That high the Cardinals were on last week after beating up the Broncos? Gone today. In a season that has already been disappointing, to lose to a team with just one win hurts a lot. Plus, the Cards head into a short week and have to play a team Christmas night that has found its groove in the Dallas Cowboys.
It was tough not to notice the growing pains of quarterback John Skelton Sunday. The offense simply doesn’t have consistency – which was brought up time and again – and struggles to score touchdowns. “It’s just getting old,” Larry Fitzgerald said.
— The Cards actually seemed to do a good job putting themselves in manageable third downs, especially early. The Cards’ third down-to-go yardage in the first half: 4, 4, 3, 3 (after a five-yard penalty), 3, 4, 4, 4, 10, 5. Unfortunately, the Cardinals converted only four of those 10 plays (and one was the third-and-10.
“One of the things we’ve been battling is third downs and a lot of that is because we’ve had third and long,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We did a better job of getting into the third and (short) section. We had good plays there and we didn’t execute. We had guys open. Part of that is a young quarterback and going through his reads on those things. He’ll get better at that as he progresses.”
— Skelton was matter-of-fact about his day and his errors. He knows he is still learning. On his interception – a bad choice – he said “those are plays that at a lower level you can get away with but you come here and they’re going to make plays on defense. You know even though the plays might have gone the wrong place with the ball and they’re drops or incompletion or whatever, they are still plays I need to make.”
— One final note on Skelton: It was funny to see this quote from Panthers rookie QB Jimmy Clausen about Skelton: “That’s what I told him after the game. I said, ‘Everything will slow down for you. Just give it some time. Just keep working.’ I was in that situation before. He’s going to be a heck of a player.” Nice words, but considering Skelton actually had an NFL win before Clausen did – Sunday was Clausen’s first – and considering Clausen is just as green, it just struck me as odd.
— In terms of the quarterback situation going forward, wanted to note that Rich Bartel signed a two-year contract. Does that mean he’ll be around in 2011? Not necessarily. But he will be around in the offseason as the Cards try to figure out how they are putting together the QB puzzle for next season.
— The Cardinals used four down linemen quite a bit to battle the Panthers’ running game. It worked at times, although early on, missed tackles didn’t help the defense much. The Cards sold out to stop the run most of the day; that’s what happened on the Panthers’ lone TD when Adrian Wilson was caught on play-action and couldn’t recover to cover tight end Jeff King.
— Drops hurt the Cards again early. TE Stephen Spach, RB Beanie Wells and WR Early Doucet each had passes they couldn’t come up with (a screen to Tim Hightower, in my opinion, was a little too hard in a tight space to be considered a drop) as the Cards had those issues. Again, it might not be more than the past, but when you have trouble moving the ball, those mistakes are magnified.
“I said to our team last night, watching the Thursday Night game, early in that game they put a ball up and their player comes down with and scores a touchdown,” Whisenhunt said. “That kind of got them going and kind of set the table for San Diego. I said that is what has got to happen for us. We have to have some guys step up and make a play for us. We didn’t make any plays until late in the game.”
— The final defensive stats are always iffy, since coaches go back and tweak them for every team. But defensive end Calais Campbell had his best game of the season. He was credited with 11 tackles, a sack and four tackles for loss.
— Whisenhunt said he isn’t worried about losing the players or having them shut it down despite the record. “I haven’t seen it,” Whisenhunt said. And wide receiver Steve Breaston said you couldn’t think that way anyway. “You can’t cancel the season in the middle,” Breaston said.
Nope, you can’t. Fourteen down, two to go.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, Cowboys, Early Doucet, Jimmy Clausen, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers, Richard Bartel, Stephen Spach, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower
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