The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Pro

October 23, 2012

Cardinals sputtering despite big game from Stephens-Howling

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals did just enough on offense to get by the first month of the season, riding one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses to their best start in 38 years.

Not even their defense has been good enough to overcome the offensive ineptitude lately.

Unable to protect whichever quarterback is healthy or get out of their own way, Arizona’s offense has sputtered during a losing streak that reached three games with Sunday’s stuck-in-the-mud 21-14 loss at Minnesota.

“We think the defense is doing a great job, they’ve put us in position to win every single game,” Cardinals guard Daryn Colledge said Monday. “We owe it to them to play better football.”

Arizona’s defense has certainly held its own.

The Cardinals (4-3) have the NFL’s fourth-best scoring defense, allowing 16.9 points per game, and they’re seventh in total defense, giving up just over 312 yards. Arizona has 22 sacks, two behind league leader Green Bay, and has had a knack for coming up with big plays, forcing eight interceptions and seven fumbles, including one returned for a touchdown.

With numbers like that, all the offense really has to do is make a couple of plays and avoid big mistakes.

They did just that early in the season, opening 4-0 for the first time since 1974, 14 years before the franchise moved from St. Louis to the desert.

Over the past three games, Arizona’s offense turned it over too many times, allowed way too many sacks, and has been unable to come up with plays downfield or when in scoring position.

The Cardinals have scored 33 points during their three-game losing streak and overall have given up an NFL-high 35 sacks, including 29 the past four games.

“It kind of feels like we’re not handling our side of the ball,” Cardinals running back LaRod Stephens-Howling said. “The defense is playing great, the special teams are playing great, we just need to pick it up and score points.”

Injuries are certainly a part of Arizona’s offensive struggles.

Quarterback John Skelton, who won a tight battle with Kevin Kolb to open the season as the starter, sprained his left ankle in Arizona’s opener against Seattle. Kolb took over the next five games, only to go down with chest and rib injuries in an overtime loss to Buffalo two weeks ago – the same day Skelton was back in uniform.

Running back Ryan Williams is out for the season after suffering a shoulder injury against St. Louis on Oct. 4. Beanie Wells has played three games and is out until at least Thanksgiving with a turf toe injury. Stephens-Howling missed two games with a hip injury and returned against the Bills. The Johnstown High School graduate had his best game as a pro on Sunday.

Tight end Todd Heap hasn’t played since the opener due to a knee injury and left tackle Levi Brown is out for the season with a triceps injury.

The attrition has led to plenty of shuffling and moving players into unfamiliar roles.

“That’s the NFL, you face that,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “You don’t have 90 (players) like you do in training camp, you only have a 53-man roster, and part of our continuity on offense is struggling because of that. You can’t use it as an excuse. You’ve got to move forward.”

All Arizona’s offense had to do was move forward just a little against Minnesota after the defense held the Vikings to 209 total yards.

They couldn’t do it.

The Cardinals started four possessions on the Vikings’ side of the field in the first half and came away with one touchdown – set up by an interception by the defense inside the 20-yard line. Arizona failed to get a first down on two of the drives and Jay Feely missed a 47-yard field goal on the other.

The Cardinals’ beleaguered offensive also had a hard time keeping the Vikings’ pass rush away from Skelton, who was sacked seven times and spent most of the day throwing off the run.

Skelton ended up with two of the game’s biggest gaffes, losing a fumble with Arizona in position for at least a field goal and throwing an interception that Minnesota safety Harrison Smith returned 31 yards for a touchdown.

“We can’t make those kinds of mistakes where we are as a team right now,” Whisenhunt said.    

The Cardinals need to clean it up quick. They play NFC West-leading San Francisco on Monday night and have games against Green Bay and Atlanta coming up.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Pro
  • Penguins 0423 Blue Jackets rally from 3-0 deficit to take down Penguins

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0423 Reds continue to dominate slumping Bucs

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates cut down by Reds’ Cueto

    April 23, 2014

  • Penguins 0422 Blown leads are troubling trend in series

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0421 Penguins finish hot to grab 2-1 series lead

    Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak and Jussi Jokinen scored in a span of 2:13 of the third period to revive the Penguins from yet another two-goal deficit in a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0421 Pirates walk off against Reds to halt home skid

    Ike Davis became the first player to hit grand slams for different teams in the same April, and Neil Walker had a winning run single with two outs in the ninth inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates twice overcame deficits to beat the Reds 6-5 Monday night.
    Pittsburgh trailed 2-0 before Davis’ fourth-inning homer off Mike Leake.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates Brawl 0420 Brewers top Pirates in game highlighted by dustup

    Ryan Braun homered in the ninth inning to tie it, then Khris Davis hit a home run in the 14th that put Milwaukee ahead for good.
    Yet those were hardly the big blows that attracted all the attention Sunday in the Brewers’ 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0420a Game 3 pivotal for both teams

    Not so long ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets were the worst team in the NHL.
    Now they’re heading home for tonight’s Game 3 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins, hoping to make even more history.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0419 Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT

    Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
    Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0419 Brewers rally to clip Pirates

    Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
    Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads