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Turning Victory Over To Defeat

Posted Sep 28, 2009

As statistics prove, Cardinals' turnovers lead to predictable 31-10 loss

Larry Fitzgerald can't hang on to a Kurt Warner pass late in the first half Sunday night, and the bouncing ball was eventually intercepted in the Colts' end zone.
 
 
Floating around the Cardinals last week as the popular stat of the moment was this very simple gem: Under coach Ken Whisenhunt, the Cardinals were 17-0 when winning the turnover margin in a game and only 1-15 when they were on the wrong end.

Those cold, indisputable facts -- at least, the latter -- had a tangible face Sunday night. The Indianapolis Colts came into University of Phoenix Stadium and handled the Cards, 31-10. That was hard enough for a team expecting to make a statement on NBC's "Sunday Night Football," but the game changed in large part because of two Cardinals turnovers inside the Indy 5-yard line.

In the end, the Cardinals weren't surprised to find their record move to 1-16 when losing the turnover battle.

"It obviously deflates you," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "The nature of (the turnovers) was obviously disappointing, because against a team like that, you?ve got to take everything you get a chance to take -- and we didn't do that today."

There was so much more to the loss, of course. The Cardinals' defense dealt with Peyton Manning for the first time ever (Manning played just three snaps in their meaningless 2005 season finale) and Manning was in vintage form: 379 yards and four touchdown passes.

The Colts got the big plays -- seven of at least 20 yards -- and the Cardinals just couldn't. Larry Fitzgerald was wide open on one bomb attempt and Warner simply overthrew him. There were other times when Whisenhunt felt there were receivers open downfield but Warner had no chance to get them the ball because of the massive pressure from the Colts' pass rush.

Half the Sunday Night shootout showed up. But it wasn't the contest expected, nor the result the Cardinals needed.

"There are plays out there to be made," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "We didn't make the plays and they did, and that was obvious."

And the biggest plays ended up being the turnovers.

Just last week, running back Tim Hightower almost seemed irritated at the attention the fumbles of rookie Beanie Wells had attracted, down to the ball Whisenhunt made Wells carry around all week. It could happen to anybody, Hightower said, noting it could have very well happened to him.

Then Sunday night, it did. Hightower lost the ball so close to the end zone and a probable 10-0 lead with a noisy crowd and momentum. The Colts instead got the ball and marched 95 yards for a touchdown and the lead.

The second was nearly as painful, with the Cards down 21-3 but moving toward a touchdown and knowing they would have the ball to start the second half. This time, they were only one yard away from the end zone. But a pass that was originally supposed to go to Boldin instead morphed into a Warner scramble and throw to Fitzgerald that glanced off his hands and ultimately into the hands of the Colts' Antoine Bethea.

"The one fumble was bad," tackle Mike Gandy said. "Then the interception. At some point, we have to learn to put our foot down and turn the momentum the other way."

Said Hightower, "We shot ourselves in the foot too often. We didn't give ourselves a chance."

The Cardinals had actually intercepted Manning early in the game and had a brief 1-0 turnover lead. That seemed to bode well. Three turnovers of the Cardinals later -- Warner had another ball picked off when he was hit when throwing -- the outcome was doomed.

It wasn't hard to analyze either.

"We have to be able to weather the storm," Fitzgerald said. "There are going to be turnovers, there are going to be mistakes made. It's how you respond."

The Cardinals have a bye now, with two weeks to mull their less-than-desirable circumstances and respond. Warner said he's looking forward to the break physically, and after being battered against the Colts, you'd expect as much. His hip is still healing, and a couple of times he looked to be in pain after landing on his sore right shoulder.

Truthfully, they had a sort of mulligan Sunday, with both the 49ers (thanks to Brett Favre's miracle) and the Seahawks (thanks to Olindo Mare) losing. At 1-2, the Cards are still only a game out of first place in the NFC West.

Yet their home-field advantage hasn't been that this season. Two games, two disappointing losses at the UoP, a place where the Cardinals had hoped to build their case for a repeat division championship.

That's not going to happen turning the ball over. The statistics prove it.

"The thing I think is most frustrating is that we know what we're capable of doing," Warner said. "And we just not doing it right now."

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