SARASOTA, Fla. — If the Arizona Cardinals expect their offense to show some signs of life, it must begin succeeding on third down.
The Cardinals are six for 24 on third downs the last two games, and coach Bruce Arians blames it simply on a lack of focus. Arizona had four first-half possessions stall in Saints territory in Sunday’s 31-7 loss at New Orleans.
The Cardinals punted eight straight times after a game-opening touchdown drive and that ineptness, Arians said, eventually took a toll on the defense.
Arizona dodged the rainstorms to work out in Florida on Wednesday. The Cardinals chose to go to the Sarasota area to practice rather than return to Arizona and have to fly to Florida this week for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.
“We had several opportunities to make plays and we didn’t get it done,” Arians said of the poor performance in the Big Easy. “We had a 3rd and 3 and hit a pass for two yards. We were in manageable situations all game and couldn’t get it done. We got the ball at the 50 in a 14-7 game and we couldn’t make anything happen offensively.”
Because the offense couldn’t stay on the field, the defense withered against the potent Saints.
“I thought our defense played a good game but eventually they got tired,” Arians added.
Quarterback Carson Palmer said Wednesday that it’s important for the offense not to get frustrated with last week’s struggles as they prepare to take on the 0-3 Buccaneers this week.
“We take the first drive of the game and score really fast so it’s easy to think the points are going to come quickly,” Palmer said. “When that doesn’t happen it can get frustrating. But you can’t think about what could have happened or why we didn’t take advantage of that opportunity. You just have to focus on what’s happening now.”
Arians has preached to his team that failure to execute little things can add up to big problems. That includes the 10-year veteran Palmer.
“It’s never just one or two things,” Palmer added. “It’s a ton of things I can do better. Consistently working on mechanics, reads, timing. And there’s so much to practice Wednesday because that’s the day we implement so much of the packages and things we’re going to do Sunday.”
The Cardinals’ stay in Sarasota has been a wet one thus far. Heavy rains have drenched central Florida since Monday and it’s kept much of the team stuck at their hotel. Wednesday afternoon the Cardinals opted to practice on the outdoor fields at IMG Academy despite the wet conditions.
“We’re dealing with the weather and we’ll make do the best we can with it,” Arians said. “Obviously, this wasn’t expected when we made the plans.”
Arians said that had he known about the weather he would have picked a different location along the East Coast.
“”We would have gone somewhere that I knew it wasn’t going to rain or a place that had an indoor facility,” Arians joked.
Palmer said that after being stuck in the hotel for a couple of days it was just good to be able to practice, especially for the team’s first outdoor game this season.
“Who knows what’s going to happen on Sunday, so this is good preparation because we’ve been playing indoors and practicing indoors a lot,” Palmer said. “It’s good to get out and move around and sweat and do all that.”
Rookie linebacker Alex Okafor was lost for the season with a torn bicep. Okafor joins Lorenzo Alexander (Lisfranc injury) and Sam Acho (broken fibula) on the injured reserve.
Okafor was expected to start for Acho at strong-side linebacker. He said the injury happened on special teams coverage last week.
“I was a little disappointed because this was my opportunity to step in and help the team out but unfortunately these things happen,” Okafor said.
Dontay Moch, promoted from the practice squad on Monday, is likely to replace Okafor in the starting lineup.
“He brings a lot of speed and he has really long arms,” Arians said of Moch. “He’s been very tough to block in practice. I’m very eager to see him play.”