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Cardinals coach Arians on offensive struggles: ‘We’ve got to get it together’

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians stands on the sideline during the first half of the team's preseason NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

SAN DIEGO — On Tuesday, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians missed one of his team’s practices after stomach pains sent him to the hospital.

Turns out the coach was suffering from diverticulitis, and he was back for part of Wednesday’s practice before spending the entirety of Friday night’s preseason game with the Chargers on the sideline, filling his usual role.

No doubt Arians is feeling better, though his team’s 19-3 loss made him a different kind of sick.

“Me? I’m fine, just pissed,” he said after the game.

The Cardinals had 12 total first downs and averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Matt Barkley combined to complete 16-of-30 passes for 154 yards and a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Catchable throws were dropped and open receivers were missed.

Yuck.

“Very disappointing performance, especially offensively,” Arians said. “After practicing against a team all week, we should play much better. Our quarterback play was not up to par, any of the three.

“Defensively, we’ve got to do a better job of getting off the field on 3rd-and-long. It’s been a problem all camp.”

Indeed, little went right for the Cardinals as they concluded their week in San Diego. In fact, about the only real positive in the game, outside of a handful of specific players who came up big, was that it looks like Arizona escaped without any serious injuries.

However, Arians revealed after the game that receiver Larry Fitzgerald has a “slight MCL” issue and linebacker Alex Okafor has a torn biceps tendon, which may require surgery but does not necessarily have to.

“He could play with it no problem,” the coach said.

At least there’s that. That, and the fact that while the loss dropped the Cardinals to 0-2 on the preseason, it’s still the preseason. But Arians said teams find out a lot about themselves in the exhibition games.

So at some point, the Cardinals wouldn’t mind seeing the type of football that led them to 13 wins, the NFC West title and the NFC Championship game last season.

“We’ve got to get it together,” Arians said. “This is two games where we have not played very well.”

The coach cited young players’ mistakes as the reason for the first loss and noted that youth also played a role in Friday’s defeat.

Asked at what point he starts getting concerned about his sputtering offense, Arians replied, “never.”

Still, it’s time for the Cardinals to start playing better.

“You look at it and you know it’s still the preseason but at the end of the day you have to go out there and put drives together and put plays together,” running back Chris Johnson said. “I think it is just getting in that rhythm.

“There are just a few kinks we need to work out but now is the perfect time to have those problems. I feel like by next week we will work them out. I think you’ll see a totally different team by next week.”

That’s the idea.

“Every part of you says it’s the preseason because it is the preseason,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “We’ve got to continue to work — we will. You don’t let it frustrate you. You just continue to find ways to get better and look at all the areas that are good, look at all the areas that are bad, evaluate them and move forward.”

Palmer admitted there is more in the bad category than the good.

There are two preseason games left between now and the Week 1 tilt with the New England Patriots, so there is time to right the ship. The issue may be a lack of opportunities.

Last week, Palmer threw five passes during his lone drive. Against the Chargers, he attempted eight passes in his three series. Now, part of the lack of attempts and reps has to do with the offense’s inability to pick up first downs and move the ball, but even if the team was rolling, the veteran and the rest of the first-team offense still would not be on the field much.

That’s the reality of the preseason, where teams balance protecting players’ health with trying to get them ready for the games that count.

Palmer said the practices against the Chargers were more difficult than the game if only because he had more chances.

“But when you get limited opportunities you want to be perfect, and it’s hard to be perfect, and we weren’t perfect,” he added.

Given that the Cardinals had one of the best offenses in the NFL last season and returned basically everyone who contributed to that, chances are the wrinkles will get ironed out. After all, it would be difficult to picture that entire side of the ball just falling off a cliff.

The sooner it happens, the better everyone will feel.

“I just want to make first downs and move the ball like we’re capable of doing,” Arians said.

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