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Cardinals let chances slip away against Giants

Two weeks ago the Cardinals had a chance to put together a game-winning drive against the Redskins, only to fall short after Chansi Stuckey
coughed up the football.

One week ago the Cardinals had a chance to, at the very least, get a game-tying field goal attempt, only to see a Kevin Kolb interception end that
drive and the team’s chances of winning.

Sunday, in the friendly confines of University of Phoenix Stadium, the
Cardinals had a chance to rally for a win even after letting a two-score
fourth quarter lead slip away, only to see the drive stall at the Giants’
30.

Final score: Giants 31, Cardinals 27 – and thousands of groans along the
way.

It’s not that you can point to any one reason for the team’s loss, as there
were many.

The defense allowed the Giants to score two touchdowns in the game’s
final four minutes, turning a 10 point advantage into a four
point deficit.

Kevin Kolb had his second straight poor game for the Cardinals,
completing just 20 of 34 passes for 237 yards and one interception, as well
as a red zone fumble in the first quarter.

The referees even deserve some blame, as a Victor Cruz fumble just before
the game-winning touchdown was negated due to something about the
receiver “giving himself up” on the play.

Whatever the reason, Arizona fell to 1-3 and faces a daunting schedule —
and plenty of questions.

“This is three games in a row when we had the ball in our hand at the end
with a chance to do something and we haven’t been able to do it,”
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

Indeed, I wrote a couple of weeks ago Kolb would lead the team to
a win the next time he
had a chance to
.

Swing and a miss.

And, just like I wrote last week, it’s too early to give up on
the team.

While 1-3 is bad it is by no means the end of the season. Not yet, anyway.

And, for the optimists out there, the Cardinals could use their struggles
today – and over the last three weeks – as learning experiences.

At least, that’s what Kolb said the team has to do.

“You get better every time you do it but it is frustrating, especially in this
case to see them do it then we didn’t back it up,” he said about putting
together a game-winning drive, which would be his first.

And the team is right when they say it’s about what they do to themselves
as much as what other teams are doing to them.

Take the first quarter as proof, when Arizona recovered a fumble on New
York’s 16-yard line and mustered just seven yards before kicking a field
goal. The next series saw the team drive to the Giants’ 17, but a Kolb
fumble prevented another score. Another first quarter drive ended with a
field goal, and instead of being up big Arizona had just a 6-0 lead.

That’s not good enough if they want to beat good teams.

“That’s the difference in the game right there,” Whisenhunt said of the red
zone failures.

The difference? Maybe. A difference? Certainly. And that’s why, even
though things seem bleak, there is a chance the Cards can still turn this
thing around.

Provided, of course, the season doesn’t jump off the tracks quite yet.

“Who wants to go and lose, first off, and lose the way we’re losing,” guard
Rex Hadnot said. “You can tell that it hurts the guys, but we’re definitely
going to keep fighting. There’s great leaders on this team, there’s great
coaches that won’t let us go into the tank.”

That feeling is there because, as it is, most in the locker-room feel the
damage is self-inflicted, and if the team can keep improving the wins will
come.

“It’s one thing to go into a game when you don’t have a clue and you just
get beat from the start,” defensive lineman and captain Darnell Dockett
said. “That’s not the case with this team.”

It’s not. The team is just good enough to be bad. Or is it just bad enough
to be good.

No matter, while Sunday will be remembered as a brutal day in Glendale,
there were some positives to take away from the game.

After all, Beanie Wells may have had his official coming out party against a
tough Giants defense, racking up 138 yards and three touchdowns. The
third pushed the Cards’ lead to 10 with just over five minutes left, giving
the team a chance to finish off an impressive win.

And Larry Fitzgerald, who threw a key block on Wells’ final score, caught
eight balls for 102 yards, including a 47-yard reception that saw him
literally take the ball away from a defender.

In the end it was all for naught.

“You see good teams around the league that when the game is close, they
are able to find a way to finish,” Fitzgerald said. “The margin for error of
winning and losing in the NFL is very small.”

Indeed it is, and even if by the slightest of margins, the smallest mistake or
just a random bad bounce (or call), the Cardinals have found themselves on
the wrong side of the scoreboard three weeks running.

“I felt like we should have won the last three games and each game we had
a chance to win at the end and we didn’t,” defensive end Calais Campbell
said, noting how frustrating it is. “We want to win those games and we
know we can win those games.”