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Loss Could Spark Bye Week Changes

Posted Nov 4, 2012

Cardinals fall to Packers, 31-17, as they head into their break

Tight end Rob Housler can't hang on to a pass during Sunday's 31-17 loss to the Packers in Green Bay.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The refrain was the same – a “broken record” was how coach Ken Whisenhunt termed it – and the Cardinals don’t want to hear that song repeated any more.

The team lost its fifth straight Sunday, 31-17 to the Packers at Lambeau Field, in a game that seemed available had the Cardinals made it work. They could not, and Whisenhunt talked of his team’s upcoming off week to see if there was a way to tinker with the moving parts.

“If we have to make changes or we have to put different guys in there, that’s what the bye week is for,” Whisenhunt said.

“There’s got to be a better sense of urgency.”

Whisenhunt’s move of rookie Nate Potter into the left tackle spot in the first quarter was an example – Whisenhunt said Potter fared well – but only a single move. That couldn’t solve the multiple drops by receivers that were costly, nor the defensive breakdowns that allowed the Packers (6-3) to put up more points against the Cardinals (4-5) than any other team this season.

Mixed emotions met a team that is still fighting its demons after a 4-0 start but seem to be getting a needed break.

“It’s like, yeah and no,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said of wanting the bye, and no one seemed anxious to sit on a losing streak for an extra week.

“I can only speak for myself,” Dockett added, “but I’m not going into no tank.”

The defense, save for one ill-timed 72-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the third quarter – finally popped out in the second half, allowing Green Bay just four first downs. The problem was that the Packers had 16 first downs in the first half while building a 21-7 lead.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, completing 69 percent of his passes this season, managed to connect on only 14-of-30. Sub-.500 should have been a winning recipe, except that four of the completions went for touchdowns and the Packers – who have struggled running – piled up a season-high 176 rushing yards.

Still, the Cards were in position to be in the game somehow by the end of the third quarter, before a sequence that became a backbreaker. The Cardinals had a third-and-1 at the Green Bay 2-yard line trailing by 14. A run into the line with running back LaRod Stephens-Howling was stuffed for no gain.

Whisenhunt said he thought the play was blocked correctly – “It should have gotten yardage,” he said – but the Cards had to settle for a field goal. That was the right call, quarterback John Skelton said, and the way the defense had been holding steady, a seven-point lead wasn’t insurmountable.

Two plays later, Rodgers lofted a pass over the head of linebacker Paris Lenon to tight end Tom Crabtree, who was a few steps behind Lenon and beyond any deep help. Crabtree hustled 72 yards for a score that gave the Packers the cushion they needed.

“I’m not going to get into any specifics, but I did speak to Aaron Rodgers after (the game) and he told me he saw something (with the Cards’ defense),” Lenon said. “He took a shot when he saw we were in a certain coverage. I had never seen that (play) out of that (formation) on film.”

It was all the defense really allowed in the second half, but there was no room for error after the unit allowed touchdown drives of 84, 80 and 74 yards in the first half.

“Maybe we just woke up but we’ve got to start faster,” Lenon said. “You can’t drag your feet.”

The same went for the offense. Skelton ended up 23-for-46 for 306 yards and a touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald, but he threw an interception (that was turned into a field goal for Green Bay) and was victimized by multiple drops, notably from wide receiver Early Doucet and tight end Rob Housler.

“I don’t think it’s infectious,” said Fitzgerald, who had six catches for 74 yards. “I felt like everybody was kind of taking turns and making mistakes, penalties, dropped balls, you name it. Everybody took their turn today.”

Skelton was matter-of-fact about the problems the drops caused. “Drops are part of the game,” Skelton said. “Guys missing blocks are part of the game, bad throws are part of the game. You have to respond and I don’t think we responded well enough.”

That’s what the reflection of the bye week is supposed to be about. There will likely be no massive changes, because there aren’t massive changes available. It’d be a surprise if Potter doesn’t remain in the lineup – the Cards allowed just two sacks Sunday – and the Cards should get running back Beanie Wells back after the Falcons game coming off the bye.

The Cardinals might also get a couple other players back from injuries, like tight end Todd Heap and cornerback Greg Toler. But Dockett said the most important thing for the Cardinals is simply to overcome this bout of adversity.

“You don’t want the finger-pointing,” he said. “Every team in the NFL faces some kind of adversity. This right here will tell what kind of team we’ve got.”

Whisenhunt wasn’t hiding the many mistakes his team made Sunday. But he caught himself when his press conference devolved into that and little else.

“I know there is a lot of negativity of what is going on but there are a lot of things going right,” Whisenhunt said. “The challenge is to get the right guys going forward. We did that in the first four, and we’re going to get it back.”


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