Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald hauls in a one-handed 17-yard reception over Falcons cornerback Brian Poole during the 38-19 loss to Atlanta.
ATLANTA – Mathematics say the Cardinals aren't done yet.
But it was hard to get that sense in the locker room Sunday after a 38-19 loss to the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. The season has all but slipped away, undone by issues that never used to be issues.
"There's not much you can take positive out of this game," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "Anytime you lose it's not a good feeling."
There were drops that undercut the Cardinals (4-6-1) Sunday – one a near-interception by safety D.J. Swearinger, the other a fourth-down play by wide receiver Michael Floyd – but it went beyond that. The offense could only generate 109 yards in the second half. The defense allowed too many big plays.
"It's very frustrating," coach Bruce Arians said. "You have to start with yourself, asking if you are asking guys to do things they can't do.
"I don't think catching the ball is one of them. Blocking someone without help? Maybe. … That's again an issue I'll look
at, what are we asking them to do."
The Cardinals actually did OK with a revamped offensive line that featured D.J. Humphries moving from right to left tackle, Ulrick John playing right tackle and John Wetzel playing right guard. Running back David Johnson averaged 4.5 yards a carry and finished with 161 total yards.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson hurt his left knee – an injury that bears watching, although he came back in the game – but helped hold wide receiver Julio Jones to four catches for 35 yards.
The NFC South-leading Falcons (7-4) did get a huge day from receiver Taylor Gabriel, who had a 27-yard rush on a reverse and scored touchdowns of 25 and 35 yards on bubble screens.
But the Cards could only look inward after.
"Last year was easy, beating everybody by 30 points and the ball bouncing our way," safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "This year we have to fight a little harder. We have some adversity.
"The most important thing is we have to stick together. And the second thing is we have to hold each other more accountable."
The Cardinals scored on their first possession of the game for the first time this season, a textbook drive which
featured Carson Palmer going 5-for-5 and the Cards grabbing a lead. They scored on their second possession as well, although they settled for a field goal after a shotgun snap to Palmer was mishandled for a big loss.
A sequence including halftime grabbed momentum. Swearinger grabbed a deflected pass off Jones for an interception. With time winding down, Fitzgerald made a brilliant heads-up play, grabbing a 10-yard catch and sliding while calling timeout, allowing one second so kicker Chandler Catanzaro could boot a 54-yard field goal.
The defense then opened the second half with three sacks of Ryan on one possession. The score was only 17-13, Atlanta.
But Cards' offense went nowhere. On the ensuing possession, the Falcons drove 77 yards on 13 plays for a touchdown – helped when Swearinger made a perfect read of a pass to Jones, but dropped the pick. The Cards couldn't stop them the rest of the way.
Swearinger declined an interview request.
"Anytime you have an opportunity to get off the field and you fail, but that's not an excuse," defensive tackle Corey Peters said. "We've got to find a way, no matter what happens, to stand up and stop them. No one play is cause for anything."
The same could be said for Floyd's drop at midfield, which cost the Cards a first down on fourth down, trailing by 11. But again, the defense allowed the Falcons to drive down for a touchdown to all but put the game out of reach.
With five games left, it makes the postseason a farfetched dream, although Arians wasn't going there. Not yet.
"We need one win," Arians said. "One win. There's nobody left on the schedule we can't beat. Who knows what the final tallies will be. But we need to win one."
Images from the Cardinals' Week 12 game in Atlanta