When the Cardinals took their midgame breather against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday afternoon, they found one word awaiting them on the whiteboard in their locker room.
It might still be there when they return to University of Phoenix Stadium for this weekend’s game against the San Diego Chargers. The Cardinals struggled through their first two preseason games where it counted most: Inside the 20-yard-line. Their red zone efficiency, which only accounts for touchdowns, is only 11 percent. In nine trips inside the 20, the Cards have scored just once, on a 1-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback
“I’m disappointed in the red zone,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We talk a lot about production time, not possession time. And possession time doesn’t do anything to me.
“You can hold it for 35 minutes and if you score 15 points you’re probably going to get beat. It’s production time. What
Arians’ objective is to score a point a minute, a goal he reached a few times last year in Indianapolis and on more than a few occasions in Pittsburgh. But the Cardinals can’t seem to get across the goal line. They’re averaging 14.5 points per game in about 33 minutes per game with the ball -- not quite the equation Arians had in mind.
Arians blamed the bevy of missed opportunities in the red zone on mental errors, which are magnified as the offense approaches the end zone. There was
“Rookie mistake,” Arians said. “Little things that are easily correctible but I’m tired of seeing them.”
The Cardinals didn’t spend much time on their red zone offense on Monday, instead patching up mental mistakes on various plays, Mendenhall said. But the running back expects to spend plenty of time inside the 20 the rest of the week.
“When the field’s condensed like that, you can’t really afford to mess up like that,” he said. “I think it’s mental errors. If we’re where we’re supposed to be then we can turn those drives into points.
“We’re closer than we think.”
Arians calls the red zone the “grimy” area because of the difficulty finishing plays inside the 20, and when they happen, they’re usually because someone is scraping and clawing their way to a touchdown.
He’s pleased with the Cardinals’ play between the 20s and with Palmer’s ability to march the offense downfield. But that doesn’t produce touchdowns, Arians added.
“You can’t go 96 yards,” he said, “and not get anything.”
The Cardinals need to go back to the white board, and finish.