NFL Wire News

Red zone proves to be Cardinals’ kryptonite


The Sports Xchange

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals believe they are good enough to contend for the Super Bowl. To get there, however, their offense must play better against stout defenses.

That unit’s failures contributed greatly to the team’s two losses, to the St. Louis Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Those are the best defenses the Cardinals faced, and the bottom-line offensive numbers weren’t pretty. Six turnovers. Two touchdowns in nine red-zone opportunities. Failures to score late in the games.

A year ago, the Cardinals thrived in close games and finished 11-5. This year, their four victories were blowouts, while their two losses came in the only close games they played.

The red-zone failures are especially interesting, considering the team scored touchdowns on 16 of 17 red-zone opportunities in the four victories.

“Our issues are pretty simple to me,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “In both games we lost, we did not execute in the red zone. So it is not a lot of problems we have to fix. It is just one glaring one.”

There are multiple facets to that one failure, so it’s not that easy to correct. In those two games, the Cardinals rushed seven times in the red zone. They lost yards on five of those carries.

Quarterback Carson Palmer was sacked twice and had a pass intercepted in those scoring chances. Running back David Johnson dropped a potential touchdown pass. Tight end Jermaine Gresham dropped a pass. Against the Steelers, the officials made a couple of questionable calls.

To coach Bruce Arians, the problems aren’t just in the red zone. Throughout the season, he has noticed the Cardinals having lulls, in all phases. In preparing for Baltimore this week, Arians is emphasizing concentration at all times.

“Just grow from it,” Arians said of the failures in the first six weeks. “It’s just … October. Each team finds an identity as a season grows. We never set out to win 16 in a row. We just wanted to win each one and learn from each one. Play as hard as we could for 60 minutes. We do about 55 to 56, and those other four are hurting us.”

SERIES HISTORY: 6th regular-season meeting. Ravens lead series, 4-1. This is the Ravens’ first game at University of Phoenix Stadium, which opened in 2006. Baltimore’s last visit to Arizona came in 2003, when the Cardinals played at Sun Devil Stadium. Baltimore has won the past four games in the series, and the past two meetings each were decided by three points.

About The Sports Xchange

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business