Where is there to go from here? It's the media's job to lean lazily on hyperbole, so this should come as no surprise, but: the season just feels lost for the Arizona Cardinals. This was as much a "must-win" game as there is in the NFL outside of a game where, literally, losing means you miss the playoffs and winning means you make the playoffs. And the Cards just did not come to play, on offense or defense.
The defense has been up and down for the entire season and yesterday, it was spectacularly down. The secondary couldn't do anything to stop Mike Williams, who had 11 catches for 145 yards and helped the Seahawks convert six of their 15 third down attempts. The ‘Hawks amassed 490 yards of total offense, including 333 passing yards from Matt Hasselbeck and 110 yards on the ground. The Cardinals defense again held up in the red zone, allowing only two touchdowns in eight trips, but the D is getting killed by big plays that add points without needing a snap in the red zone. The defense gave up 18 different gains of 10 or more yards, including six plays with 20 or more yards gained. Being stout in the red zone doesn't mean much when you're single-ply toilet paper in the open field.
The offense was -- spoiler alert here -- terrible. Again. Sort of sounds like the chorus to an overplayed song. Derek Anderson had a pretty okay passing day, going 23-for-45 for 322 yards and a touchdown, but his best buddy, the turnover, showed up again. He threw one pick (that wasn't entirely his fault ... the ball bounced out of Larry Fitzgerald's hands and into the defender's) and lost a fumble. The important part here is that the offense had only two touchdowns, one from Anderson-to-Doucet and the other a short run from Tim Hightower. Fourteen points and some field goals isn't going to do it when your D is giving up so many points to the opposition. Third down conversions continued to be a problem, as well, as the Cardinals only gained first downs on two of their 11 third downs.
The running game was ineffective. Granted, Beanie Wells was inactive, LaRod Stephens-Howling excited the game with a minor hamstring injury, and Jason Wright was knocked out of the game with a head injury, but Hightower only gained 39 yards on 13 carries. Also doesn't help that the Cardinals were playing from way behind once more, so they stopped trying to run after a while. But, going into the season, with the uncertainty at quarterback, the two keys for overcoming that were an effective defense and an effective running game, and neither of those facets has been remotely functional for the whole of the season. So, the Cardinals are left to hope that Anderson will lead them to victory and everyone knows that's just not reality.
The offensive line is just disgusting, and I mean that in a bad way, not in some ironic lingo sort of way. They haven't been great at opening up running lanes and they've been terrible at protecting the quarterback. Anderson was sacked five times on Sunday. The tackles, in particular, are shoddy when it comes to shoring the edges. The line as a whole is allowing 3.7 sacks a game. For a quarterback that needs as much time in the pocket as Anderson does, being under that much pressure is just not conducive to accuracy and smart decision-making.
The leadership on the Arizona Cardinals is absolutely suspect at this point. One of the biggest competitive advantages the team had over other teams in the NFC West was the abundance of veteran leaders like Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Joey Porter, Adrian Wilson and Alan Fancea, and a strong coaching staff believed to be the best in the division. Now, however, with a talented roster seemingly unwilling or unable to eliminate the mental errors and slinking into surrender, it would appear that leadership is either severely flawed or missing in action. Who gets the blame? I gave the coaching staff certain leniencies coming into the season, but the things that are still within the team's control are not being controlled. They're killing themselves and as each week goes by, they don't seem to be learning. Has the team tuned out? Have they stopped caring? Someone needs to take emotional inventory in that locker room and make the necessary adjustments to attitude and aptitude.