As the game gradually wore on this past Sunday in New Orelans, you could see with the defense out on the field so much, it was wearing on the Arizona Cardinals defense. The offense continually stalled drive after drive after drive. They would move the ball, get a couple first downs, and punt. After the first drive of the game, it was the same routine until the end.
The Cards can’t do that this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cards have to find a way to move the ball. They have to sustain drives, especially now in the wake of the three season-ending injuries the Cards suffered on defense this past Sunday. The offense needs to give the Cards time to get the new linebackers on the roster settled into their positions. You don’t want the Tampa game coming down to a defensive stand because in my opinion quite frankly, I don’t think even against a rookie quarterback in Mike Glennon, they would be able to stop him if the defense has had to spend the majority of the day on the field.
The Saints ran 74 plays to the just 55 for the Cards last week. In Tampa’s loss to the New England Patriots, they may have been beaten 23-3 but their offense had 66 plays while holding New England to just 72. They have shown they can keep the ball for awhile no matter the quarterback. The big difference should be who is behind center and now with Glennon behind center for the Bucs this week, it could mean the difference of 10-20 plays on each side of the ball. That would be a huge lift to have 20 fewer plays on the field for the defense.
The Cards need to get back to the balance they had on the first drive against the Saints, when they ran a pass play six times and ran the ball five times, including running back Alfonso Smith’s 21-yard scamper and his touchdown run. After that drive though, they went away from that balance and inexplicably went away from Smith. Running back Rashard Mendenhall ran the ball ok in the carries he got, but why not continue with what works?
Of course the biggest key in maintaining drives is not turning the ball over. Quarterback Carson Palmer had two picks in the loss to the Saints. One of them you just had to wonder what he was looking at? The other was just an overthrow. Also, the Cards must get better on third down conversions. They’ve just plain stunk at converting them the last two weeks. They are a paltry 6-24 on third down conversions the past two weeks. That won’t sustain any drives and is a good way to wear your defense down. It also won’t win you football games most Sunday’s.