The most important thing for the Arizona Cardinals to do on Sunday after having two weeks to prepare for this game is to come out of the gates charging and to make a statement offensively against the defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium . All season long, the Cards have struggled to get going early, often having to mount some kind of 4th quarter comeback and eventually falling short by 3 points or less.
But in order to make that strong statement, there are a few key areas that need some drastic improvement. During the bye week, Ken Whisenhunt and his staff have focused on three major problem areas that have killed this team through the first seven games: penalties, turnovers and slow starts. All three of these factors have played a major role in the 4 Cards losses this season.
- An INT returned for a TD against the Redskins (a 2 point loss)
- An INT in the Cards red zone leading to a score against the 49ers (a 3 point loss)
- Two INTs and a fumble that led to 13 points against the Panthers (a 15 point loss)
- A fumble leading to a field goal against the Ravens (a 3 point loss)
Are we seeing a pattern here?
How about these stats; we are 29th in the league in first half scoring, but we are 5th in the league in second half scoring and 3rd in the league in 4th quarter scoring. We aren’t losing games anymore because we are being outplayed, we’re losing them because we are giving them away on a silver platter. By the time we get rolling in the fourth quarter, it’s often too little too late. There is no reason this team should not be 6-1, if not 7-0, because we are making plays. We just need to make them earlier in the game.
For the second straight year we are leading the league in penalties and penalty yards. There is no longer a question of talent or ability plauging this ballclub anymore, now it has evolved into a situation in which we are lacking the mental aspect of the game. We’ve got the tough, physical part down. The Cards are really trading blows with every team they line up against. They did it to Baltimore, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Washington; I mean this team is not backing down from anyone. And that’s great, but this team also needs to play smart, they need to not shoot themselves in the foot after they put themselves in a position to win the game. False start penalties, holding calls, pass interference calls, the list goes on and on. False start penalties are inexcuseable, they just shouldn’t happen. No one knows the snap count except the offense, you have the edge! The only reason they happen is a mental lapse, which can cost your team dearly. This just boils down to player focus, plain and simple.
Last year we came off of the bye week and won 4 out of our last 8 after going 1-7 through the first 8 games. We have 9 games left, and honestly when I look at the schedule, the most difficult part of it is already behind us. We have a tough game on the road this Sunday, but then we have home games against Detroit, San Francisco, Cleveland, Atlanta and St. Louis. IF we get our minds right, I see alot of good times in the near future.