Offense stumbles in Cardinals' second road loss
For the second week in a row, the Arizona Cardinals blew a chance to win late on the road. This time, the offense shoulders the biggest share of the blame.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt called the performance of quarterback Kevin Kolb ''uneven'' in Sunday's 13-10 loss at Seattle.
The Cardinals were driving for a potential game-winning TD or at least a game-tying field goal and were at the Seahawks 36-yard line when Kolb's pass was intercepted by Kam Chancellor at the Seattle 25 with 1:04 to play.
Whisenhunt noted that Kolb still is a relatively inexperienced quarterback, making his ninth NFL start and third in his new system with Arizona.
''You have to understand he's in a completely different scheme than what he's used to running,'' the coach said at his Monday news conference. ''He's been in this scheme for a very short time and we're asking him to do things he's never done before. All of those contribute to having some growing pains, and we went through that a little bit yesterday.''
Whisenhunt said the Cardinals don't want Kolb to force things.
''I believe that when we are confident and execute, he does a very good job,'' Whisenhunt said. ''He made some good throws. The one throw to Larry (Fitzgerald) on the sideline yesterday was a great throw. Even with all that said, we still had our opportunities yesterday, and the thing that we'll do is we'll learn from it and get better. I have no doubts that we'll continue to improve offensively, especially at the quarterback position, as we progress.''
Kolb wasn't around to talk to reporters in the locker room on Monday, but after the game he simply said, ''I was not very good.''
He completed 25 of 39 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted twice and sacked three times. Kolb threw to Fitzgerald just twice in the second half. Both fell incomplete.
''Yesterday they really tried to take him (Fitzgerald) out of the game in the second half by doubling, and there were a lot of things that were open on the other side of the field,'' Whisenhunt said. ''We have to be better about hitting those things, because if you do that, then they have to honor the coverage and it will give you opportunities to get it back to Larry.''
Arizona was especially bad on third down, going 3 for 14 - 1 for 6 in the second half. Those statistics can be blamed, in part, on the absence of oft-injured Beanie Wells. After gaining nearly 100 yards in each of his first two games, the big running back injured a hamstring in practice last Thursday and didn't play on Sunday.
''It was one of those things where we were being extra cautious with it,'' Wells said. ''You know how those things are, they can linger three, four, five weeks and we didn't want that at all.''
He said he is ''100 percent'' certain he will play Sunday when the New York Giants come to Arizona. Whisenhunt also said there is a good chance that running back, kickoff returner and special teams ace LaRod Stephens-Howling will be back after missing two games with a hand injury.
Chester Taylor was ineffective - 20 yards in eight carries - so the Cardinals mostly went with Alfonso Smith, a second-year player who spent most of last season on the practice squad. Smith gained 54 yards in 17 attempts.
''I feel like I showed them that they can depend on me to go in there if Beanie goes down,'' Smith said. ''I feel like throughout the game that my confidence picked up a whole lot. I know that I can go in there and do what they ask me.''
The offensive struggles spoiled the defense's best game of the season. The Cardinals allowed 262 yards, only 139 through the air.
It was a rough day, too, for kicker Jay Feely, who missed from 51 and 49 yards in windy, wet conditions.
''The wind was swirling and you couldn't really get a handle on exactly where it is,'' Feely said, ''but those are both kicks I feel like I should have made.''
The 51-yard field goal try was long enough but the wind helped take it to the left. The 49-yarder was directly into the wind and fell short.
Arizona (1-2) has lost the last two weeks on the road by a combined four points - 22-21 at Washington and 13-10 at Seattle.
''We're the ones stopping ourselves right now,'' guard Daryn Colledge said. ''We've got to get a lot of guys in synch. We've got a lot of new guys in here and time's ticking by. We've got a lot of games left but we've let a couple slip by. To lose two games by four points, that hurts.
''Those games are the ones you need come November.''