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Cardinals Search For Late Magic

After so many fourth-quarter wins last season, Cards haven't capitalized in 2015

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So close: Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd can't quite haul in a touchdown pass Sunday, one of a handful of near-misses for Floyd.


Both times they have lost this season, the Cardinals had the ball and were moving toward potential game-winning points as the clock ran down in the fourth quarter.

Both times, they have failed.

It's jarring, after the season the team had a year ago. In seven of their 11 wins in 2014, the Cardinals trailed in the second half. In four of their wins, they trailed in the fourth quarter in a close enough game where a possession would make a difference. If it was tight, the Cardinals won, whether it was Ted Ginn's punt return in New York or Smokey Brown catching bombs against the Eagles and Rams or a touchdown screen against the Chargers. If they needed a late defensive stop, they'd

get that too.

That hasn't happened this season. The Cardinals have pulled away in all four of their wins, three by blowout. The close games have ended with a thud.

"Well, you have to do it to believe it," coach Bruce Arians said. "You are what you put on tape. The two ball games, as poorly as we've played, we had opportunities to win them at the end and we didn't make the plays to do it. You have to do it. Each team is different, so this year, we've got to wait and see."

Sunday's game was a good example of an inability on both sides of the ball. Carson Palmer's end zone interception cost the Cards their best chance at scoring a go-ahead touchdown, but the Steelers were still backed up (because of a penalty) to their own 10. A three-and-out, given the Cardinals' full complement of timeouts, still should've gotten the Cardinals back the ball with about 1:45 on the clock and one time out left in decent field position.

Then the defense surrendered a game-clinching 88-yard touchdown pass.

"We're a new team but I feel we are better than last year," safety Tony Jefferson said. "Talent is not the issue. It is communication and eliminating the small, little errors that turn out to be big for us. If everyone could see the small things

that happen (that hurt), it's disheartening at times. But at the same time, we have to bounce back."

It's the missing points that have been surprising. In both losses, the Cardinals have piled up the yards. Just not touchdowns.

In their four wins, the Cardinals have scored touchdowns on 16 of 17 trips inside the red zone (and the one fail was kicking a field goal after a first down inside the 10 on the final play of the first half.) In their two losses, the Cardinals have scored just two touchdowns – one in each game – on nine red-zone trips.

Arians laments execution as the biggest culprit, and the same went for the Palmer pick. On the play – first down at the Pittsburgh 20-yard line – it looked like Palmer could have settled for a shorter gain over the middle to Larry Fitzgerald. Palmer thought he had caught safety Mike Mitchell with his play-action, but Mitchell was never fooled and Palmer never saw him.

Palmer missed some open receivers in the final plays against the Rams as well.

"We definitely believe (we can win it late), but saying it is one thing and doing it is another," running back Andre Ellington said. "We have to take ownership of the mistakes.

"On the sideline, it's the feeling like, 'We are going to get it going at some point.' But the reality is, you have to go out and do it."

The Cardinals' full team meeting ran long Monday as Arians went over the missed opportunities in Pittsburgh, which everyone acknowledged was like the loss to the Rams.

"It was another game we were supposed to win," running back Chris Johnson said. "It's a lesson we're glad we learned early in the season rather than late."

The loss has happened. The only thing the Cardinals can do with it now is try and use it, and hope that the next time they have a chance to take a win late, they can do so.

"You'd rather have them in September and October than November and December," linebacker Dwight Freeney said. "It's a learning process. We're going to take our bumps. No one said we'll win every single game. Everyone wants to, and sometimes you lose however you lose. The big thing is to have the esteem and confidence in December and January that those problems are corrected by then."

EXTRA POINTS

Arians said tight end Darren Fells has a shoulder strain, but did not have a timetable for his return while the team waited for MRI results. Fells was wearing a sling Monday. Multiple reports have Fells missing a couple of weeks. …

Arians called Palmer's game "average to poor." That was a direct result of the Cardinals' struggles inside the 20-yard line, Arians added. …

Ellington had just one carry in the game and played just nine snaps. "We just didn't run the ball that much in the second half and he's not our nickel back," Arians said. Chris Johnson played 39 snaps, David Johnson 23.

The top images from the Cardinals' Week 6 loss in Pittsburgh



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