two years.
"It was crazy, the energy was crazy," Golden said. "That's what I was saying about not having fans last year. So, to experience that this year, it was wild, it was crazy. Everybody was going crazy. I can feel it, it helps a lot. We were able to get (the Vikings) to jump offsides and that's the type of hype we need, and the fans were able to get out there and help us out with that one."
Kirk has started off the 2021-22 season strong for the Cardinals, catching 8 passes for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns. He says he is feeling confident in his play right now, which stems from being in the best place mentally than any other time in his career.
"I've been through a lot through the injuries and just missing games and questioning a lot of different things," Kirk said. "Playing this sport, there's a lot you have to go through and battle mentally. It may not seem like that from the outside in, but there is. I just took it on to challenge myself to be as confident as I can be and do all the things to make sure I can put myself in a position to where when I line up every play, I'm just focused on what needs to be done and just being confident and making the play. That's all it's been. It's when you get to thinking too much and start questioning yourself is when those things happen."
Kirk is also enjoying the chemistry between both the wide receivers and the team as a whole.
"We're family and it just goes back to guys just spending time with one another and just going out there and playing for each other," Kirk said. "It starts in the offseason when we're all playing video games together or even throughout the week, it's just communication like that, joking with one another, you can tell that guys truly not only care for each other as teammates but as people as well."
One of the great moments of this season that has come from the Cardinals' team chemistry has been Chandler Jones nicknaming Kyler Murray 'Baby Yoda' after the character from the Disney+ show The Mandalorian. That seemed to inspire Murray's touchdown celebration on Sunday, even though Kyler denied that, and admitted that he has never seen Star Wars.
"It was really funny, (Chandler and Kyler) do that a lot," Golden said. "They're always cracking jokes on each other and saying funny stuff about each other. (The Baby Yoda joke) was a good one, it was pretty funny, but we're pretty much used to it. Those guys are always going at it."
Both Kirk and Golden were asked Tuesday if they imagined themselves as Star Wars characters, but neither chose characters in the franchise, a fact sure to disappoint head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who dreamed of becoming Luke Skywalker as a kid.
"When I was young, I liked the Red Power Ranger," Golden said. "The Red Power Ranger, that was me growing up. I really wasn't a Star Wars guy, but I always liked it but I never really go into it. It would be the Power Ranger or Spider-Man for me."
"I don't think Star Wars is my first choice," Kirk said. "I'm a big Batman fan, so I think I'm more of a Christian Bale, Bruce Wayne kind of guy, so maybe I'll refer to myself as a young Batman."
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