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Arizona Cardinals Lose to Panthers 27-23: Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

The Arizona Cardinals learned an important lesson on Sunday. You can't make stupid, critical mistakes and expect to beat a good team on the road. A botched extra point, a red zone turnover and a failed fake field were enough to send the Cardinals to a four point loss. When you add in the complete lack of a running game and embarrassing tackling by the defense it's surprising that this was even a four point game. In the end, one team made the plays that they had to make to win a ball game and the Cardinals weren't that team. Boldin10_medium

The Good

Kurt Warner: When all else fails, we still know that Kurt Warner can drop back and sling the ball all over the field. He completed over 71% of his 49 pass attempts for 381 yards and two touchdowns. His big mistake of the day was an interception it the red zone that bounced off the outstretched hands of J.J. Arrington. 

Wide Receivers: In case anyone was wondering if there would be enough balls to go around once Anquan Boldin returned to the lineup, at least for this week, the answer was a resounding yes. Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Q combined for 25 receptions for 269 yards and both of Boldin's touchdowns. With these guys healthy and Warner throwing the rock, the Cardinals can move the ball and score on any team in this league.

First Half Defense: The Panthers finished the game with 27 points and 351 yards of total offense but that doesn't tell the whole story. They held the Panther offense to three points and 142 yards on six drives in the first half. Their lone sack, and subsequent forced fumble, came in the second quarter and set the offense up at the Carolina five yard line. At halftime the defense was looking spectacular and poised for a great game.

The Bad

Rolle5_medium Running Game: It's almost impossible to think that the Cardinals' offense rolled up 23 points and 425 yards of total offense without any support from the running game. Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower combined for just 20 yards on 13 carries and the ground stats would have looked even more pathetic had it not been for Boldin's 30 yard reverse. Hightower failed to convert a 3rd-and-1 for the first time this season (after 12 successful) and Edge lost another fumble.

Second Half Defense: As good as the defense was in the first half, they were twice as bad in the second half. The Panthers scored on their first four drives (24 points) and killed the final six minutes of the fourth quarter on their fifth drive. One of the biggest differences in the second half was horribly poor tackling and a near non-existent pass rush. The missed tackles led to big plays for Steve Smith and a 100 yard rushing game for DeAngelo Williams.

The Ugly

Fake Field Goal: I rarely question Ken Whisenhunt for fear of having my "Whiz Kid" status rejected but I'll make an exception today. I understand trying to surprise a defense but expecting to convert a 4th-and15 on a fake field is laughable, especially when you consider that your only receiving target is a tight end who specializing in blocking. At that point, just take your three points and a ten point lead into halftime.