Coming into the game against Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals, the Arizona Cardinals had hopes of making it into the postseason. While Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals had faith, they lacked focus and now their playoff chances are finished.
Trailing 20-0 at halftime, this was one game where Arizona was not able to pull off a second half sensational comeback. Even though they came within one clumsy step away from another fourth quarter comeback, the Cardinals suffered a tough loss, 23-16.
As is the case in most instances, we learn a lot about a team when they lose. Here's my take on what the Cardinals taught us about themselves against the Bengals.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback John Skelton put up dismal performance against the Cincinnati Bengals. Throwing three picks in a game that was to determine Arizona's playoff fate was unacceptable. It should come as no surprise to those who follow the Cardinals closely that Skelton put the Cardinals in a hole in the first half. Typically, Arizona has been able to overcome the poor play at the quarterback but not this time.
Skelton had thrown more picks (10) than touchdowns (8) coming into this contest, and he kept his lame pace against the Bengals. Even the passes that were completed by Skelton were a bit too high.
And while his supporters will look to his touchdown passes and say he was decent, he didn't do much on those passes. Larry Fitzgerald caught a short pass from Skelton and ran for about 25 yards for the score. And the touchdown pass to tight end Jeff King was low and behind him, but King managed to pull the poor pass in anyway.
Skelton's name should be synonymous for "overthrown pass." I'm writing to Webster to see if they'll add his name to the thesaurus.
Quarterback John Skelton was constantly under pressure or getting sacked all game long. Skelton did what he could to give the ball to the Bengals on most of his throws. Not to be outdone, the Arizona offensive line transformed into a swinging gate for Cincinnati's front seven.
It doesn't take an NFL draft expert to know that the Cardinals' greatest need is the offensive line. Even with the poor quarterback play going on in Glendale, Arizona needs to protect whichever signal caller they roll with.
Stanford's offensive lineman Jonathan Martin should already be looking for homes in the Glendale area.
Of the Arizona Cardinals' seven wins this season, six of them have been from fourth quarter comebacks. At halftime against the Bengals, the Cardinals trailed 0-20. The Cardinals couldn't manage even a field goal during the entire third quarter.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Skelton hit Larry Fitzgerald for a 30-yard touchdown pass. Midway through the fourth quarter, Skelton found tight end Jeff King in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown strike.
Arizona had a chance to tie the game up but a wide open Early Doucet tripped in the end zone and watched the pass sail over him. And in the waning seconds of the game, Skelton decided to throw a pass to a receiver in the middle of the field instead of taking a shot in the end zone.
I know you can't see me, but I'm shaking my head in disbelief, as you should too.
It's clear that Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells is playing hurt. At the beginning of the season, Wells was a monster carrying the rock. Since injuring his knee midseason, he's lost the burst that he showed getting around the edges.
Against the Bengals, Wells maintained a respectable stat line (14 carries for 53 yards, no touchdown), but he was a non-factor when it came to deciding the game. The good news is that Wells has shown that the Cardinals have an every down back, and with Ryan Williams coming back from injury in 2012, Arizona will have a solid backfield next season.
That "swoosh" sound you heard at the final whistle was the playoffs passing the Cardinals by. With a loss in Cincinnati, the Cardinals' playoff chances are nil; they can't make the post-season.
I just can't believe that the Cardinals' playoff hopes were dashed because of Early Doucet being clumsy. It can't end this way, can it?
The Cardinals have put together an electrifying second half of the season and have given Arizona fans something to look forward to next year. With the surging Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers and Cardinals, the NFC West will be a tough division in 2012.