Red-zone struggles once again doom Cardinals in loss to Pittsburgh
You don’t have to dig too far into a postgame stat sheet to determine how the Arizona Cardinals did on any given Sunday.
Look no further than the line that reads “Red-Zone Efficiency.”
In four victories so far this season, Bruce Arians’s team has been nearly automatic once they venture inside the the opponents’ 20-yard line. Arizona has converted an astounding 94.1 percent (16-of-17) of its red zone trips into touchdowns in easy wins over New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco and Detroit.
Their first loss of the year — a 24-22 defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Rams in Week 4 — was defined by a 20 percent (1-of-5) conversion rate.
The Cardinals once again shot themselves in the foot in the red zone Sunday in Pittsburgh, turning only one of four opportunities into a touchdown. They also committed their first turnover in that area of the field in a crucial stretch of the fourth quarter. Not surprisingly, they left Pittsburgh with another loss — this one a 25-13 defeat to the Steelers at Heinz Field.
The last nail in the coffin for the Cardinals came with 2:20 remaining in the game and the Steelers leading 18-13. On a first down play, quarterback Carson Palmer stepped and tried to force the ball to a well-covered John Brown in the end zone. Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell easily intercepted the ball, killing the Arizona threat. Two plays later, Pittsburgh quarterback Landry Jones hit Martavis Bryant on an 88-yard touchdown pass that sealed the win.
“The ball should never have been there,” a frustrated Arians told Paul Calvisi in the locker room on the Cardinals’ radio broadcast.
Palmer threw for 421 yards in the game, but completed just 2-of-9 attempts for 10 yards in the red zone.
“It was supposed to be a rollout, and I think the safety moved just a little bit,” Brown said after the game. “He threw it and the safety just made a great play.”
Arizona had an 11-yard touchdown pass from Palmer to Michael Floyd nullified after an offensive pass interference call on the receiver in the second quarter. Instead, they settled for a 31-yard field goal from Chandler Catanzaro that made the score 10-3 with :47 remaining in the first half.
It wasn’t just inside the 20 where the Cardinals had their issues. In two other trips inside the Steelers’ 30-yard line, they came away with just three points.