The Arizona Cardinals got off to a slow start and continued to get nothing going as they lost to the San Francisco 49ers to open the season last night. On a night of reward and recognition, it looked like the Cardinals were caught up in their own headlines.
It looked like they expected to win, like they had deserved it.
Despite their run last season, many critics were skeptical of the Cards coming into last night's game, and the Cards did nothing to silence these critics. No doubt missing Steve Breaston hurt them, but this is no excuse for their lack of intensity on the offensive end.
There was no sense of urgency as the Cards failed to get a big play, nothing over the 25 yard mark the entire game. Larry Fitzgerald didn't get going until the second half, and he still only ended up with 71 yards. The coverage on him was excellent all night. Anquan Boldin only recorded two catches for 19 yards. Not exactly stunning numbers. With this preface let's look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Tim Hightower had an excellent night receiving the ball, with 12 catches for 121 yards. The 49ers were blitzing all night, and Hightower caught many screen and slip passes that were the most effective plays for the Cardinals.
The defense played great. With the offense sputtering all night, the defense made many strong efforts. Calais Campbell had six tackles, a pass deflection, and was in Hill's face all night long.
Darnell Docket was perhaps the player of the game, with two tackles, a sack, and heavy pressure all game long. Antrell Rolle provided solid coverage and pressure, forcing a fumble at the end of the first half.
Karlos Dansby started out wonderful, offering six tackles, including one for a loss, and played great in coverage. His fellow linebacker Gerald Hayes had 10 tackles, with four for a loss. Adrian Wilson also played excellent, being his aggressive, pro bowl self, but only had two tackles.
Chris Beanie Wells provided a spark running the ball, averaging 4.1 yards per carry and looked very slim, quick, and decisive, despite missing most of training camp. If he can provide a solid rushing combo with Hightower, the offense should start to click soon.
The third quarter was also solid, holding the 49ers to four total yards, and coming back to take the lead 16-13.
The Cardinals offense was dismal in about every way imaginable. Kurt Warner was pressured all night and indecisive with the ball. Fitzgerald and Boldin could not get open for most of the night, and when they did, it was not for any big gains. The play calling looked timid and passive all night, even when the Cards faithful (seems like a bit of an oxymoron) needed something to get off their feet and scream.
The defensive pass rush was nonexistent, unless they brought heavy blitzes with Hayes, Dansby, or the safties. The push on running plays was good, but Campbell must step up on the other side so that the Cards can play a little more conservatively, especially on third and fourth downs.
Bryant McFadden. He was supposed to be a solid pickup for the Cards, but he allowed the one thing the Cards just cannot afford to give up: a big play. He got beat on a double move by Issac Bruce that put the 49ers up 13-3. He also got beat on a few other plays, but kept the damage to a minimum. He has to step up, because DRC was playing excellent on the other side of him.
One of the ugliest things I saw from the game were Tim Hightower's rushes. He averaged 1.9 yards per rush and failed to get back to the line of scrimmage numerous times. He has to be able to provide an adequate punch on the ground until Chris Wells gets fully acclimated with the system.
The lack of effort and excitement was the other. The offense was complacent and acted like they were supposed to win. What made the Cardinals so exciting in the post season was the energy they brought to the field, how the offense sparked the defense and vice versa. This did not happen yesterday, and HAS to happen in order for the Cards to have a successful season.
Maybe this is the kick in the butt they needed to jump start their season. We shall see next week against Jacksonville.