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Week 7 Recap: Cards Slide to 2nd Place with Loss, 22-10

When it rains, it pours and it certainly poured on Greg Toler (pictured above) and the Cardinals during their 22-10 loss to Seattle at Qwest Field

The Seahawks swatted the Cardinals out of the rain filled Seattle sky before settling on their perch atop the NFC West with a 4-2 record.  The Cardinals, wings clipped and confidence bruised, flew back to Arizona from Qwest Field with their 3-3 record after failing to gain any momentum after an inspiring win in Week 5.  Five turnovers, an ineffective offense, very poor special teams play including a 7 yard punt from Ben Graham, and an all too familiar rash of undisciplined penalties made for another frustrating Cardinals’ road loss.

Another Terrible Offensive Performance by the Cardinals

First, the team-wide offensive stats; they aren’t pretty once again.  The Cardinals’ offense converted only 2 of 13 third down opportunities, with only two first downs in the first half.  Arizona only gained 227 yards of total offense and averaged 3.5 per pass.  The Cardinals’ drives resulted as follows: intercepted pass, punt, punt, punt, fumble, punt, punt, end of half, fumble, touchdown, field goal, turnover on downs, end of game.  Obviously it’s going to be difficult to win games with these kinds of drives.  With this week’s performance, the Cardinals have dropped to dead last in the NFL in passing yards per game (146.2), last in total offensive yards per game (237.8), and 29th in rushing yards per game (91.7).  It really doesn’t get much worse than that.

Needless to say, Max Hall found out how the other half lives as he had a very poor performance before being knocked out of the game with concussion-like symptoms.  Hall exited the game after a crushing blind-side sack-fumble by Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons, which left Hall admittedly woozy and nauseous.  Whisenhunt revealed that he couldn’t send Hall back onto the field after presenting such symptoms.  Before he left, Hall completed only 4 of 16 passes for 36 yards and one interception, which was good for a demoralizing 13.5 passer rating.

As for Hall’s performance beyond the poor numbers, Max didn’t make as many mistakes as one might assume.   The interception in the first quarter simply slipped out of Hall’s hand and sailed over the head of intended receiver Max Komar into the waiting arms of the Seahawks’ Earl Thomas.  Hall admitted, however, that it was a bad decision to throw the rain slicked ball as Komar was clearly covered.

Hall’s major shortcoming came on the Cardinals’ next possession.  Out of the shotgun, Hall missed a wide open Larry Fitzgerald on a deep route when Fitz had clearly beaten two defenders.  Fitzgerald couldn’t help display his frustration as he threw his arms up in disgust.  Derek Anderson (we’ll get to him in more detail below) was benched for exactly this reason: failing to take advantage of wide open opportunities.  If Hall is going to have any degree of success with the Cardinals he can’t miss these chances.

Despite Hall’s poor performance, Ken Whisenhunt has already announced that Max will start next week against Tampa Bay at home so long as he’s healthy.  In effect, Hall is still the starting quarterback for the Cardinals.  Whiz expressed patience with Hall stating that he “understand[s] that with a young quarterback in this type of environment, you’re going to have to grow and learn with some of those things…I don’t have any doubt Max will bounce back from this.”  This process will be very slow and painful to watch.

In Hall’s stead, Derek Anderson got off to a torrid start, taking the Cardinals right down the field for their first offensive touchdown in 11 quarters.   It came on Beanie Wells’ first rushing touchdown of the season; a two yard plunge.  Wells finished the game with 54 yards on 14 carries, his longest gaining 10 yards.  Whisenhunt recently stated that Wells’ knee is still not fully healed, but since Tim Hightower is still unable to hold onto the ball, Wells may be asked to carry as much of the offensive load as he is able despite his health issues.

Anderson finished 8/17 for 96 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs.  After the quick start, Anderson cooled off and as per usual missed a wide open Early Doucet for a would be big play in the third quarter.  Whisenhunt made it clear that Anderson’s appearance was merely a fill in role for the injured Hall.

The Cardinals got what has become a typical performance out of Tim Hightower.  He gained 59 yards on only 6 carries for a terrific 9.8 yards per carry, including a 24 yard gain around right end.  The only problem was he once again cost the Cardinals a chance at points and totally shifted the momentum of the game with yet another costly fumble at the Seahawks’ 28 yard line in the second quarter.  Hightower saw very limited action after his third fumble in six games.  It’s unclear whether Whisenhunt has had enough, but he did have this to say:  “It was at a critical point in the game.  Momentum had started to turn.  That’s something that can’t happen.  That is a concern and something we will talk about with Tim.  We can’t live with that going forward.”  There really isn’t anything to talk about at this point.  Hightower has done this his entire career.  At some point the Cardinals need to find a running back they can trust to hang onto the ball.

In order to fix the struggling offense, the Cardinals are apparently considering a simplified playbook.  In addition, if Arizona is looking for a silver lining, perhaps Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official website found it by pointing out that “it didn’t go unnoticed that the Cards averaged 5.7 yards a carry against what was the NFL’s second-ranked run defense, cracking the 100-yard barrier.”  Cold comfort.

The Defense Turned In an Acceptable Effort

Arizona can’t really blame this loss on the defense as Seattle didn’t do very much at all on offense while the game was still in contention.  Arizona forced Seattle to kick five field goals and punt four times despite the fact that the Seahawks were planted inside the Cards’ 20 yard line twice due to two Arizona turnovers.  Seattle’s lone touchdown came off of a muffed punt by rookie Andre Roberts, who inexplicably attempted to pick up the bobbled punt instead of falling on it.   Seattle of course stripped the ball and recovered the fumble to set up shop inside the redzone.

The Cardinals defense continues to give up too much yardage on the ground.  This week, the combination of Marshawn Lynch (89 yards) and Justin Forsett (41 yards) gained 130 yards.  Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck added an 11 yard gain of his own late in the game.  Michael Robinson contributed a 3 yard gain bringing Seattle’s total rushing yards to 144, which unfortunately has been on par with Arizona’s lack luster run defense.

As a side note, I can’t help but point out that Joey Porter completely gave up on chasing down Matt Hasselbeck after the 35-year old quarterback badly fooled Porter on a bootleg in the game’s final minutes.  Porter, instead of hustling after Hasselbeck, simply stopped running and idly jogged after Hasselbeck before giving up completely when Porter decided he’d run enough, though Hasselbeck was still gaining ground.  Porter won’t be able to hide that on film; inexcusable.

Aside from Porter’s lack of effort and pride when the game out of reach, the Cardinals defense made things difficult for Hasselbeck through the air for most of the game.  Hasselbeck finished 20/38 for 192 yards and 1 TD.  The Seahawks’ offense gets the most credit for keeping the ball long enough to seal the victory.  Seattle had drives of 14, 12, and 12 plays when the Cardinals were trying to get back into the game in the fourth quarter.

I suppose a bright spot in this loss was the pass rush.  The Cardinals totaled five sacks, which was three short of the team’s season total to that point.  Daryl Washington (career first), Calais Campbell, and Joey Porter each recorded a sack.  Alan Branch, who has been a pleasant surprise this season, grabbed two.  Branch also recorded 5 solo tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 4 quarterback hits, and 1 forced fumble (recovered by Darnell Dockett).  He was clearly the defensive player of the game for the Cardinals.

Unlike Branch’s stellar effort, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is having one of the biggest drop offs from a Pro Bowl year I can remember.  Once again, Cromartie was beat up and down the field as his charge for most of the day, wide receiver Mike Williams, hauled in 11 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.  The touchdown, however, was allowed by an over-matched strong safety Matt Ware, rather than DRC.  Ware could barely get his head turned around when Williams went up to grab Hasselbeck’s finely placed fade pass.

A Note on Fumbles, Penalties, and an Overall Lack of Discipline

Fumbles are something that has plagued the Cardinals since the 2009 season.  On Monday Night Football last year, Arizona lost seven fumbles to the San Francisco 49ers in a loss to their division rivals.  In fact, in 2009, the Cardinals led all teams in fumbles, a phenomenon which has unfortunately carried over to the 2010 season.  Fumbles are no doubt a part of the game, but certain fumbles are inexcusable, particularly Andre Roberts‘ muffed punt.  There’s just no reason for that turnover because it’s purely a mental lapse.  An intelligent football player wouldn’t try to pick up that ball up.  It was a mistake that should never happen and it cost the Cardinals seven points.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just Roberts.  Four different Cardinals fumbled including Roberts, Jason Wright, Max Hall, and Tim Hightower.  Jason Wright‘s fumble looked like something out of a bloopers reel, with Wright accidentally booting the muffed kick-off halfway across the field to be scooped up by the Seahawks.

Aside from DRC’s poor defensive performance, he jumped offside twice on two field goal attempts, one of which gave the Seahawks a first down.  Just so we don’t pick on DRC too much, Dockett also committed a senseless penalty by hitting the ball carrier late while he was already on the ground.  The Cardinals had the Seahawks stopped on third down, but the penalty gave Seattle a fresh set of downs; a head scratching play.

Injury Report

  • QB, Max Hall, (concussion-like symptoms) – to be evaluated
  • LB, Clark Haggans (groin) – to be evaluated
  • NT, Dan Williams (groin) – to be evaluated
  • LB, Joey Porter (groin) – returned to game

Around the NFC West

  1. Seattle Seahawks: 4-2, W vs. Arizona, 22-10, next: @ Oakland (3-4)
  2. Arizona Cardinals: 3-3, L @ Seattle, 22-10, next: vs. Tampa Bay (4-2)
  3. St. Louis Rams: 3-4, L @ Tampa Bay, 18-17, next: vs. Carolina (1-5)
  4. San Francisco 49ers: 1-6, L @ Carolina, 23-20, next: vs. Denver (2-5)

Next Week

The Cardinals (3-3) put their 2-0 home record on the line against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) on Halloween.  The Cardinals will be wearing their black jerseys for the first time during the regular season.

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One Response to “Week 7 Recap: Cards Slide to 2nd Place with Loss, 22-10”

  1. Tks…

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