For a third week in a row, the Arizona Cardinals have dropped the ball in the second half of the game, giving up an early lead to ultimately come up short.
The good news is that they really showed some encouraging signs of life against the New York Giants in the 31-27 loss at home. It is simply a shame that they were not able to come from behind in the final minutes of the game to take a sorely needed win.
Here are ten observations from the game as we begin to look ahead toward Week 5 against the winless Minnesota Vikings.
An early turnover in the red zone was a gift from Bradshaw and the Cardinals defense to the Cardinals offense. You could almost hear the momentum shifting in the Cards’ favor.
Despite that turnover resulting in just three points on the board, it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Cardinals were able to put points on the board first to jump out to an early lead.
The Eli Manning fumble that gave the Cardinals the ball inside the 5-yard line and allowed them to extend their lead late in the third quarter to 10 points was perhaps one of the game’s biggest plays.
On the other side of the ball, the offense continued to give up the ball on turnovers, effectively negating the defense’s efforts.
Kevin Kolb fumbled the ball away in the first quarter, and then threw it away in the fourth quarter.
While he was fortunate that the Giants were not able to capitalize on the first-quarter drive, he robbed his team of the opportunity to put points on the board during that particular trip to the red zone.
Kolb was not so lucky
Not to put the blame all on Kolb’s shoulders, it should be pointed out that Beanie Wells was lucky that his drop in the third quarter didn’t contribute to his team’s offensive woes as well.
The New York Giants may not be known for their run offense, but the tandem of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs is a potent one.
The Cardinals defense managed to hold the pair to just 54 yards.
This continued prowess against the run is, quite frankly, stunning. Last year the Cardinals’ run defense was one of the most porous in the league; the improvement this year has been dramatic.
If the front line can keep it up, teams will become more one-dimensional against the Cardinals by necessity, which can certainly work to the Cards’ advantage.
Run Defense Stands Strong
The Cardinals have not had good success in sustaining drives so far this year. They have had a poor success rate for third down conversions (31%, good enough for 24th in the league).
Today, the Cardinals were able to capitalize more frequently on third downs—and even on fourth down early in the game. The offense looked more capable today than they have looked in weeks.
Of course, with just a minute left and the game on the line the Cardinals were not able to come up with a critical third- or fourth-down conversion.
This last-minute collapse is symptomatic of second-half problems that have plagued the team for weeks. They held it off for longer than usual against the Giants, but in the end they succumbed.
The Cardinals’ special teams failed them against the Seattle Seahawks with two missed field goals and poor overall field position for the offense.
Against the Giants, the story had a happier ending.
Jay Feely was on the ball today, a refreshing change from last week.
Over the course of the game, the Cardinals accrued 11 penalties for 118 yards.
Let me say that again. The Cardinals accrued 11 penalties for 118 yards.
The Cardinals cost themselves over a football field in yardage, and still the yellow flags kept raining down both offensively and defensively.
The Cardinals could have won the day today, if they hadn’t practically kneecapped themselves with penalties. In fact, this game could have been a blowout instead of a loss.
Sloppy play will never do a team any favors, and the Cardinals are no exception. They have got to find a way to stop the penalties.
In the time since Ken Whisenhunt has taken over the team, the Cardinals have always run a pass-heavy offense.
Shouldn’t that make Kevin Kolb the team’s offensive leader?
Based on today’s performance, it’s entirely possible that a new era is being ushered in for the Cardinals, one that is dominated by the run game.
Beanie Wells had nearly as many carries as Kolb had pass attempts, and he arguably did much more with the ball than Kolb. With three touchdowns (tied for a franchise record) and no turnovers, Wells was easily the game’s MVP.
Kolb, on the other hand, gave up the ball to the Giants twice. He didn’t put a single point on the board.
He couldn’t lead his team down the field when it mattered the most, either. On the Cardinals’ final play of the game, fourth down and two to go, Kolb should have called the last time out. Instead, he hurried the team up and threw an incomplete pass.
If he can’t clean up his act quickly, the team is going to lose faith in Kolb as their leader. All signs point to Beanie Wells being in a position to take up that slack.
With a 49-yard reception in the third quarter, Larry Fitzgerald made franchise history. He has now surpassed wide receiver Roy Green for the most receiving yards by a Cardinals receiver.
He’s actually within reach of several other franchise records, all held by Roy Green, which would help Fitzgerald seal the deal as the best receiver the Cardinals have ever had.
For today, he will have to settle with breaking just one record, but it’s a safe bet that those next few milestones will keep Fitzgerald hungry until they are all met.
Could you hear the crowd roaring as the Cardinals defense squared off against the New York Giants offense?
The stadium was rocking.
The Arizona Cardinals are not known for having a strong, passionate fan base. Today, though, before a roaring home crowd, the Cards were able to produce a victory.
The most effective way to increase fan presence is to win at home, or to at least put up an exciting battle on the way down. The Cardinals have the making of a great home field crowd, if they can just keep things exciting.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals had a chance to turn the tide of the game when wide receiver Victor Cruz fumbled the ball in the middle of the field.
The ruling on the field was that the receiver had given himself up, which meant that the clear fumble could not be challenged by Whisenhunt.
Instant replay clearly showed that the receiver did not fall to the ground intentionally, but rather stumbled: The ruling on the field was wrong, and on the next play Eli Manning hit Hakeem Nicks for a touchdown that put the Giants in the lead with just minutes to go.