On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals suffered as a bad a loss they could have suffered. It wasn't that they were completely dominated by the Atlanta Falcons, it was because they lost a game they had no excuse losing. They forced six turnovers, but were unable to move the ball almost at all outside of LaRod Stephens-Howling.
Here is the good and the bad...
The Hyphen has another career day
If there were any doubts about whether the diminutive LaRod Stephens-Howling could be an every down back, he is quickly quashing them. For the second time this season, he set a career high in yards with 127, 113 in the first half. He had two runs of over 40 yards, giving the running game a big play threat that it doesn't normally have. He was teh only part of the offense that worked, and unfortunately it wasn't there in the second half.
The defense and its takeaways
The Arizona defense picked off Matt Ryan five times and recovered a fumble, including the first play from scrimmage. They were active and made Ryan make bad decisions. They only got one sack, but the turnovers gave the offense every opportunity to score points.
The kicking game was working
Kicker Jay Feely missed field goals in three straight games earlier this season and essentially cost the team at least one game. He got back on track. with four made kicks. Dave Zastudil was also effective. He had three punts inside the 20 and averaged over 50 yards a kick. He even had a pair of 60-yarders. He did his job with field position.
The running game stalled in the second half
LSH had his 127 yards on 22 carries, but the second half was tough going. His first half numbers were 10 carries for 113 yards. The second? 12 carries for 14 yards. He was never able to bust free for any gains at all, inside or out. Of course, had the passing game been able to do anything at all, things might have been different, but since no one could complete passes, Atlanta was able to key in on LSH.
John Skelton was 2/7 for six yards. Ryan Lindley was 9/20 for 64 yards. In all...11/27 for 70 yards. Skelton was just not on target, which prompted his benching. Lindley was not much better, although in the fourth quarter there were a pair of two beautiful throws that Andre Roberts and Larry Fitzgerald just couldn't quite hold on to.
Larry Fitzgerald and his mental lapses
This is one thing you don't ever expect to have happen. Fitz just doesn't mess up. But he did on Sunday -- twice.
The first was in the second quarter when Ryan Lindley was hit while attempting to throw the ball and it was ruled a fumble. When the ball hit the ground next to Fitz, he ran off the field instead of grabbing the ball because the whistle was not blown. That ended up being the deciding play of the game because if he picks it up or even falls on it, Jonathan Babineaux does not pick it up and score. Take away seven points and Arizona wins. Even more...if he grabs the ball and runs with it, the drive continues.
The other was in the final moments on fourth down when Arizona had their last offensive play. Lindley threw Fitz a beautiful ball on the sideline that Fitz snagged. He got both feet down, but as he went to the ground and rolled over, he did not maintain possession. Game over. That is a play that he makes each and every time.
Maybe his frustration got the best of him, but it was just yet another example of leaving a play on the field that should have been made. And that is why the team is not winning.