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The 5: Explanations for the Cardinals’ blown opportunities vs. the Raiders

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Mental errors. Breakdowns. Mistakes. Screw-ups.

Whatever you call them, the Arizona Cardinals made plenty of them Sunday in a 23-21 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

The Cardinals led 21-20 with five minutes to play before a series of missed opportunities and mistakes burned them, allowing Oakland to rally for a last-second field goal and the win that even the teams’ records at 2-8.

Here are five looming miscues, four of which came in the final minutes, that bit Arizona at State Farm Stadium:

Rosen throws an early pick

Context: For the second play from scrimmage in the game, the Cardinals had the ball on their own 34-yard line on 2nd-and-1 holding a 21-20 lead.

What happened: Quarterback Josh Rosen looked left with receiver Christian Kirk working over the top of a more shallow out route by Larry Fitzgerald. Rosen lofted the ball to Fitzgerald, who didn’t track the ball over his other shoulder.

Raiders defensive back Gareon Conley, who was following Kirk, broke off the Cardinals receiver and made the pick, setting up a quick touchdown drive for the Raiders, who scored less than three minutes into the game.

Explanation:

Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen: “I mean, I think the guy on the very first play of the game just made a very good play. It was two-on-two, we had a guy clearing out … Larry’s kind of running a deeper out, a sail route. When Larry’s kind of in the right position, sometimes you’ve just got to give him a chance to get the ball. I didn’t see through to the corner and he just fell off (Kirk) and made a good play.”

Dropping an opportunistic pick

Context: With 2:56 left in the game, Oakland was in 3rd-and-10 backed up at its own 2-yard line.

What happened: A pass by Raiders quarterback Derek Carr hit Cardinals linebacker Josh Bynes square in the hands, but he dropped it, leading to a punt rather than a chance for the Cardinals to intercept the ball and at least get a chip-shot field goal for a 24-20 lead.

Explanation: 

Steve Wilks: “Had our hands on the ball, Josh Bynes, we got come up with that play.”

Gresham’s penalty

Context: The Cardinals were at the Oakland 46-yard line with a 2nd-and-12 situation. Only 2:34 remained in the game.

What happened: Arizona tight end Jermaine Gresham was called for unnecessary roughness, a 15-yard penalty. That put the Cardinals in 3rd-and-23, which they wouldn’t pick up due to yet another penalty on the ensuing play.

Explanation: 

Jermaine Gresham: “It was just a dumb play by me. I turned around and saw my guy (Larry Fitzgerald) on the ground. I cost us the game.

“I was just trying to defend him. It was stupid.”

Josh Rosen: “I don’t want to say anything sort of in ignorance of the actual situation because I only saw so little of it. From my understanding a dude was lying on top of Larry and he’s one of the best football players to ever grace this field and the NFL is lucky to have him.

“If you’re just going to lie on him and be disrespectful, it’s just not going to fly especially with Jermaine on your team. That’s Mr. Fitzgerald. Don’t do that.”

Steve Wilks: “All guys need to be smarter than that. Those guys were doing it all game. Keep talking to the guys about being smart, to just walk way.”

Seal-Jones’ hold brings it back

Context: Following Gresham’s penalty, Arizona found itself in 3rd-and-23 at its own 43-yard line with 2:34 to play.

What happened: David Johnson ripped off a 57-yard touchdown run up the middle, but a block by tight end Ricky Seal-Jones at the second level that didn’t seem needed was called for a hold, and a potential 28-20 Cardinals lead was wiped off the board.

Explanation: 

David Johnson: “I was surprised. I didn’t see a flag. I thought that I had the touchdown. Obviously, that is not a good thing. Just have to find ways to finish.”

Ateman sets up the game-winner

Context: The Raiders were in 2nd-and-10 at their own 31 with 1:07 to play and trailing 21-20.

What happened: Oakland quarterback Derek Carr tossed a 32-yard pass down the left sideline, hitting rookie Marcell Ateman in stride to set up his Raiders at the Arizona 37-yard line.

The play beat cornerback Bene Benwikere, and five plays later, kicker Daniel Carlson drilled a 35-yard field goal for the win as time expired.

Explanation: 

Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks: “Lack of concentration within the play. Had a big play down the sideline, we have to learn how to finish … And just the mere fact of a lack of concentration right there and relaxing within the play on that long pass down the sideline. Unacceptable.

“There’s quarter’s (coverage) there. Outside leverage position. And against, you just can’t relax. You have to learn how to finish.”

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr: “(Ateman) made a heck of a catch, keeping his feet in.

“He didn’t get the two-minute drill — we didn’t get to run that live this week, he didn’t get his red zone reps live, all these things that would mess with a rookie’s head didn’t affect him.”

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