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Keim Time: The mental mistakes are ‘inexcusable’

Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill, right, talks with general manager Steve Keim during practice at the NFL football team's training camp Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Cardinals general manager

The Arizona Cardinals lost to the Atlanta Falcons Sunday 38-19, and with the loss, they drop two games under .500 and watched their playoff hopes all but dissipate.

The game started off well for the Cardinals as they scored their first touchdown on an opening drive all season, thanks to a one-yard pass from Carson Palmer to Jermaine Gresham.  After the first possession though, things started getting stale. The next drive after the touchdown was derailed due to a 13-yard loss on a Carson Palmer fumbled snap and the Cardinals had to settle for a field goal, and the defense couldn’t contain Taylor Gabriel and the Falcons offense. The speedy Gabriel scored twice on simple wide receiver screen plays, and mental mistakes on the Cardinals part put the game out of reach.

David Johnson was once again the main contributor for the Cardinals offense, as he had 58 rushing yards, 103 receiving yards (50 more yards than the second-leading receiver) and a touchdown. Johnson produced 48.5 percent of the total net yardage the Cards had.

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM to talk about what happened against the Falcons and the current and future state of the Cards.

How difficult was the flight home?

“You know, it’s always difficult after a loss, but we knew that there was a big challenge ahead of us with the No.1 scoring offense in the NFL. There’s no doubt we needed to keep pace, in terms of scoring points, and I thought we started the best we have all season. In fact after about a quarter and a half I thought to myself, this is the offense that we all envisioned, I think, going into the season. And then the penalties piled up and put us in a tough situation from a down-and-distance perspective, and then things just started to unravel. Carson, I thought started crisp and was extremely decisive. Larry (Fitzgerald) making the big one-handed catch, David Johnson doing the things he’s been able to do running the football, creating mismatches in the running game. I thought John Brown started fast with his ability to drive off defenders and create separation, and then he came out of the game with some issues with his hamstring. Dropped balls continue to be a problem that has plagued us. So you just can’t play, not only in a tough environment, but against a tough football team and make those kind of mistakes and expect to win.”

Did this game feel the same as previous games, just in a different week?

“Yeah, I mean it’s frustrating, it’s hard to put your finger on it. There are some good things you see on tape, but the lack of consistency and when it’s time to make a play and step up, whether it’s a dropped interception, whether it’s a dropped first down. Yesterday, really one of the things you can point to and say ‘how does that happen?’ (was) on fourth and five, basically on a punt-safe situation, we stop them on third down and we jump offsides and we give them a first down and they go down to score and put us in a really tough position. That stuff’s inexcusable and it’s really hard to accept and until we start playing smarter football it’ll be something that continues to plague us.”

Based on what Tyrann Mathieu said, is there a chemistry problem this year?

“You know I think that’s a good question because in my position when you put together a team every year, and you look at it on your board, with this being the fourth season (as general manager), and I looked at it and think, ‘(we’re) potentially more talented than we have been the last three years when we’ve had success.’ Yet at the same time, these guys have to step up and make the plays and have to come together as a team. I don’t think it’s any secret we haven’t done that yet. And again, what we’ve talked about over and over, it’s the little things, the accountability, taking advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. So that’s a great question, and it’s hard for me to answer, and only the 53 guys in that locker room can answer that.”

When do you start thinking of 2017, or have you already?

“Oh, I started thinking about that last year. From my standpoint, I have to look at it from a three year view, whether it’s a cap situation or whether it’s just where we are from a roster standpoint, when you look at age, when you look at contract situations. So constantly my mind’s racing. I’m always thinking about next year, but more importantly I’m thinking about getting a win and that starts next week at home against the Redskins. But again, when you look at the construction of your roster, you have to in my position think about the Draft, free agency, all of the moving parts that come with the job.”

Are you encouraged that you can make a run in 2017 based on the current roster?    

“Well the good news is, I really do feel like there are enough really good, core quality players in place not only contractually, but with age. We have a nice core of defenders and I think we have some talent on offense. So whatever happens after the season, whether it’s players moving on or continuing to stay, whatever it may be, I don’t think it’s a situation where it’s a complete revamp of this team to make it better. I think (there’s) going to be some different pieces and we’ll continue to stay aggressive, and I can tell you, as disappointing as things are I’ve never been more excited to continue to try and improve this team and put this organization in a position to succeed.”

Is 2016 an outlier year for Michael Floyd?

“Well I know he’s disappointed and frustrated. You know last week he was ill, this week he had the hamstring so he’s playing through a lot of different things. But at the same time, I would say the one thing about Mike is in the past there have been some inconsistencies whether it’s been dropped balls or different things that came with his game. But at the same time he made some big plays to compensate for that. I would say that’s probably the one area where quite frankly we haven’t seen this year, where he has made some of the big plays to offset some of the little things that are concerns, so there’s no doubt that Mike’s frustrated, we’re all frustrated with the way things have gone. You know again, Michael had those issues, John Brown (is) going through some injury issues where he was a guy who could take the top off the defense and do some different things for us to open up the passing game. And again, it started fast for us because John was able to do that, and without John in the game you’re playing down a receiver and you’re playing another receiver who’s playing through an injury. It puts our guys in a tough position and I don’t think it’s any secret that somebody else has to step up besides David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.”

How has this season affected Floyd’s future with the Cardinals?

“Well that’s something that we’ll talk about internally. That’s not something I’ll do through the media, but it’s one of those things where whether a guy returns to your team or not, we get emotionally attached to these guys and I want the best for all of them and he is a guy I’m rooting for and hopefully he can turn it around with five games left in the season and have some success for his livelihood. You never want to see a player underachieve or a guy having to switch and hit the market and get underpaid. I’m hoping all these guys have success, and if they have success we have success. So it’s disappointing, and again we have some plans and some ideas in place that I think are going to strengthen this team moving forward, but that’s stuff we’ll discuss after the season.”

How do you think the offensive line played? In particular the tackles D.J. Humphries and Ulrick John?

“I think one of the bright spots I talked about earlier was D.J. Humphries. He, to me, looks very natural at left tackle which is where we saw him coming out at his natural position. And I think yesterday in his sets, his hand placements, his punch, the little things you saw him do, he was excited about playing that position this week and I think he’s going to continue to get better. Really, when you saw any kind of pressure for the most part, just from watching the tape, we got ourselves in third and 29 or we got ourselves in a situation where we were too far behind and you have to pass the football and you go with an empty set and you’re not giving your offensive line help. When those defenders can tee-off it’s extremely hard to pass protect on a consistent basis, and I thought D.J. did a very good job, and I thought Ulrick did a nice job until probably the last series or two where they ran some games and stunts that had him and John Wetzel off balance. But you know for the most part, with Ulrick John playing his first game as a starter and for D.J. with his first game at left tackle, I thought both of them did a very nice job.”

Would it be better if Robert Nkemdiche played this season and gets some reps in ahead of next season?  

“Well until he earns it, and learns how to be a true pro, he’ll have to sit, and I think D.J. is the perfect example to look at for Robert. A guy that came in, was a young guy, came out early out of college just like Robert did, had a lot of physical attributes that you look for but at the same time it takes a lot more than that to be a pro, and it takes work ethic and all the little things day in and day out like studying film. So it’s on Robert. He’s got all the skills, which is the good news to be a great one, but until Robert understands what comes with being a great player he’ll be on the bench. And that’s the thing coach and I have always been committed to, regardless of what your salary is, regardless of where you were drafted, you’re going to have to earn your spot on the field.”

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