The optimism surrounding Sam Bradford disappeared quickly in his first game back on the field Sunday.
The Cardinals' new quarterback did not have any issues with his surgically repaired knee after missing 14 games last year, but there was a lack of efficiency with his arm in the 24-6 season-opening loss to the Redskins at State Farm Stadium. Bradford had only 11 passing yards at halftime as the Cardinals fell behind by 21 points and he finished 20-of-34 for 153 yards with an interception.
"Obviously no one wants to start the season like this," Bradford said. "We felt like we were in a much better position. We felt like we were going to come out here and play much better than we did."
The passing game style was quick-strike as expected, as Bradford made decisive choices. However, more throws than desired hit the ground, as he completed only 35 percent of his passes through three quarters before finding a groove in the fourth.
"I'll have to look for the (reason on Monday)," Bradford said. "It could have been footwork. It could have been bad timing. Obviously that's a little bit uncharacteristic of my game, so I'll definitely watch the film tomorrow and figure out where that came from."
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was a reliable target, catching seven passes for 76 yards, but Christian Kirk had only one reception for four yards while Chad Williams didn't catch a pass on three targets.
"We have to push through it, man," Williams said. "We know all the time, all the hours, the dedication and work we've put into this. For us to come out and display what we did, we just know we're much, much better than what we displayed. It's a long season, long road. We'll get back to the drawing board Monday. That's the game. You take wins and you take losses. You get knocked down, it's just, are you going to get up? We'll get up this week."
The Cardinals only had the ball for a total of 14 plays in the first half, and the final one was a kneeldown. They gained 32 yards on their first drive but then went three-and-out on back-to-back possessions while Washington built up its lead.
"All night we were playing catch up," coach Steve Wilks said. "I think that was really the issue, that we couldn't really get into a rhythm when we got behind."
Fitzgerald said play-calling was not an issue in the passing game, and that the players must do a better job executing. He waved off the idea that a lack of time together in the preseason contributed to the opening-game struggles.
"I don't need to play in the preseason," Fitzgerald said. "I know how to play the game. I played it my entire life. Nobody played in the preseason. I don't think that has anything to do with it."
While Bradford is likely to take a lot of the heat, Fitzgerald saw the same player he has practiced with throughout the offseason.
"Sam is what we've known he is," Fitzgerald said. "He's a pinpoint passer, very intelligent, he makes great reads. He can make the throws. We've got to do a good job of creating separation and making his job easier."
The players are eager to get back to the drawing board and flush away the negative emotions from the ineffective performance.
"We can't let this game beat us twice," Bradford said.
Images from the regular season opener at State Farm Stadium