LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Kevin Kolb #4 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates after throwing a touchdown and having his helmet knocked off against the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter at FedExField on September 18, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins won, 22-21. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Sometimes they say it's easier to lose in a blowout than it is to lose in a nail-biter. A loss like that could be arguably easier on a fan during the playoffs, but not in week two. With every loss, it's easy to find the negatives and focus on them throughout the week. I'm going to concentrate on five positive aspects of the Cardinals first loss of the season to the Washington Redskins to help keep things in perspective.
1. Kevin Kolb
Kevin Kolb threw his first interception as an Arizona Cardinal Sunday against the Redskins. One unanswered question became answered. How would Kolb react to throwing an interception (in the red zone nonetheless)? Some quarterbacks hang their head, others get flustered and throw more, and others become timid and play it safe. On Sunday, Kevin Kolb came back and engineered a very good looking drive with a mix of run plays and pass plays, and attacked the weakened Redskins secondary which resulted in a 2 yard Beanie Wells rushing touchdown.
A short time later, Kolb leads Larry Fitzgerald perfectly in stride, in one-on-one coverage on a 73 yard touchdown pass. That pass was just another time when all Cardinals fans everywhere simultaneously said "Derek Anderson wouldn't have done that last year," which has also quickly become the 2011 Arizona Cardinals campaign slogan.
2. Beanie Wells
The decision to commit to running the ball came in the second half, and when that happened Beanie Wells stepped up to the plate rushing for 93 yards for 6.6 YPC and one touchdown. Last week the Redskins held the stout New York Giants running backs to 73 yards on 19 carries. He is currently ranked eighth in the NFL in total rushing yards and fifth in the NFL in average yards-per-carry among rushers with at least 20 attempts.
3. Adrian Wilson playing healthy
Especially early in the first quarter, Adrian Wilson was playing hard and hitting hard as he sniffed out a hand-off to Tim Hightower and crushed him behind the line for a loss. The most notable thing about that play was that it set the tone for how aggressively the Cardinals defense would be hitting their former running back. It was also very comforting to see Wilson NOT showing signs of pain to his injured bicep.
Adrian recorded four tackles on the day to go along with an interception, two pass deflections, and a hit on the quarterback.
4. Involving the tight ends
Coach Whisenhunt showed he was committed to the running game this off-season when he acquired (through free agency) two veteran tight ends in Jeff King and hometown favorite Todd Heap. The problem with the two tight end sets are that the defense can stack the line and stop the run if there is not much of a viable pass threat.
Between the two of them in the first two weeks, King and Heap have accumulated 7 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. That is two more touchdowns than tight ends had all last year for the Cardinals and just 65 yards short of what the tight end position produced through 16 weeks in 2010. If the Cardinals were able to maintain this pace, this rarely used position could account for 1160 yards receiving, 16 touchdowns and more importantly keep defenses on their heels while they try and defend this running game.
5. No major injuries
We found out very quickly on Sunday how important a guy like Daryl Washington is to this Cardinals defense. We don't want to be forced to learn how important other key players are on this team are during next weeks game.
As I talked about in the opening of the post, this team had a fighting chance to win this game all the way beyond the clock striking zero in the fourth quarter. The knockout blow came when Chansi Stuckey fumbled during what could have been the game winning drive while he was fighting for extra yards. The players on the field didn't give up at any point during the game. Even after the loss, they appeared affected by losing and ACTUALLY cared. "Derek Anderson wouldn't have done that last year."