Cardinals vs. 49ers: 11 Things We Learned About the Cardinals in 23-7 Loss

Elyssa GutbrodContributor INovember 20, 2011

Cardinals vs. 49ers: 11 Things We Learned About the Cardinals in 23-7 Loss

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    Coming into the game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals were riding something of a hot streak.

    Well, if winning two games in a row can be called a hot streak.

    Regardless of what you’d call the Cardinals’ recent success, they weren’t able to find a way to replicate it against the San Francisco 49ers.

    Although the defense stepped up big time in the first half, the offense repeatedly embarrassed themselves big time. The Cardinals were fortunate that the game wasn’t a complete blowout.

    Over the next 11 slides, we’ll take some time to go over some lessons that we learned from the Cardinals’ 23-7 loss to the 49ers.

Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson Field Goal Block

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    Once again this week, the Cardinals’ special teams stepped up big time. The return game faltered a little bit, failing to put up the big numbers that both Patrick Peterson and LaRod Stephens-Howling are capable of.

    Instead, this week it was the defensive part of the special teams unit that stepped up. Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson each blocked a field goal attempt, stalling the 49ers offense early in the game.

Daryl Washington’s Interception Was a Bright Spot in a Poor Outing

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    Despite a lackluster defensive performance, Daryl Washington did provide one bright moment.

    The 49ers had sustained a drive into the Cardinals’ red zone and were threatening to score, when Washington came up with a big interception.

    It’s simply a shame that the offense was unable to capitalize on that gift from the defense.

Cardinals Able to Temporarily Stall 49ers Offense

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    For the first half of the game, it seemed as though the Cardinals might actually be able to find some success against the 49ers offense. For the first six drives, the Cardinals held the 49ers to six field goal tries.

    Even better, they were able to block two of those field goals, and David Akers missed a third. That kept the Cardinals in the game long after they should have been from a statistical standpoint.

Second-Half Adjustments by 49ers Overcame Arizona’s Defensive Efforts

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    When the game went to halftime, the Cardinals still had a chance (albeit a slim one) of getting back into it with a score.

    After the half, though, everything changed. Where the Cardinals had been able to stop the 49ers, they began giving up yards left, right and center. The pair of touchdowns that the 49ers managed to grab in the second half truly sealed the deal for the Cardinals.

John Skelton Is Still a Young Quarterback with Lots of Room to Grow

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    Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen what Arizona’s non-Kevin Kolb option at quarterback can do. John Skelton hasn’t been too impressive from a statistical perspective, but he has been putting wins on the board. That has counted a lot for fans.

    Against the 49ers, though, Skelton finally faced the test of a real defense. He didn’t pass.

    It wasn’t just the three interceptions, although those were horribly embarrassing. It was the fact that practically all Skelton seemed able to do was to throw the ball in the general direction of Larry Fitzgerald and hope for the best.

    When asked about how they would adjust to defend Skelton, defenders for the 49ers went so far as to say that they didn’t have to; they just had to defend Larry Fitzgerald really well.

    It turned out that they were right.

There Is No Quarterback Controversy in Arizona

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    There could have been a controversy if the Cardinals had won today, or even if Skelton had played the game of his life.

    Instead, Skelton was terrible. He might have injured his hand. Regardless, he was pulled in the third quarter.

    With his play today, he sealed his own fate as a second-string quarterback for the rest of the year. The front office has invested too much in Kolb to let Skelton take the field if that is the type of play he’s going to produce.

    If they’re going to play horribly, they’ll do it with the quarterback that is making the big money.

Cardinals Couldn’t Get Started Offensively

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    Through three quarters, the Cardinals didn’t put up a single point on the board. It didn’t help that John Skelton tried to imitate Kevin Kolb by giving the ball away at practically every turn.

    By the time they got moving in the fourth quarter behind Richard Bartel, it was a clear case of too little, too late.

Richard Bartel Takes over for Skelton and Throws His First Career Touchdown

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    Where John Skelton faltered, Richard Bartel was able to take over and find some success.

    When he took the field in the fourth quarter, it was clear that the Cardinals had decided to give him some garbage time in the game. They may claim that Skelton was pulled because of his hand, but after three interceptions, it’s hard to argue that injury was the only contributing factor to that decision.

    Bartel turned out a pretty good performance, all things considered. He didn’t have a lights-out game or anything, but he did provide a spark to the struggling offense. He connected with Larry Fitzgerald on the one touchdown drive that the Cardinals were able to put together.

Early Doucet Got Away with a Cheap Shot

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    During the fourth quarter, there was a brawl on the field. It all started when Early Doucet took a swing at Dashon Goldson.

    Doucet wasn’t caught, but Goldson was when he retaliated with a punch of his own.

    Early Doucet, who has recently started to become a legitimate receiving option for the Cardinals, is probably going to get a letter from the NFL this week. He will be lucky to not find himself suspended from the next game.

Arizona Fumbled the Turnover Game

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    The Arizona Cardinals turned the ball over five times. There is no way to sugarcoat that.

    There is no excuse for the lack of ball security that caused these turnovers. None at all. In fact, it was a new low for the Cardinals.

    Sure, they were able to get one of those back, thanks to Daryl Washington, but a -4 turnover ratio is pretty bad for a season. In a single game, it’s humiliating.

The Cardinals Can’t Compete with the Big Boys

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    Coming into the game and riding the high of the win over the Philadelphia Eagles, there were whispers that perhaps the Cardinals could still turn their season around.

    Those whispers will be silenced now. They won’t make it to 8-8. If they play like they did today, they won’t make it to 6-10.

    The only teams that the Cardinals seem able to compete with are ones that are struggling as badly as they are. The Cards need to look towards going back to the basics for the remainder of the year to try to rebuild themselves into a real team.

    They have the raw talent to do it. Now they need to work on the discipline and the comfort with one another.