The Arizona Cardinals dropped their fifth game in a row yesterday, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 32-20. Although the point differential was only twelve, this game was far from being a fair fight. Arizona lacked the talent, discipline and willingness to match the AFC champions.
After the jump, let's take a look at five of the negative plays/aspects from yesterday's week seven match-up.
Sacking Big Ben:
The Cards were able to get pressure via their defensive line and linebackers on Ben Roethlisberger, but pressure is just not enough when dealing with him. He was able to evade tackles and make plays, converting huge first downs all day long. Arizona showed no ability to tackle and they acted as if they were just playing a regular quarterback that simply goes down from a bump.
One thing that was noticeable was during the later stages of the game, the younger second unit of linebackers replaced the veterans and seemed to fare better. With the season all but lost, it may be wise for the coaching staff to look towards guys like O'Brien Schofield and Sam Acho more often for playing time. There is no use in living in the present, the Cardinals may as well start training for the future.
The Play of Kevin Kolb:
Kevin Kolb did not have a good game at all. We keep hearing from the various analysts every game that he is very new and that even though he has been in the league for five years, he's basically a rookie. I completely understand that and I also get that without the off-season, he had little time to prepare. The problem I have is that we are not seeing him improve as this season wears on.
For example, Kevin Kolb missed a wide open Rob Housler on a seam route in the first half; a play that he missed two weeks ago in Minnesota. Those would have been easy points on what should have been easy throws. He also throws into tight coverage all too often and should have actually been picked off more times than he was. During the third quarter, Kolb was finally able to throw his first touchdown pass in over twelve previous quarters. That shows a lack of consistency, which is something that needs to be fixed immediately.
Don't let the stats fool you, either. Kolb threw for 272 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but many of the plays he made were during garbage time while the Steelers were preventing the big play from occurring. Kolb is stuck behind a porous offensive line, but he still leaves the pocket sooner than he should. I am not asking for him to become the savior and turn this season around at this point, all I want is to see some improvement.
The Cardinals were able to put themselves in a hole after the first quarter for the third time this season, unable to register any points in the first portion of the game. Arizona has scored a mere 17 points in the first quarter this season, while giving up 48 points. The running game never seems to gain any traction until they are already down and the team fails to move the ball down the field on offense.
Against the Steelers, the Cards were unable to score any points in the first quarter for the third time in the past four games. This shows that the offense is getting progressively worse as they start to face better teams. The run game needs to establish itself quicker and the defense needs to get locked in before the opposing quarterback can get in the flow of the game.
The Cardinals were penalized nine times for 67 yards. Not to be outdone, the Pittsburgh Steelers were also penalized nine times for a total of 69 yards. However, the penalties against Arizona proved to be much more costly. Pittsburgh was able to keep their drives alive and put points on the board due to gaffes in the Cardinals secondary. Most notably, the Steelers' drive to end the first half was almost single-handedly maintained by rookie Patrick Peterson. Peterson picked up two penalties on that drive and Sean Suisham was able collect three points for the Steel Curtain.
If there is one thing the Cardinals are consistent at, it's collecting penalty flags. The field was strewn with what looked to be Terrible Towels all day. Penalties are what they are- team killers. The players need to be more disciplined and keep their focus if they want to avoid seeing all of the yellow fly.
Only one Cardinals player was injured yesterday, but this one hurt. Beanie Wells left the game in the second quarter with what is being reported as a, "sprained knee." Head coach Ken Whisenhunt did not know the extent of the injury during his press conference after the game.
Once Beanie left, the ground game became non-existent. Alfonso Smith, his replacement, rushed the ball only five times (one of them for a touchdown) as the Cards' offense became completely one-dimensional. If Beanie is forced to miss an extended period of time with his latest blemish, I am not sure how the coaching staff will deal with replacing him.
There are plenty of other negatives from this game, but these are the five that I noted. What did you see, fans? What does this team need to do to dig themselves out of the hole they have created?