Arizona V Atlanta: 10 Things We Learned
Even in a huge loss like that, there are things to learn.
It's definitely not easy to swallow that big pill though.
In a game where the Cardinals were supposed to find out who they really were, they flopped.
But take heart Cardinals fans. This reminds me of the New England game a couple years ago, when the Cardinals were absolutely dominated in Foxboro.
That was the year they went on to the Super Bowl.
Now, I'm not saying that they'll do that again, but in a very weak division (the Cardinals will be tied for first no matter what happens tonight), anything is possible.
If San Fran loses tonight, the Cardinals are still in the driver's seat.
I'm afraid that about wraps up the positive though.
Hang on. It's going to be a bumpy ride...
1. There Were Far Too Many Penalties
And this is with a few penalties being declined.
But what it boils down to is this: the Cardinals didn't lose the game because of penalties. But they definitely killed themselves:
One called back kickoff return that would have tied the game early.
One opening drive penalty on defense that helped the Falcons move quickly for a score.
Two opening drive penalties on offense that stymied any momentum the Cards had.
One penalty to keep alive a Falcons drive that had stalled at third and long.
One player ejected (Kerry Rhodes).
I don't know how much worse it has to get for Arizona to wake up.
2. The Run Defense Isn't As Good As Last Year's
There was one point in time where the Cardinals were among the league leaders in rush defense last season.
Karlos Dansby was a big factor in that, although maybe even bigger was Gerald Hayes.
Now, with both of them gone (Hayes by injury), the Cardinals got mauled by the Falcons run game.
Maybe it was the O-Line for Atlanta. Maybe it was two big, physical backs carrying the load.
Maybe it was a combination.
Whatever exactly it was, the results were not pretty: over 200 yards on the ground for the Falcons.
When they needed to slow down the Falcons, they just couldn't. There isn't much left to say.
Other than don't think of Jason Snelling as a third string back. He could easily start for a couple teams in this league.
3. The Pass Rush Isn't What It Needs To Be
Here's looking at you Joey Porter.
Porter has been a virtual non-factor this season, after he came in promising to help the Cardinals improve their pass rush.
If anything, he's been outplayed by his old college and pro teammate, the unheralded Clark Haggans.
It's not all Joey's fault though.
The Cardinals just couldn't get enough pressure on Matty Ice to disrupt his timing with his receivers.
Even when the Cards blitzed, it seemed like Ryan had time to throw and go through his progressions.
The Falcons O-Line proved they are very good, sure. But that's still no excuse.
I'm not really sure what the solution is.
But Bill Davis better get cracking.
4. There's an Easy Fix For The Run Game
You ready? This is going to blow your mind.
The Cardinals...need to run outside more.
Told you it was going to blow your mind.
Actually, it probably did quite the opposite for you. You were probably like..."Oh...yeah! That's so simple though!"
It's a wonder the Cardinals haven't do it more.
What does blow my mind though is how big the O-Line is (they had almost 50 lbs. on average on the D-Line for Atlanta), but they can't run up the middle.
Part of that may be Hightower's run style: he tends to look for contact, and ends up getting tackled.
But the point is when the Cards run to the outside, i.e. Hightower's TD, success happens.
It's more than Tim's TD run. When he bounced it outside in week one, he had success, along with Stephens-Howling (more on him in the next point).
He had success on another run in this game that he bounced to the outside. It was called back by penalty however.
The coaching staff has to notice that the O-Line does better on pulls and sweeps.
Hopefully there will be a whole lot more of them against the Raiders.
5. Where Was Stephens-Howling?
Sure he caught a few passes. And yes, he was on the field a bit.
But where were the carries for LSH?
I understand the Cards got pulled out of the run game early, but think about this scenario for a second:
Your starting running back, not known for his speed, pulls off an 80 yard run to help your team back in the game.
One of your backups is a lot faster, and had a kickoff return called back due to penalty earlier.
So let's call a sweep or pitch for this backup running back in the next possession or two, right?
I just don't understand it at all. If someone does, please tell me. I'd really like to know.
And this leads me to my next point...
6. The Playcalling Was Terrible
And I'm not just talking about the run game.
The Cardinals continued to be too inconsistent in their playcalling.
There were many times the Cards ran from passing formations, and threw from running formations.
Is there something wrong with running from a two tight end, two back set?
What shocks me is that should be Whisenhunt's bread and butter, coming from Pittsburgh.
But even when they tried to trick the Falcons, it came off as obvious.
For example, it's hard to run play action when you're run game isn't clicking.
It's also hard to run draw plays when you can't run up the middle, and the defense is sending a blitz because your quarterback is easily flustered.
I could go, but I won't.
The bottom line is something has to change here before the Raiders game. Otherwise, we could be talking about an even more embarrassing loss next week.
So it's not all Derek Anderson's fault. The playcalling isn't doing him many favors.
Which leads me to my next point...
7. Derek Anderson Won't Last The Entire Season
There's numerous reasons for this:
His lack of accuracy.
He's constantly taking hits.
His lack of consistency.
Again, I could go on, but I won't.
So whether he gets benched, or gets injured, I have a good feeling we'll be seeing Max Hall again.
In fact, if Hall hadn't thrown a pick in limited action, it might've been against the Raiders.
I'm all for playing Hall against the lowly Raiders. That would ease him into the starter's role for sure.
Again, I'm not going to place all of the blame of this game on Anderson. That's very unfair.
But he just didn't do what he needed to overall. For example, he missed yet again a wide open receiver down the middle of the field for what could've been a TD.
He had a better connection with Fitzgerald though, a good sign for Cards fans.
And if he does start next week against Oakland, I'll throw my weight behind him.
But if he loses, he may lose his job prematurely.
8. The Third Down Conversion Rate Must Improve
One of the main things that Derek Anderson did in the preseason was move the ball effectively.
He completed several big passes on third down.
My concern then was whether he could actually do that in the regular season.
He certainly didn't do it Sunday, as the Cards went failed to complete third or fourth down conversion.
There are many reasons for this.
Many of them were third and long due to the Cardinals lack of a run game, or due to penalties.
The Falcons Pass D was fairly impressive as well.
But not all the third downs were long.
There were a few short to medium range third downs that Anderson just didn't execute.
One in particular: the one on third and four when he threw his first interception.
This is something else that can't happen again for the Cards.
9. The O-Line Was Terrible
I second a line I saw from my friend on here Chad Middleton:
Brandon Keith, you need to be put on Craig's List.
Keith, who was supposed to be this hidden talent that Russ Grimm had found, has completely flopped in his first two starts.
One play in particular summed up his performance Sunday: when he got straight beat by a rookie linebacker (Sean Weatherspoon) to give up a sack.
Keith just happens to be the worst lineman right now, but in all, the offensive line hasn't done a good job the first couple of weeks.
Anderson has received many blows, and the run game hasn't had many holes.
Russ Grimm shouldn't be happy. Now, he just has to do something about it.
10. On The Bright Side...
Cue the song by the Killers.
Seriously though, there were a few good things to take away from this game:
1. Larry Fitzgerald will be fine. He looked pretty good Sunday, although Anderson still had trouble getting him the ball.
2. Daryl Washington continues to impress. He led the team in tackles. That means he's got a good nose for the ball- which is why the Cards drafted him. When Gerald Hayes returns, I hope it's Washington, and not Lenon, that gets the starting nod alongside Hayes.
3. Clark Haggans continued his good form, getting a sack on Matt Ryan.
4. Greg Toler had a relatively good game. He helped on the run defense, and actually had a better game than DRC, although he was covering Roddy White.
5. Things look set for the return of Beanie Wells. Hightower looks like he'll fill the change of pace back brilliantly.
6. And to compare the Cardinals troubles to other teams, it could be worse: they could be in quarterback flux (like Oakland, Buffalo, Carolina), lost to a bad team at home (Carolina), had their quarterback turn the ball over four times in a close game (Minnesota).
So put it all in perspective.
And finally, we play the Raiders next week.
So take heart Cards fans!