Another week, another win for the Arizona Cardinals. Another 300 yard passing game from Kurt Warner and another big game from the best wide receiving duo in the NFL, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. But this was also another game when they couldn't quite finish off a team on the ropes.
The Cardinals went into the fourth quarter with a seemingly insurmountable lead against the Seahawks yesterday. A six yard screen pass from Kurt Warner to J.J. Arrington on third and goal pushed the Cardinals' lead to 26-7 and it felt like the game was over. The Seahawks though, to their credit, didn't have any thoughts of conceding defeat. They scored two touchdowns in the next ten minutes and were within a single score for over half of the fourth quarter. In the end, both sides of the ball did what they had to do to make the lead stand up. The Cardinals' offense stayed somewhat aggressive picking up first downs via the pass and the run and they held the ball for 7 minutes and 53 seconds of the final 9:41. The defense completely stifled the Hawks, limiting Hasselbeck to 1 of 3 passing for -1 yards and an interception on their final two drives. What does this team have to do though to deliver the proverbial knock blow?
Protect the Football: The Cardinals didn't 'gift wrap' the Seahawks final 14 points but they did make make some bonehead mistakes. The first came when Karlos Dansby picked off Matt Hasselbeck in the end zone and instead of taking a knee, Dansby decide to take off out of the end zone. He was tackled around the ten and lost the ball. Seattle would score five plays later and the next Cardinals drive would last just two plays, ending on a fumble by Warner. The Hawks would punch in another touchdown after five plays and the they would be with six points. There's a fine line between playing aggressive and playing reckless and it's debatable which side the Cardinals were on early in the fourth quarter.
Win the Battle of Field Position: In a one score game, every yard counts and the Cardinals seemed like they were always on the verge of giving the Seahawks a short field. Dirk Johnson punted twice after the Seahawks final touchdown. One was a decent kick (48 yards) but it was negated by a 20 yard return and the second punt was a pitiful 29 yard shank. Johnson was a big question mark heading into the season and early on he looked decent but his past two games has been pathetic. Ken Whisenhunt called him out last week and said that he's got to improve but this weeks performance could force the coaching staff to work out some punters off the street. They also lost 17 yards in penalties on their final two offensive drives.
Find Some Way to Keep the Clock Running: Considering that last weeks game came down to the final seconds ticking off the clock, I'd have thought the Cardinals would have been a bit more conscious of the clock. Granted it ultimately didn't matter because DRC ended any hopes that the Hawks had of coming back but if the Hawks had mounted a drive they would have had time (2:05) to do some damage. I think most of us have written off the running game from being very effective, although they were better than last week. The Cardinals did a better job of using the clock then they did against the Niners but they still left too many seconds on the table. Two incomplete passes and a reception that ended with Boldin out of bounds left valuable seconds on the clock. to pick on a certain play, Warner was nearly sacked by Lofa Tatupa but he got the ball out of his hands only to be called with intentional grounding. The result was a loss of twelve yards and a clock stoppage. Had KW just tucked the ball and taken the sack the clock would have continued running and used up another 40-ish seconds. Again ultimately it didn't make a bit of difference but it could have if DRC didn't make a great play.
Maybe I should just be satisfied with another division win on the road, but I think that small problems like this could potentially build up and cost the Cardinals a win against a better opponent. Am I just being too critical? Did you ever really feel like the game was in doubt? Are you concerned that this team can't quite put a game out of reach?