GLENDALE — How does a team who hadn’t started a season with four straight wins since 1977 start 4-0 only to follow it up by losing their next four games?
That’s one of the myriad questions rattling around my brain in the aftermath of the San Francisco 49ers’ dominating 24-3 win over the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium Monday night.
Want some more? Here you go:
What the hell do you have to do to get a perfect quarterback rating?
For some reason, a perfect mark on the QB rating scale is 158.3 — because that makes sense.
Anyway, Alex Smith of the 49ers was the closest thing to perfect that I’ve ever seen on the football field Monday (and if you caught that lyrical reference to an obscure Jermaine Jackson soundtrack offering from a 1985 John Travolta-Jamie Lee Curtis flick, get help.)
Smith completed 18-of-19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdown passes. His only incompletion was a drop by tight end Delanie Walker. He broke a 31-year-old record for completion percentage in a game by hitting on 94.7% of his passes. Yet his quarterback rating was only 157.13. You figure it out.
Is John Skelton an NFL quarterback?
OK, this one may seem a little bit harsh, but like I said, these are the things I’m thinking about.
Skelton’s numbers look alright on paper — 32-of-52 for 290 yards and an interception, which came on a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the first half.
But further examination paints a different picture. The numbers look presentable because the Cardinals were forced to throw on virtually every play in the second half.
But where is the aggression? Skelton threw a lot, but very few of those attempts were thrown down the field. The Cardinals’ longest play from scrimmage was a 27-yarder to tight end Jeff King. His 5.58 yards per attempt in this game would rank last in the NFL among starters’ season numbers. For reference, Peyton Manning of Denver leads in that category at 8.22 yards per attempt.
To Skelton’s defense, it’s got to be hard to throw with this version of the Cardinals’ offensive line blocking for you.
“When you’re not running the football and you’re not doing some of the things you’re supposed to do offensively to give (Skelton) help, it’s going to be tough for anybody,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said following the game.
To refute that, one could point to the Week 7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in which the Cardinals ran for 126 yards but mustered only 14 points on offense.
What can they do about the offensive line?
Look, nobody counted on injuries to Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges that necessitated the insertion of journeyman D’Anthony Batiste and rookie Bobby Massie at the tackle positions. But it happened.
And now, after four more sacks Monday, the Cardinals offensive line has yielded 39 sacks in eight games. Quick math tells me that’s a pace of 78 for the season and quick analysis tells me that ain’t good.
But yet, there has been very little effort made to improve the bookends. Sure, the Cardinals brought in free agent Pat McQuistan to back up Batiste, but he has yet to play substantial time at the tackle position.
Whisenhunt talked repeatedly Monday about just “getting better” at the position. That’s great in theory, but after being beaten consistently on a weekly basis, the confidence of Massie and Batiste has to be shaken, right? I mean it’s human nature. And improvement has got to be more difficult when your confidence not at optimal level.
Is this the worst Cardinals offense ever?
This is a tough one. Since the Cardinals moved to the Valley in 1988, they’ve had some shoddy offenses. The 2003 team that went 4-12 ranked dead last in total offense and was held under 20 points 13 times and under 10 points four times.
This year’s Cardinals team has been held under 20 points in four straight games — and one of those was against a Buffalo defense which set records for futility in the weeks leading up to the Cardinals matchup.
In two prime-time games this season (against division opponents, mind you), the Cardinals have scored a grand total of six points. That doesn’t exactly leave a good taste in the mouths of the national audience that was tuned in Monday evening.
When will this team win again?
Umm…good question. Looking at their upcoming schedule, with games at Green Bay and Atlanta on the horizon, Arizona could be looking at a six-game losing streak when they host the St. Louis Rams in Glendale on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Considering that the Rams have already humbled the Cardinals once this year, that is no gimme. The remaining schedule after that is an absolute killer. At the Jets, at Seattle, home versus Detroit and Chicago and they close the season at San Francisco.
It’s safe to assume the Cardinals may only be favored in one of their final eight games unless things turn around quickly.