Arizona Cardinals: 4 Things To Watch in Week 5 Against the Minnesota Vikings
Does it still hurt?
You know, that non-fumble from Sunday's game against the New York Giants?
So now it's Week 5, and the Arizona Cardinals are 1-3 and two games behind the surprising San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West. It's not looking rosy in Arizona right now but there are 12 games left and five of those games are against division opponents.
But the task at hand this Sunday is another road game against the winless Minnesota Vikings. You can imagine that a loss to the Vikings would send Cardinal nation into a panic stricken state. And rightfully so. A record of 1-4 isn't pretty by anybody's eyes, and you'll see more disappointment than Apple's iPhone 4S announcement yesterday.
Here are four things the Cardinals can do to snap their present three-game losing streak in Minnesota, and climb back into the race for the NFC West title.
1. Can the Cardinals Establish the Run ?
If one good thing came out of the game on Sunday, it was the emergence of Beanie Wells and a power running game. The Cardinals ran up and down all day on the Giants, with Wells rushing for 138 yards on 27 carries and three TDs. That was a career day for Wells.
The much maligned offensive line has given Beanie some great looks and he's made the most of it. He has scored in each game he has played and looks to keep that streak going in Minnesota.
That will be a challenge because Minnesota has not been easy to rush on. They are holding teams to 3.1 yards a carry which is fifth best in the league.
But if Arizona can establish a good run game and use it to close out the games, the Cardinals can get their first road win in over a year.
2. Can They Pressure Donovan McNabb?
Thirty seven yards.
That was the Week 1 number of passing yards from Donovan McNabb against the San Diego Chargers. As hard as that is to believe, the Cardinals don't read much into that number. They know their secondary has been shredded by the likes of Rex Grossman, Cam Newton and Eli Manning.
Minnesota ranks 31st in passing offense only having thrown for 619 yards over four games. They average 19 points a game and have only scored 77 points for the season.
But all that can change IF the Cardinals defensive line can't get to McNabb. They have been good at times but when they don't get to the quarterback, the secondary gets exposed and the numbers pile up.
Calais Campbell is having a great year so far, but the whole defense will have to be consistent at putting pressure on Minnesota's offensive line.
McNabb is nowhere near the quarterback who has caused problems for the Cardinals in the past, so don't expect huge numbers, but he can always get hot.
Especially since this Cardinals secondary has been more than willing to oblige in helping quarterbacks put up big numbers.
3. Can Kevin Kolb Relax in the Pocket?
If you have been on Twitter at all this week you are starting to hear rumblings about Kevin Kolb being the right fit in Arizona. It's a "win now" league so this is to be expected especially for a team who tasted a measure of success in 2008 with a trip to the Super Bowl.
It's way too early to make a judgement call on a guy that's learning a new system, and we are only four games into the season, however, there are some concerns with Kolb.
Kolb has been too quick to leave the pocket and trying to make plays on the run. Granted, he is faster and more mobile than Kurt Warner, but if you have watched any film of these first four Cardinals games, there are a number of receivers that have been left WIDE open. Those players are harder to see when you are constantly running from the pocket.
The offensive line hasn't been stellar in protecting him, but they were much better Sunday than in previous games. There were times that, had Kolb stayed in the pocket, he would have made big plays to receivers that he missed.
Relax, Kevin. Don't worry about expectations right now. Don't worry about what you see from other rookie quarterbacks in the league. Your progressions and reads will get better in this system, and you can have plenty of success in this league when everything starts to click.
4. Can the Cardinals Change Their Fourth Quarter Mindset?
I don't know about you but when the fourth quarter arrives, you almost feel the game is about to be lost. Your mind starts to look at every possible way that they could lose, and one of them is always right.
So now the Cardinals are 1-3 and in a very dangerous position.
After losing three games like they have, you can easily sink into the mindset that plagues a lot of teams. You get a lead going into the fourth quarter and now your mind starts to wonder. You start thinking about the Giants game and the Redskins game. Can we really give this one up too?
Like it or not, that kind of thinking affects your play, and it affected them Sunday against the Giants. You could watch the wheels start to fall off as soon as Beanie Wells scored his third touchdown.
And fall off they did.
Being 1-3 in the NFC West is not the end of the world, but it can quickly become worse if the Cardinals don't change their mindset. They are playing a Vikings team that has a habit of giving up the big lead themselves, so this could be one big charity event.
If the Cardinals can erase the first four games and go into this game with a completely different attitude about holding a lead, they can win it. That means run the ball in the fourth quarter and call timeouts before crucial fourth down plays. And most importantly, expect to win. That may sound ridiculous but look at the good teams.
Good teams don't panic and they know how to finish.
Minnesota doesn't scare anyone right now, but they need this game just as bad as the Cardinals do. If the Cardinals can get an early lead and finish the game, you will see their first road win of the year and they will go into their bye week with something to be excited about.