Change in the air for the reeling Cardinals?
I could be talking about the election. I could be talking about Cardinals football heading into the bye.
The two were woven together all Sunday morning. While candidates were busy attacking each other, this football team was busy attacking all the goodwill they had built up over the last calendar year.
It was November 6 of last year the Cardinals beat the St. Louis Rams 19-13 on a Patrick Peterson punt return. It served as a launch point for a run that saw the Cards win 11 of 13 games and restore an element of hope and belief that the problems that were fixable had been fixed and the ones that were manageable were being managed.
Instead, for the third straight year, we're staring at a long losing streak the likes of which sink seasons and render football teams irrelevant. In 2010 the Cards lost seven straight. Last year a six-game losing streak. So far this year, it's five straight and chances are your Thanksgiving dinner comes before the next win does.
I'll give the Cardinals credit for this: for a moment I thought this game was going to go the way of some of their memorably embarrassing trips back East. After a Green Bay field goal made it 24-7, a bad pass to Larry Fitzgerald, a horrible drop by Rob Housler that left John Skelton screaming "Catch the ball!" and a shanked punt, the Cardinals were on the precipice of one of those predictable blowouts. It didn't happen -- in fact just the opposite occurred. The Cardinals fused two pretty good drives to close the gap to one score.
The fun ended there though as the Crabtree clan struck again (last week Michael, this week Tom) for a 72-yard touchdown pass that left the tight end so winded he needed a step ladder to perform the Lambeau Leap.
And that is where you'll find the unexpected criticism of the Cardinals this week; the defensive letdown. Happened twice. The Crabtree touchdown was the second example. Earlier, after the Cardinals tied it at seven, the Packers re-took the lead on the very next possession. The defense has been so valuable all year long; there is some guilt in even thinking ill thoughts about them. And yet, it's the most points they've allowed all year.
Defensive struggles aside, this team now goes into the bye week surely contemplating change. The question is to what degree. Nate Potter saw heavy playing time at left tackle; his first start can't be too far behind. Early Doucet didn't do himself any favors with all the drops; are more targets for Michael Floyd in order? I had suspected for two weeks now that the Cards might use the bye week to prepare Ryan Lindley for his first start in the NFL and I went into this game Sunday getting ready to use this space to plead with them to do just that.
While not perfect, Skelton hardly seemed like the problem on Sunday. His protection was decent. His throws were more on target. The drops by his receivers were an issue. Last year at this time the Cards found a spark by playing the younger guys on defense; perhaps they use the bye week to do the same to their sagging offense but changing QBs just doesn't feel like the play right now. Not after Sunday.
The radical play is a change in the coaching staff (Miller or Grimm) as sacrifice to placate the fans. A desperate Andy Reid did it in Philly. The fact that it's not working in Philly doesn't bolster the argument for a move and clearly such drastic thinking runs counter culture to Ken Whisenhunt.