But whatever he said worked.
The Cardinals turned a 20-10 halftime deficit into a 24-20 lead before the midway point of the third quarter.
“Oh man, you didn’t want to be in here,” running back Chris Johnson said in the visitor’s locker room deep inside FirstEnergy Stadium after the game. “You didn’t want to be in here [at] halftime. It was a situation [where] we was hurting ourselves. It wasn’t really too much of what they was doing. We was hurting ourselves.”
Arians said he didn’t have a halftime speech ready. He could tell the players were mad. In the old days, he’d have thrown things. Not anymore. The chairs are too heavy for him these days, he said.
His message was pointed, however.
“He said, ‘You’re either pretenders or your contenders. It’s up to you to pretty much show who you are in the second half,’” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “When your coach challenges you like that in the second half after a horrible half like we played in the first, we have to come out and respond.”
They did. Arizona outscored Cleveland 24-0 and the defense held the Browns to 98 net yards in the final two quarters.
Even after eight years in the NFL, halftime speeches – or rants or blow-ups – work, Johnson said. The offense and defense knew where they were lacking. They knew how poorly they played at times in the first half. The message was to change it. But Johnson wouldn’t disclose Arians’ exact wording.
“He hits you right in the face with it,” quarterback Carson Palmer said of Arians’ halftime words. “It was not a good half of football and he’s not going to sugarcoat it. We knew we were in for one when we got in there at halftime.
“That’s what makes him a great coach. There’s not a lot of coaches that have the guts to do that and he could care less. He comes in and tells you like it is. If you’re playing good, you might hear ‘good job.’ If you’re not playing good, you’re gonna know all about it. We heard about that at halftime.”