Complete blowouts like the one that happened in Seattle on December 9 are rare. This loss to Seattle was embarrassing for an NFL team, and it embodies the Cardinals 2012 season perfectly. Here’s a look at what we learned about this team:
The team has been carried by its defense all season.
This may seem like a repeat of what has been said all season, but this game proves just how bad the team could actually be and how outstanding the defense has performed all season long. The Cardinals defense showcased what happens when a team gives up. I give a lot of credit to the defense or playing so well all year long, but the complete lack of support from the offense finally caught up to the defense.
The loss to the Jets last week was a great example of how little support the defense has received all year. They created 4 turnovers, yet the team scored 6 points for the entire game. When a defense gives up 7 points, that team should be in a good position to win. However, it never seemed like the Cardinals were even in that game.
Every play seemed futile. I bet Rex Ryan was excited when the Cardinals offense was on the field, because his entire team could rest up. Antonio Cromartie didn’t even need to cover Larry Fitzgerald, which was proven when Ryan Lindley missed a wide-open throw that would have likely resulted in a touchdown had Fitzgerald even had a chance at making the catch.
After the Jets-Cardinals game, it’s no wonder that the defense gave up against the Seahawks. It didn’t matter how well they played; the offense is so bad that even a 3-point deficit is too much to come back from.
The players have no confidence in the coaching staff.
This is quite possibly the most alarming thing we learned this week. Rarely do you see an entire team give up, but it happened on Sunday. The whole notion of playing for pride was completely forgotten. There was very little effort from anyone on the Cardinals roster, and I think it partially stems from the lack of adjustments made by the coaching staff.
Adrian Wilson, one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league, is no longer a starter. I did not see him on the field much on Sunday, and he’s always been a leader of that defense. The Cardinals have kept fairly quiet about it, but it does not appear that this move is helping the team play better. Whisenhunt has stated the contrary, but Wilson’s presence on the field has always fired up the fans and even players in the past. I can’t tell you what goes on in the locker room, but Wilson’s demotion may have been the beginning of the defense losing confidence in the coaches.
The Cardinals coaching staff is terrible.
I have never been a supporter of Ken Whisenhunt. The team went to the Super Bowl in recent years because of Kurt Warner, not because of Wisenhunt’s system. Everyone says he’s an offensive mastermind. This is clearly not the case and never has been.
So how did the Cardinals score points in the first few games of the season? Some may argue that Kevin Kolb was the reason behind their success early in the season, but I believe John Skelton would have provided similar results. The main reason is that teams had not quite adjusted to the Cardinals offensive scheme. By the fifth game of the season it was painstakingly obvious what plays the Cardinals were running.
They began using the same formations to run the exact same plays in previous weeks, and opposing teams caught on to this. If a team is going to keep a defense guessing, they need to give the defense different looks. A great example of a team showing different looks was the San Francisco 49ers game against the Chicago Bears.
The 49ers were running the same type of offense as they had been all season, except they used nearly every formation in the book to run these plays. Sure, Colin Kaepernick may force defenses to change their game plan because of his mobility, but the variety of formations made it more difficult on defenses to read the plays.
The Cardinals have had one of the most predictable offenses in the past couple of years, and they can thank Mike Miller for that. I think the offensive line, while very bad, should not be the ones to blame. Nate Potter has done a much better job at left tackle than D’Anthony Batiste, and Bobby Massie has shown improvement. The Cardinals lost Lyle Sendlein for the season, but it doesn’t really matter at this point. I would argue that the offensive line was worse towards the beginning of the season, and the Cardinals still managed to score some points and win games.
The Cardinals finally started to give their offensive line help midway through the season by leaving a tight end or running back to block on passing plays. While this was an improvement, they still haven’t done as much as they could have. Instead of leaving the quarterback in a collapsing pocket on every passing play, they could make use of more bootlegs and designed rollouts. The offensive line doesn’t have to do as much, and the quarterback can always throw the ball away if nothing develops. This isn’t any every down play, but it’s a play I’ve rarely seen the Cardinals run all season.
Why doesn’t Fitzgerald, by far the best player on the offensive side of the ball, see more action? Even with a terrible quarterback, you can find ways to get the ball to your best player. Imagine if they gave Fitzgerald a couple screen passes in a game. Fitzgerald can make guys miss and he can push defenders better than anyone else on the team. If the Cardinals completed 3 screen passes to Fitzgerald over the course of a game and he averaged 6 yards for each catch, his production would have been triple of what it was against the Seahawks.
All of these offensive woes sit on the shoulders of Whisenhunt and Miler. Russ Grimm is working with what he has, and I think the offensive line issues stem from the front office more than Grimm, so I won’t place too much of the blame on him. Miller and Whisenhunt have not shown that they have learned anything from previous weeks.
They are trying to force guys to run their system, instead of working with their players’ strengths. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve already completely destroyed Lindley’s career. He was not a guy who was prepared to be thrown into the fire yet. The flip-flopping shows no confidence in any of the quarterbacks, and it also proves that the coaches have no idea how to help these guys get better.