Wide receiver Early Doucet flies through the air while trying to make a catch Sunday. Doucet suffered a concussion on the play.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The questions were basically the same, because the result – and how the Cardinals got there – was basically the same.
Mistakes, ones as linebacker Joey Porter
emphasized the Cardinals are not good enough to overcome, came too often. Nothing giant, mind you. An errant throw here. A missed tackle there. A dropped pass, or a foolish penalty. Not downing a punt inside the opponent’s 5-yard line.
The statistics were all but even Sunday. Except for the penalties. Oh, and the final score, a 31-13 win for the Chiefs over the reeling Cards.
The last place to find answers in such a situation is going to be the post-game locker room. There is nothing new to say.
“I feel this is the lowest we can go,” wide receiver Steve Breaston
said quietly. “You have a Monday night game, national TV, better show up there. If you don’t show up there, we’re going to be embarrassed on national TV.”
The game at University of Phoenix Stadium in a week can’t be what ESPN envisioned when the schedule first came out. Everyone knows the hype the San Francisco 49ers
received in the offseason. But the Cardinals weren’t supposed to be in this spot either.
For a second straight game they took the opening kickoff and went down to score. It was only a field goal, but it was enough – at least at that point. The defense forced a punt. This was how it was supposed to go.
Then a drive stalled when the Cardinals couldn’t convert a third-and-1 near midfield, when rookie tight end Jim Dray
could block Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali and the disruption ruined the play. It was the first of too many errors.
Three times the Cardinals suffered major penalties because they felt the Chiefs were taking illegal liberties that weren’t flagged. Center Lyle Sendlein
came in at the end of a running play when it looked like Beanie Wells
took an unnecessary shot from a Chief at the end of the play. Linebacker Gerald Hayes
shoved tight end Jake O’Connell after O’Connell had grabbed his facemask on a straight arm. Quarterback Derek Anderson
flipped the ball away hard enough to draw a flag – Anderson said the official told him he was “disrespecting” the game – even though Anderson seemed to be rightfully angry he had been tackled despite the Chiefs calling time out.
It wasn’t just the penalties, however. One killer came when cornerback Trumaine McBride
, working as a gunner in punt coverage, got downfield in plenty of time to get in front of a perfect Ben Graham
punt, except he didn’t get in front of it. The ball found its way into the end zone, and the Chiefs got an extra 15 or so yards out of it.
“Good football teams don’t do (that),” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “And right now we are not playing like a good football team.”
The Chiefs also ended up with a number of big plays that chewed up chunks of yards. And the Cards still struggled to convert third downs and couldn’t find the end zone until the final play. “We have to find ways to score touchdowns instead of field goals,” Anderson said.
But again, these are the issues that have been hashed and re-hashed.
“It’s all about heart,” Breaston said. “You have to find something. This team needs to understand when a team goes up on us, the game ain’t over yet. We’ve got to find it in somebody. There has got to be a group of guys who step up.”
There has been a lot of speculation of whether Whisenhunt has lost the locker room, but when everyone ends up repeating the same message – in this case, that this team isn’t good enough to commit mistakes and still win – that usually is coming from the top, and isn’t repeated if the top is out of touch.
That’s what was happening Sunday in the cramped visitors’ locker room at Arrowhead Stadium.
“This is no time to sulk,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald
said, knowing there are three straight home games coming up. As frustrating as the Cards’ losing streak has been, don’t think they didn’t notice the rest of the NFC West all lost Sunday. As one player put it when it was suggested that 8-8 or even 7-9 wins the division – and that amazingly doesn’t rule out the Cards – “Wouldn’t that be something?”
First though, the Cardinals have to do something different than what they have been doing. And give themselves a chance to answer some different questions.