Here I was thinking that I wasn't going to have to write a scathing review about the Cardinals' performance in yesterday's game against the New York Giants... And here I am doing just that. The Cardinals fell to the Giants 31-27 yesterday after failing to secure a ten point lead in the fourth quarter.
Rather than focusing on the crucial referee call (or lack of one) that sealed the fate for Arizona, let's focus on what the team should have done in order to avoid that situation all together. Here are five negatives from the game.
Red Zone Offense:
The Cardinals were 3-6 in red zone attempts, failing to capitalize on many attempts that they had to put 7 on the board. Early on in the game, the Cardinals defense was able to force a fumble and begin a drive already in the red zone. They were only able to get three points out of it in the end. Quick starts are important in the NFL and the Cardinals' offense was not able to get one, scoring only six points on their first three red zone trips.
Even after converting a 4th and one, the Cardinals were unable to put more than a field goal up. They will need to improve their efficiency if they want to turn the season around. Scoring three instead of seven when they could have easily had more proved to be the difference in the game.
Whether it was the offensive line leaving defenders to have free reign in the backfield or Kevin Kolb holding onto the ball too long, Arizona was under constant pressure throughout the day. Osi Umenyiora had a couple of sacks and a forced fumble on the day while matched up with left tackle Levi Brown and Dave Tollefson had two as well from the other side of the line against Brandon Keith and Jeremy Bridges. The Cardinals gave up three of the four total sacks allowed in the first half.
It seemed like every other play, Kolb was running for his life away from the Giants defenders. He threw the ball away numerous times throughout the game, causing a loss of many crucial downs. There were a few plays that he should have just stepped up in the pocket as opposed to scrambling, but learning a new playbook behind a new offensive line takes time, so I would expect for him to improve as the season wears on. As far as protection from the edges goes... I think new players need to be brought in for improvement in that area.
Yet again, the Cardinals showed that they have the ability to help the other team beat them. Arizona collected 11 penalties for a total of 118 yards. False starts and holding calls continue to put the Cardinals in a quagmire. Today, there were also a couple of flags handed out for rather stupid plays by the players. A.J. Jefferson received a yellow ribbon for excessive celebration on a kick return that he got just over twenty yards for and Jeremy Bridges was called for unnecessary roughness for an after-the-play altercation.
Those types of penalties show a lack of discipline and need to be addressed immediately to avoid further self-harm.
I listed this as a negative during a game in the preseason at University of Phoenix stadium and I am using it again. Are the players just using the wrong cleats or is the field truly that slippery? Whatever the case, Beanie Wells and Larry Fitzgerald were both caught on camera slipping multiple times and it caused plays to either break down or end prematurely.
Playing on a true grass field has many advantages and I think it is great that the Cardinals are able to do so at least eight times every season. But when it's as slick as it has been during 2011, the team can actually have a disadvantage.
Pressuring Eli Manning:
The Cardinals were only able to register one sack on the day, which came from the rookie defensive tackle, David Carter. Both Darnell Dockett and Calais (or 'Calay' according to Daryl Johnston) Campbell were nearly nonexistent yesterday. That cannot happen, as they are the team's most effective pass rushers. Without them being able to harass the opposing QB, the secondary is left to defend against a veteran signal caller that can pick apart almost any defense.
Even when the Cardinals threw the blitz at the Giants, Eli seemed unfazed. He picked on the two young corners, Patrick Peterson and A.J. Jefferson, all day long. In proved to be pivotal in the end when Eli put the nail in the Cardinals' coffin with a touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks. Honestly, I think scaling the defense back proved to be more effective, which is what the Cardinals did when they played the Seahawks.
It was a heartbreaking game to say the least and we will never know how that game would have turned out had the referees ruled the Victor Cruz play a fumble. The Cardinals will have to pick up their game though, otherwise they will be picking in the top ten again next season. I Look for them to play well on the road against a struggling Vikings team next weekend.