That first possession – the one the Bills had – went pretty well. A three-and-out, a Kevin Minter sack, and the Bills fans were already itchy in their seats.
But as the fruitless possessions for the Cardinals’ offense piled up, the defense couldn’t match. For a chunk of the game, it felt like many of the East Coast games of Cardinals yesteryear. This was a team that, frankly, hadn’t been part of the Bruce Arians era. At all. Even the NFC Championship game felt like an overwhelming performance by a better team. This just felt like the Cardinals never got into sync.
It’s certainly not where you want to be three games into the season. Carson Palmer and Michael Floyd still don’t seem to be on the same page. The run defense slipped hard, especially when the Cards all but predicted LeSean McCoy and, as a scrambler, Tyrod Taylor, were going to be the key to the Bills’ offense.
Now comes two straight NFC West games in what will be a five-day window. They are crucial, against two teams you expected to find behind you in the division standings. They won’t be if the Cardinals don’t find consistency.
— Not a lot of good in the game. But the Patrick Peterson one-handed interception was an incredible athletic feat.
— Speaking of incredible athletic plays, Tyrann Mathieu made one to force that fumble. If he could have only picked it up. He would’ve scored a touchdown. It could’ve been a one-score game with eight minutes left.
— There are – obviously – some decisions coming on the special teams front. Punter Drew Butler was clearly limping every time he was on the field and when he was headed to the locker room. It would seem likely they’ll need someone to at least fill in a week. The long snapper issue isn’t about injury. The Cardinals never had to worry about the position for the longest time. Mike Leach was as close to perfect as you could get. Kam Canaday is struggling. Arians had already acknowledged it. And with that position, it’s tough to wait out growing pains.
— As they did in the first two games, both Chandler Jones and Markus Golden got a sack. They each have three sacks in three games.
— The Cardinals had no turnovers. Now they have five, including four straight interceptions by Palmer to end the game.
— Painful stat of the day: Beginning with the first drive of the game, when the Bills set the Cards up with a punt and the Cardinals began at the Bills’ 36 and went nowhere, the Cardinals got to the Buffalo 36 or closer seven times but only scored twice.
Then again, most of the stats ended up painful.
Tags: Bills, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, Drew Butler, Kam Canaday, LeSean McCoy, Markus Golden, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyrod Taylor
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It seems like once Andre Ellington started playing at the beginning of last season, the amount of touches he was getting/would get/could get on a game-by-game basis was a constant theme. That hasn’t changed. And it came up again when Bruce Arians said he’d like to get Ellington 25 to 30 touches a game.
In a vacuum, a bold statement. But there are reasons to analyze this, not the least of which is that it is May and things most certainly can change by the time the season starts. (Don’t forget that at some point last offseason, the Cardinals were going to a) have Drew Stanton as a starting QB, b) use Kevin Minter as a starting linebacker with Daryl Washington, c) employ Levi Brown all year at left tackle and d) have a pretty limited role for Ellington.)
— Arians made it clear that his guesstimation for Ellington touches would depend on the number of passes Ellington would catch. Ellington’s use as a receiver is a big deal for this team going forward (and should probably be factored in when it comes to where the team stands with their receiving corps.) The Cardinals love Ellington’s pass-catching ability, they love the idea of getting him the ball in space, and they were pleasantly surprised with how effective he could be not only running routes (which he had never really done) but also catching the ball in traffic.
I’d think Arians believes a significant amount of those Ellington touches come in the passing game. And let’s face it, game-to-game, it’s difficult to know exactly how many receptions a guy might make.
— These days, no one gets 25 touches a game, much less 30. There is no bigger workhorse running back than the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. He averaged 22 touches last season. Even in his 2,000-yard rushing season of 2012, Peterson didn’t even get to 25 touches a game (24.3). Last year, Philly’s LeSean McCoy topped the league with 22.9 touches a game. Chicago’s Matt Forte was at 22.7. And it felt like McCoy got the ball all the time.
People like to compare Ellington’s size to Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles. Charles averaged 21.9 touches a game last season.
— Speaking of size, Ellington was officially listed at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds last year. He figures to put on some muscle, but I keep thinking back to what Arians said last year when people kept wondering why Ellington didn’t touch the ball more often. You don’t want too much of the offense to be on Ellington’s shoulders, the coach reasoned, because if he did get hurt, where does that leave you? (Ellington did fear he had torn knee ligaments during the Cards’ Thanksgiving practice last year, but it turned out to only be a sprain.)
“My goal is to get out there and not take those big hits, to get down when I’m supposed to or not get hit at all,” Ellington said. “But it’s football. You’re going to get tackled. … I just have to be in the best shape so I can be full speed on every play.”
Over Ellington’s last eight appearances last season, he averaged 13.6 touches a game. He had a season-high 17 touches in a game twice. He did not have more than 15 carries in a game. It will be interesting to see how his use morphs this season, and whether or not Ellington really does hover around a 25-touch-per-game average.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte
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