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Tough Start For Lindley Against Rams

Posted Nov 25, 2012

Cardinals fall to St. Louis, 31-17, as rookie throws four interceptions

Quarterback Ryan Lindley (14) and the Cardinals' offense walks off the field after one of Lindley's interceptions during Sunday's 31-17 loss to the Rams.

Ryan Lindley looked weary after his first start Sunday, and sounded it too, which wasn’t surprising after the rookie quarterback suffered through a four-interception performance and his team lost its seventh straight game.

“You’ve got to roll with the punches,” Lindley said, and when it was suggested he got punched pretty good by the Rams, Lindley offered a small smile. “I think I punched myself pretty good today.”

The Cardinals (4-7) didn’t get what they were hoping from Lindley at University of Phoenix Stadium, when a promising beginning turned sour in a 31-17 loss to St. Louis – much like the Cards’ season at this point.

Lindley guided the Cards on a 15-play touchdown drive on their first possession and a 17-14 lead at the half. But by the end of the evening, despite his 312 passing yards – the first Cards’ rookie to throw for 300 yards – Lindley’s turnovers were the linchpin of the Rams’ first season sweep of the Cardinals since 2003. The Rams hadn’t forced a turnover in five games.

“I’m pretty much at a loss for words now,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “Seven weeks saying the same thing.”

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the coaches “weren’t opposed” to pulling Lindley out and replacing him with backup John Skelton and it was considered. “We just felt like we had to stick with Ryan.”

“He’s a rookie, he hasn’t played a lot, but he’s got to learn from this,” Whisenhunt said.

There were reasons to be optimistic after the first drive. Using running back Beanie Wells, who had just returned from injured reserve, and some smart short passes, Lindley completed 7-of-8 passes for 80 yards on the opening possession. Fitzgerald had three catches. When Wells took it in from a yard out for a touchdown, it was easy to feel good with the new quarterback.

The second possession gave a hint to the way the game would play out though. Lindley tried to hit running back LaRod Stephens-Howling quick near the line of scrimmage, only to have Rams rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins jump the route for an interception and a 36-yard touchdown return.

“The read shouldn’t have taken him there,” Whisenhunt said.

The Cards could have recovered from that. But in the second half, the Rams changed their defensive philosophy, bringing more pressure that Lindley struggled to handle. Lindley made a bad choice on a deep throw to Fitzgerald – Fitzgerald was going deep, Lindley threw it short – and Rams safety Craig Dahl made an easy pick.

That didn’t matter when the Cards’ defense held and the Rams missed a field goal. Instead of taking advantage, however, the Cards were stuck unable to produce yards and two possessions later, Lindley made his worst decision of the game. Trying to get the ball downfield to Fitzgerald again, he threw off his back foot. Well short of Fitzgerald, Jenkins easily picked off the pass and ran it back 39 yards for another score. The final interception of the game late was a batted ball also intended for Fitzgerald.

Jenkins became only the third rookie ever with two interception touchdowns in a game and the first since 1960. And the Cards, now down 28-17, were in a hole they couldn’t get out of.

“Those (first) two I was going to Larry were just real mental mistakes,” said Lindley, who completed 31-of-52 passes. “I’m just off a little bit on something, rushing something, not trusting what I am seeing out there.”

Fitzgerald, meanwhile, wasn’t going to say anything against Lindley.

“We don’t ever point the finger,” said Fitzgerald, shut out after the opening drive. “It takes all 11 of us to be successful on every single play. Ryan is working his tail off. We have to go out there and do a better job of helping him have success. Everyone has to take their fair share of the blame.”

The defense, put in a bad position with scores they had nothing to do with, was not as stout as they had been against the Falcons, however. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed just 8-of-17 passes, but once again, the Cards were burned by big plays. Chris Givens hauled in a 37-yard touchdown pass over rookie cornerback Justin Bethel, tight end Lance Kendricks had a 37-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown, and gimpy receiver Danny Amendola still managed an impressive diving 38-yard catch.

Running back Steven Jackson also had 139 yards rushing on 24 carries, as the Rams (4-6-1) snapped their own winless streak dating back to their last meeting with the Cardinals.

“When you lose seven straight, it’s a devastating feeling,” linebacker Daryl Washington said, searching for the right words himself. “You are desperate to get a win. Losing seven straight is hard in this league.

“We have to keep fighting these five games, see where they fall.”

Whisenhunt wouldn’t talk about the possibility of Kevin Kolb returning to play quarterback because he doesn’t know where Kolb’s health might stand next week in New York for the game against the Jets. He was emphatic about not suddenly putting in all young players just for experience sake.

“We are going to put the best guys in there that are going to give us the chance to win,” Whisenhunt said. “We aren’t going to evaluate personnel over trying to win games.”

Time, however, slips away in a season that had started so promisingly. Whisenhunt was asked about the increased speculation about his job security, and answered matter-of-factly.

“That’s part of the business,” he said. “Nobody feels worse about this than we do. We want to win and our guys are working hard. I am disappointed for our fans because they have been so supportive, but all I can tell you is that we are going to get it straight.”

 

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