Week 6 of the 2011 season was a necessary one for the Arizona Cardinals, as it was the team's bye. They had two weeks to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who would come to town in Week 7. Arizona typically comes out of the bye very prepared and seems to play with something extra when facing elite teams at home.
They though this would be the case against Pittsburgh, but an early turnover, a safety and a defense that got scorched through the air by Ben Roethlisberger doomed the Cardinals in a 32-20 loss, marking the team's fifth straight loss of the season.
Arizona hurt itself early when on the team's first drive, Kevin Kolb threw an interception just after they had gotten their first first down. Kolb was rushed and threw the ball to Rob Housler, who got his hands on the ball only to tip it and have it end up in the possession of Ryan Clark. It was a ball that should have been caught, but the result was Pittsburgh ball in Arizona territory.
That series ended with Heath Miller being left wide open on a blown coverage by someone (maybe Clark Haggans, maybe A.J. Jefferson or maybe even Adrian Wilson) for a 12-yard TD.
The two teams would trade punts the rest of the first quarter and half of the second quarter.
Then was the play that hurt the most. It was the 95-yard touchdown by Mike Wallace.
The Cardinals pinned Pittsburgh inside their own 10. The Steelers then were penalized. The first play from scrimmage was a bomb from Roethlisberger to Wallace. The defense seemed to sense something. Richard Marshall at the last moment gave Wallace a cushion and Adrian Wilson signaled to Rashad Johnson to get back over the top (to no avail). Wallace got behind Marshall and Johnson wasn't there to help. Result? 14-0 Steelers.
The Cards answered right back. They went 13 plays and 80 yards to get back within seven. Alfonso Smith got his first career TD with a one-yard run. 14-7.
But the defense couldn't keep Pittsburgh from scoring. With 1:14 left, the Arizona secondary was penalized three times for coverage infractions and Roethlisberger completed three other passes. The drive ended with a 41-yard field goal as time expired. 17-7.
In the third quarter, Arizona's offense showed a little life. In their second drive, we were treated to the longest play from scrimmage -- the 73-yard touchdown from Kolb to LaRod Stephens-Howling. It was beautiful. Kolb looked like he was going to bail, but stepped up into the pocket and saw LSH who was over the middle, who made eye contact and made a move back toward the sideline and Kolb got him the ball. The rest was just speed. 17-14 Steelers.
The defense then failed again. Rosthlisberger had three completions for over 15 yards and they scored a TD to make it 24-14.
The Cardinals' first play from scrimmage in the next drive was disastrous. It was the Kolb safety when he was called for intentional grounding in the end zone. Lamar Woodley was left unblocked and Kolb didn't make the read to go to his hot receiver (which would have been Rob Housler) or simply hesitated a second too long because he didn't see that Housler was ready. Instead, he panicked and tried to throw the ball to nobody and was tagged with the penalty and a safety. 26-14 Steelers.
The defense allowed Pittsburgh to move down the field and hit a field goal -- 29-14.
Arizona went three-and-out and then Pittsburgh got another field goal. 32-14.
Kolb and the Cardinals responded with an 11-play 71-yard drive that ended with an Early Doucet touchdown catch. The two-point conversion failed. 32-20.
With just under four minutes remaining, Arizona needed a stop to at least give the offense another shot or two. The offense never got a chance. The Steelers ran out the clock.
What went well:
The Kolb to LSH play gave hope. Kolb didn't play poorly. 272 yards and a pair of TDs, but he was 18/34, so too many incompletions. The offense responded to scores with a pair of long scoring drives.
What went bad:
Everything defensively. The secondary was killed. Mike Wallace was bottled up except for the one bomb, but still ended up with 118 receiving yards. The killer? Antonio Brown's seven catches and 102 yards. The safety was a terrible play.
What we learned:
After three weeks of what seemed to be regression from Kolb, he took some steps forward. The defense needed work. They were still blowing assignments.
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