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Cardinals GM Steve Keim: Team’s playmakers aren’t stepping up

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes returns an interception 100-yards for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Cardinals general manager

If you look really closely at the bald head of Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, you can probably see scratch marks.

That’s because nobody, not even the architect of this year’s Cardinals, can quite figure out what’s going on with a talented team that has underachieved through the first ten games of the season.

The latest chapter of underachievement was written Sunday in Minneapolis — a 30-24 loss to a Vikings team that had lost four straight heading into the contest.

“A broken record,” Keim answered Monday morning when asked by Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM about what he sees from his team. “Another game, where statistically, you look at the sheet and it says one thing and the loss column tells you another. It’s getting old and we need to fix that.

“That comes down to making plays, minimizing mistakes — particularly mental mistakes — and stepping up when it’s time to make that play in the game, from your playmakers — the guys you’re counting on. We haven’t done that and it’s no secret.”

The Cardinals’ offense had opportunities to do just that Sunday. Trailing by six points in the fourth quarter, Arizona had two chances with the ball to take the lead. They had a net yardage total of -14 on the 11 plays in those opportunities. Quarterback Carson Palmer was sacked twice on the Cardinals’ last drive, including one for a 15-yard loss on their final offensive snap of the game.

“It’s hard for me to put a finger on it,” Keim said. “You get something going, and again, like (Sunday), I felt like we were just trying to play catch-up. We got in a situation where we started to run the ball really well. David (Johnson) got in a groove. Then explosive plays hurt us.”

Trailing 13-10 late in the second quarter, the Cardinals drove to the Minnesota 9-yard line. On third down, Palmer tried to find John Brown at the goal line. There was contact, but Brown wasn’t physical in response, and Xavier Rhodes picked off the pass and raced 100 yards for a touchdown.

The Cardinals answered on an efficient 75-yard drive capped off by a Palmer-to-Jermaine Gresham touchdown pass that covered 29 yards and featured a Herculean individual effort by the tight end.

But Minnesota once again seized momentum when Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff of the second half 100 yards for a touchdown.

It wasn’t the first game in which Arizona’s special teams struggles have contributed to a loss. Keim is trying to diagnose the issues in that phase of the game.

“I think it’s playing with cohesiveness,” he said. “When I watched the return yesterday, it comes down to the guys running down the field and having the will to make a play. Half of special teams is the effort and mentality you put forth, and there were three or four guys who got caved on that play. They’ve got to stay in their lanes and stay physical at the point of attack and they didn’t.”

Keim also voiced frustration in the amount of inconsistency he’s seen in all three phases of the game.

“It comes down to those 53 men in the locker room. I’m out at practice every day and I can hear the way that our staff coaches these young men up,” he said. “At some point in time, it comes down to those guys executing and doing the right things on the field.

“I take ownership in that as well, because these are the players I’ve supplied to our coaching staff. So, it starts at the top and it’s certainly something that makes us all look in the mirror, and that starts with me.”

Keim said his frustration level is at ’10,’ but noted there is a lot of football left to be played.

“The season is not over,” he said. “I know that’s what fans and the people who support us want to hear, but we’re not going to quit.”

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