Sometimes one play is the difference between a win and a loss.
During Sunday’s 31-17 loss to the Packers, I believe it was one play call that proved costly. Late in the third quarter, the Cardinals trailed 24-14 and faced a 3rd-and-1 from the Packers’ 2-yard line. For some reason either Mike Miller or Ken Whisenhunt — or maybe both — felt that giving LaRod Stephens-Howling the ball on a run up the middle was a good call.
Three problems with that: The Packers stacked the line. The Cardinals offensive line still can’t run block. And, Stephens-Howling is hardly a power back. Needless to say he was stuffed for no gain, and Arizona settled for a short Jay Feely field goal to pull within 24-17.
Two plays later, it was 31-17 after Aaron Rodgers connected with Tom Crabtree on a 72-yard touchdown pass. Neither team scored again.
I’m not saying the Cardinals would have won had they scored a touchdown instead of a field goal on that possession, but this team has essentially no margin for error. So that if we’re going to get on players for making bad reads or dropping passes, coaches can’t afford to make calls that have very little chance of working — especially on third down.
I do think the coaches did a much better job of getting Larry Fitzgerald more involved this week. He had six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown, after combining for just nine receptions the last two weeks. I also thought they put John Skelton in a much better position to succeed than they did last week ago against San Francisco. They didn’t give up on the run game, and in the second half, we saw a much more poised, confident and accurate Skelton than we’ve seen so far.
That being said, the Cardinals offense is still bad and the defense is starting to spring a few leaks.
I’d be lying if I said the bye week couldn’t be coming at a better time. The Cardinals could have used the time off three weeks ago.
Unfortunately, the Atlanta Falcons — undefeated as of Sunday afternoon — await the Cardinals in two weeks. If the Cardinals have any hopes whatsoever of playing meaningful games in December, then pulling off what will be considered a major upset at the Georgia Dome is the only option.
It’s on the players to quit missing tackles, making bad reads, dropping passes and whiffing on blocks. It’s on the coaches to make better calls when the offense actually has a chance to put points on the board.