SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25: Tarvaris Jackson #7 of the Seattle Seahawks hands off to Marshawn Lynch #24 during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The Arizona Cardinals suffered a significant early season blow with Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Here's three key areas where the game went wrong.
Statistically, the Arizona Cardinals did a lot of things well in this game but they also did enough wrong to lose a division game to the Seattle Seahawks on the road. There's no sugar coating this one, it hurts. This was a game the Cardinals could have won and needed to win and they didn't get it done.
We've already seen the panic from the fan base with all kinds of calls for various heads. That's to be expected. What remains to be seen is how this loss impacts the locker room. It's a long week after a loss and the pressure will be on Kolb and the offense to bounce back next week at home against the New York Giants (2-1).
Here's three key points where the game went south.
1. Seahawks convert big third down on touchdown drive
Overall, the Arizona Cardinals defense did a decent job. They recorded four sacks on Tavaris Jackson in the first half and got robbed of an intentional grounding call in the second when Darnell Dockett beat his man and had Jackson wrapped up. As expected, there was less blitzing and the run defense (122 yards allowed) was solid. The young corners looked good and didn't get burnt for any big plays.
The Seahawks only put up one drive over 10 plays and 50 yards in the game. Unfortunately, that drive (14 plays, 77 yards) resulted in the only touchdown for Seattle.
The key play on that drive wasn't Jackson's 11-yard scramble for a touchdown. The key play was a 3rd and 15 conversion.
The sequence started with a false start penalty. On 1st and 15, the Cardinals got pressure with a four-man rush which forced Jackson to throw the ball in the dirt on a dump off pass. On second down, the Cardinals stuffed the run for no gain.
That brought up 3rd and 15. The Cardinals had nine guys at or within four yards of the line of scrimmage but only rushed four. Jackson out of the shotgun and 10 yards behind where the ball was snapped stepped up to avoid the edge pressure and found Doug Baldwin in single coverage against nickel back Richard Marshall for a 20-yard gain to the Arizona 34-yard line.
2. Cardinals can't covert third downs in second half
The Cardinals offense wasn't great in the first half but they weren't horrible either. 172 yards, 11 first downs, 14-18 passing from Kolb and an incredible touchdown catch from Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona also converted 40 percent of their third down opportunities.
In the second half, the wheels came off the offense. Kolb went 11-21 and didn't find Fitzgerald once. Aside from one 28-yard reception to Todd Heap, he didn't look sharp at all.
The running game had it's moments with Alfonso Smith getting 13 of his 17 attempts in the second half while Chester Taylor didn't carry once (he had 8 carries for 20 yards in the first half). Smith looked decent enough and ironically had more attempts than Beanie Wells in Washington the prior week. It will be interesting to see how Whisenhunt uses Smith and Wells together at some point.
After the Seahawks scored on their lone long drive of the day in the early part of the third quarter the Cardinals had plenty of time left in the game. The defense got stops and from that point forward only gave up one first down to Seattle in five possessions.
All Kevin Kolb had to do was put together one good drive but it didn't happen.
The Cardinals were just 1-9 on third down conversions in the second half which included: 3 & 6 from the AZ 44; 3 & 1 from AZ 29; 3 & 4 from AZ 44; 3 & 8 from AZ 16; 3 & 13 from SEA 33; 3 & 10 from SEA 48; 3 & 12 from SEA 36 that resulting in an interception.
Arizona did convert two fourth and short situations, one with a run and another on a pass interference call on a throw to Fitzgerald that was probably too high to be caught.
With out the benefit of a full field camera angle, it's hard to assign specific blame. The Seahawks didn't blitz much on third down and occasionally got pressure, especially from the edges with Clemons from whichever side he lined up.
Kolb said after the game that it was on him and the interception he threw on third down from the Seattle 36 certainly was. Fitzgerald was double-covered at the top and he seemed determined to throw to Todd Heap from the snap. The safety read Kolb all the way and jumped the rout. Andre Roberts was open underneath for a five to 10 yard throw that would have at least given Jay Feely another chance to tie the game.
Ken Whisenhunt on Monday talking about the poor third down conversion rate:
"We had mistakes on third down, especially in a couple of situation where we had chances for plays. We had two third and shorts that we didn't convert and that hurts you too. Less than a yard where your expectation is you are going to convert those. That's not acceptable.
"In looking at our plan and what we did in the game, we had our opportunities and it was all because of mistakes that we made. Those are things that we have to clean up."
3. Kicking fail
There's not much else to say here. Jay Feely has missed three field goals in three games with two against Seattle. There was wind but he missed kicking in both directions and the Seattle kicker hit one for 52 yards. There's really no excuse and this has to get fixed.
Whisenhunt expressed confidence in Feely and said he's mentally strong and will bounce back. He felt the wind pushed the first kick wide left and thought that Feely might not have hit the second one well.
If you are looking for something good, the Cardinals had just two penalties for 20 yards while the Seahawks racked up eight flags (39 yards). Arizona also won the time of possession battle by about three minutes and ran more plays. Alfonso Smith looked like a legit option backing up Beanie Wells and the no-huddle offense in the first half was effective.
For more on this game, visit Revenge of the Birds Cardinals blog:
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