Cardinals look for stretch of ‘winnable games’

Arizona’s offense was very bad last season and not much, if any,
better through seven games this year.

A new, offensive-minded coach and a new quarterback have yet to
solve the issue that has been at the heart of the franchise’s
problems since Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 season.

Now coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer are looking
at a schedule over the next month that holds hope for something
better.

Palmer calls it a stretch of ”very winnable games.”

It starts with an Oct. 27 home game against Atlanta. That will
be followed by a bye week, then a home game against Houston and a
trip to Jacksonville.

That’s a bit less daunting than facing San Francisco and Seattle
in a five-day span.

Both of those games were 12-point losses, but the Cardinals
played much better at the 49ers than in Thursday night’s 34-22 home
loss to the Seahawks.

Palmer threw two interceptions and was sacked seven times by the
Seahawks.

”That’s a very good front but we did not play as well as we’ve
been playing,” Arians said on Monday. ”(Left tackle) Bradley
(Sowell) struggled, obviously, with his pressures. (Right tackle)
Eric (Winston) struggled with pressure, (right guard) Paul
(Fanaica) struggled. The only guy that played really well up front
was (center) Lyle (Sendlein).

”Not only in pass protection but in running the ball we
struggled,” Arians said.

That left his trademark downfield passing philosophy in
tatters.

”I think this it’s the first time in 20 years in the NFL we
came out of the game with no explosive plays, runs or passes,” the
coach said.

The Cardinals (3-4) managed just 30 yards rushing in 18
attempts. Rashard Mendenhall gained 22 yards on 13 carries.

Arians would not put the blame on Palmer, who has become a
lightning rod for fan criticism after throwing 13 interceptions
this season, 11 in the last five games.

Both interceptions by Seattle, Arians said, were not Palmer’s
fault ”whatsoever.” He said the same thing about the two
interceptions against San Francisco.

Asked to assess Palmer’s performance, Arians said, ”I’ve got to
give him credit for standing. You get hit that many times and you
still stand in there. Looking back, neither interception was his
fault whatsoever. He protected the football like he needed to.
We’ve got to make better plays.”

Palmer ran out of the pocket a few times, but not by design.

”He was running for his life,” Arians said. ”That’s not his
style.”

Winston said protecting Palmer was difficult because Seattle
continuously rotates fresh players into the defensive front.

”We’ve got to play better up front,” Winston said.
”Obviously, the sacks are a concern, anytime you put a big of a
number in a game. But most of all we’ve got to create a more clean
pocket, more time for him, where he can step up and really make
some throws. We’ve got to start striving toward that. I think if
we’re striving toward that the sacks will come down because he’ll
be able to get his passes off more quickly.”’

The extra time off this weekend is welcome.

”Anytime you play two division games as close as we have, as
tough as we have, it’s nice to be able to take Saturday and Sunday
and just take a deep breath, regroup, see where you’re at, then
come in with a clear mind to Atlanta and really put all our effort
knowing that it’s the only game we’ll play in the next two weeks,”
Winston said. ”Well really be able to take a wholesale evaluation
of the season after the eight-game mark.”

Defense has been carrying the Cardinals, but there were
breakdowns early on a pair of drives that put Seattle up 14-0.

”Defensively, we didn’t come out with the s peed that we had
been playing,” Arians said. ”We kind of felt our way and
uncharacteristically had quite a few mental errors in that (first
drive). Once we realized they’re just doing what we practiced and
what we watched on film we played pretty solid.”

He had praise for outside linebacker John Abraham and defensive
end Calais Campbell. Abraham had two sacks. Campbell had a big stop
of Russell Wilson on a fourth-and-inches play and recovered a
fumble.

”You never think about praising guys in a loss,” Arians said,
” but those guys were outstanding.”

Arians said there is plenty of time to turn things around.

”Beat Atlanta, get back to .500,” he said, ”and then I think
we can string some together. Our goal is still in sight. That’s to
make the playoffs.”

Notes: Arizona defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu was fined $10,000
for kicking San Francisco guard Alex Boone in the face Sunday.
Boone was called for a personal foul during the exchange and docked
$7,875. Ta’amu wasn’t penalized on the field for his kick. The
Cardinals’ Darnell Dockett also was fined $7,875 for a late hit in
that game.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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