Cardinals have work to do before we anoint them

Sep 11, 2016, 10:19 PM | Updated: Sep 16, 2016, 9:45 am
New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) is hit by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Pat...

New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) is hit by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A funny thing happened on the highway to Super Bowl LI in Houston. The Cardinals’ bus blew a tire.

New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels schooled Arizona defensive coordinator James Bettcher with a ball-control game plan, the Cardinals’ first-team offense was missing in action again, Arizona’s special teams were dreadful and Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo dinked and dunked his way to 264 passing yards and a 23-21 win at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Too bad it was 107 degrees at kickoff. It might have helped to open the roof in Glendale and allow all that hot preseason hype to escape.

“Obviously, a very disappointing loss,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We didn’t really play well enough in any phase — special teams, offense or defense — to win this game.”

The Cardinals still had a chance to win until rookie long snapper Kameron Canaday’s snap was low and kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide-left with 41 seconds remaining.

“Any time you lose a game it is a tough pill to swallow,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “We came out too slow, and when you have to win it with a late field goal, you’re obviously behind the 8-ball.”

It’s fair to call this loss troubling. The Cardinals’ supposedly improved defense missed a number of assignments, it couldn’t cover the Patriots’ bread and butter crossing routes or short passing game, it couldn’t get off the field on third down (New England was 10 of 16) and it couldn’t sustain any pressure on Garoppolo despite the trumpeted offseason trade for outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who had a sack and a fumble recovery but was a non-factor for most of the game.

Arizona’s kickoff returns left it with consistently poor field position, there was the missed field goal and the first-team offense looked much like it had during the preseason; a shell of the unit that was last seen for certain game on Dec 27. against Green Bay.

“It went in spurts,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “We had it going for a little bit but nothing sustained.”

All of those issues will be addressed when Arians and his staff reconvene on Monday, but championships aren’t won in September. So tap the brakes on your freeway drive into hysteria. A lot of good teams have stumbled out of the blocks over the years and righted the ship in plenty of time for a playoff run.

Arians insisted the Cardinals were ready to play on Sunday; they just didn’t play. That doesn’t mean the season is lost. That doesn’t mean the Super Bowl is out of reach. It just means the Cardinals lost a game in Week 1 of a very long season.

“There’s lots that should stick with us,” Fitzgerald said. “We can’t just roll the ball on the field and come out there and expect to win against anybody — backup quarterback, no Rob Gronkowski, no (Rob) Ninkovich. They were playing at half-mast and they came out here and took it to us at home. That’s just a prime example of what you’re dealing with in the National Football League. You have to come and play for 60 minutes against whomever you play or you’re not going to come out victorious.

“The good thing about it is it’s just Week 1. We have 15 regular season games to go. We’ve got to stay with the process. We know it’s a recipe that’s proven for success.”

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Cardinals have work to do before we anoint them