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Struggle In New York

Posted Dec 2, 2012

Big defensive day not enough as offense, Lindley can't get going in 7-6 loss to Jets

Cornerback Patrick Peterson makes an intercepion over Jets receiver Chaz Schilens during Sunday's 7-6 loss to the Jets.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.– The story looked like it would write itself, with former Jet Kerry Rhodes a menace on defense against his former team and the Cardinals using that as a springboard to snap their losing streak.

Instead, the story ended up similar to many the Cards have had to live through of late. The defense dominated on their end, causing turnovers and even forcing a quarterback change for the Jets. But the Cardinals’ offense couldn’t keep up, suffering through a frustrating 7-6 loss at MetLife Stadium.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt noted a couple of times he wasn’t seeing any “finger-pointing or fracturing” with his team. That would be important given the slide within the Cardinals find themselves.

That doesn't mean it is easy.

“We’re trying. We’re trying,” linebacker Daryl Washington said quietly after the eighth straight loss. “Where do you go from here? We’re trying to stay positive.”

Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley did not play well in his second start. He completed 10-of-31 passes for 72 yards, and while he threw just one interception and was sacked only twice, the Cardinals were stalled most of the game. The Cards finished without a third-down conversion in 15 attempts.

The issues were offensive-wide, Whisenhunt said, saying that Lindley was making poor throws but that receivers sometimes ran the wrong routes. Replacing Lindley during the game with John Skelton was considered, Whisenhunt said, but he decided against it.

“You always do what you think gives you the best chance,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s what we did.”

It never quite came around to that, however. Rhodes was already the player of the game with two interceptions early, and then he forced a fourth-quarter fumble that was grabbed by Washington at the New York 35-yard line and the Cardinals (4-8) trailing, 7-3.

Lindley generated one of the Cards’ few first downs too, with a 16-yard pass to Michael Floyd, and the Cards seemed to be finally closing in on a touchdown. But the drive went no further, and on third down and the Jets (5-7) blitzing, Lindley had Larry Fitzgerald breaking open toward the sideline on a pass that would have been a first down.

Instead, as has happened so many times with Fitzgerald, the ball was beyond his reach. The Cardinals kicked the field goal, but were unable to ever get another possession.

Fitzgerald, who didn’t get a catch after making a 23-yard reception on the Cards’ first pass of the game, wouldn’t say Sunday was any worse for the offense, but his frustration was apparent.

“Struggling is struggling,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s been a struggle for eight weeks.”

The Jets weren’t much better offensively. Starting quarterback Mark Sanchez was benched after throwing three first-half interceptions – one went to Patrick Peterson, aside from Rhodes’ plays – and completing just 10-of-21 passes for 97 yards. Greg McElroy came in, and led a touchdown drive capped by his one-yard pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland on that first possession. But the Cards’ defenders shrugged off the idea McElroy made that big of a difference.

“Not at all,” Peterson said. “I think we had a pretty good feel of what those guys wanted to do and how they wanted to do it. I think we had a great gameplan. We just want to continue to put our offense in good field position. Hopefully we can end up with seven points instead of three. But (field goals) happens.”

Making a bigger difference was the run game of Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell, who combined for 162 yards rushing. The Cards could only run for 81 yards, and 40 of those game on a fake punt by safety Rashad Johnson.

The Cards’ defense did plenty though --“It’s a shame we couldn’t get a win out of that with the way the defense played,” Whisenhunt said – and could have had a fourth interception by safety James Sanders late had it not been overturned on a close illegal contact penalty on cornerback Greg Toler.

“Whenever our offense is not able to convert third downs, it’s tough for us,” Rhodes said. “We’ve got to keep going back out. It’s a team game. We’ve got to go out and fight.”

The Cardinals ended up with five first downs in the game and 22 yards in the second half. Lindley said he couldn’t be worried about the possibility of being pulled out because he had to be worried about fixing what was wrong with the offense.

“Stuff was open,” Lindley said. “I’ve got to hit them.”

Knowing the defense played so well on its end made his own problems “salt in the wound,” Lindley added. “The defense have played their tails off all year.”

Said tight end Rob Housler, whose four catches (for 15 yards) led the Cards, “We see the defense excelling and we have to feed off of that. We have to do a better job capitalizing.”

Players had a more difficult time coming up with answers to the questions Sunday night. Even Fitzgerald’s first comment was that there were “no words” to describe what was going on.

Fitzgerald tried to laugh and he smiled, but the reaction was devoid of joy.

“You gotta laugh to keep from crying,” he said.


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