Through three games, the Cardinals have scored 56 points, and weren't able to score after an impressive opening-drive touchdown in New Orleans last weekend.
SARASOTA, FLA. – Eleven plays, 80 yards, seven points – an equation to build upon.
Except the Cardinals didn't, and offensively, that was hard to accept.
Whatever hiccups the Cards' offense had endured the first two weeks looked flushed when they went out against the Saints last weekend, driving – somewhat easily – in for a touchdown on the very first possession. It was exactly how it was scripted, literally, given the early offensive script the Cards work from.
"When you go in and score really fast, you feel like the points are just going to keep coming," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "When they don't, it can be very frustrating."
That became clear, quickly. It wasn't just that the Cardinals weren't scoring points, but that they weren't doing so despite great
field position. And it was a red flag for an offense that is still searching for consistency after three games.
"Throughout the course of the season, so far, you have seen flashes of the offense," coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "One thing we have to do a better job of is being consistent. Throughout the first three regular-season games, you've seen, when our offense is clicking, it's clicking. When it's off, it's off.
"You've got to score points. There isn't any in-between."
The Cardinals are 23rd in offense with their 320 yards a game, but head coach Bruce Arians has said many times yards don't mean much to him. The fact the Cards only have 56 points in about 87 minutes of possession – well short of Arians' goal of a point a minute – is a stat being watched.
The unit looked good on third downs in Week One most of the game, until a couple of late missteps, and since then, it hasn't been good. Pass protection, both Arians and Goodwin acknowledge, must get better.
But that's why there was hope when the Saints game began. The Cards converted a couple of third downs on that first drive. They had balance. They got a touchdown.
And then – not much. Definitely no points.
"You give Coach Arians the ability to script it's tough to deal with," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "He's a mastermind with that. I don't know what it is (afterward).
"I know we are capable of being a lot better offensively. Our defense kept us in the game and we didn't carry our water."
Both road games have been similar for the Cardinals, with quicker starts – which last a lot longer in St. Louis, of course – with a home game dotted with decent drives that kept ending in field goals instead of touchdowns.
Right tackle Eric Winston doesn't want a start good or bad to linger, not with so much game left. But he added that the offense has been good with taking the opening possession plan and executing it fairly well, only to lose something in the details once the Cards move off script.
"We can't just say (the opposing defense) is going to come back out there and keep pitching batting practice to us," Winston said. "We have to be ready for some adjustments."
Palmer said the Cards have to stay away from should haves or could haves, a mentality that only leads to failure. The theme this week is that the Buccaneers feature the best defense the Cardinals have seen this season, a concept that gives pause after the Cards had eight straight punts in New Orleans and had just 94 yards on those eight possessions after their eye-opening opening drive.
"You can't stay stagnant through a game," Winston said. "Your first drive can't be your best drive. We have to look at that mindset much more than we have been."