Dec 29, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws a pass in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
As the NFL Wild-Card weekend continues today, my hope is that the Arizona Cardinals players are taking notice and tuning in. Of the teams playing this weekend, the Cards played five games against four of them. You can look directly at those games and those teams as reason why the Cards are watching on television and not playing.
The Cards went 1-4 against the teams playing this weekend. The lone victory was over the Indianapolis Colts. They pretty much figured the Colts out in the blowout. As for the others? Well, there is some work to do.
Starting with the San Francisco 49ers. The Cards lost both games to the Niners. Win both and they are in Green Bay today and not the Niners. The Cards could have won both. They held a 22-20 lead going to the fourth quarter in San Francisco back in October. The offense though couldn’t maintain a drive, partly thanks to a turnover but the defense spent too much time on the field. The offense needs to maintain longer drives. The nine minute drive the Niners went on to take the lead in the fourth was a back breaker. The defense was beat.
In the second game against the Niners, they spotted them too much of a lead at 17-0 in the first quarter. Sure, the offense was able to bring them back but the team spent too much energy in bringing them back. You could make the excuse the Cards missed two field goals that would have won the game but the offense again needs touchdowns, not field goals. You can’t rely on the kicker to win games for you.
In the game at the New Orleans Saints, it was the offense again that couldn’t maintain drives. It wore the Cards defense down by being on the field too long. The cards had a hard time with third-down conversions all season. They were up 7-0 early but after the first drive, it was a struggle all game to keep the offense on the field. As it was, it was still only a 17-7 game going to the fourth quarter.
Then there is the game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles got up 24-7 thanks to Carson Palmer interceptions and the defense’s continued lack of being able to cover a tight end. Once again though, the offense brought the Cards back to within 24-21 in the fourth quarter and had a chance to get the ball twice for a game-winning drive. You can blame the poor officiating for the chances going by the wayside, however, the refs had nothing to do with the Cards falling into the 24-7 hole.
So, even in the losses, some adjustments could have turned any of those games. Maintain longer drives, cover tight ends on defense, and hold onto the ball. Do those three things and today could have shaped up a whole lot differently. So, now, hopefully the Cards are watching the games and taking note. The Saints won their first road playoff game, ever. The Colts made a great comeback yesterday. It may be difficult for the Cards to watch the Niners later against the Green Bay Packers but hopefully they pay attention. It may very well be them in that position next season.