Larry Fitzgerald can't corral a Tim Hightower fumble in the second quarter Sunday, which the Colts grabbed to stop a Cardinals' drive.
The Cardinals had a 3-0 lead and it looked like it was going to be more early in the second quarter Sunday night with the offense on the Indianapolis 5-yard line – and then running back Tim Hightower fumbled away the ball.
The turnover hurt, but combined with the 95-yard touchdown drive the Colts produced after getting the ball and the sequence became the linchpin of Indianapolis' 31-10 victory.
"You can't do that," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Whenever you have the chance against a good football team like the Colts to go up 10-0, we had just gained five yards on the run and we fumbled the football and turned it over… then they go down and score a touchdown. It really hurt
For video of Hightower's interview, click here
Said Hightower, "As a running back it's my job to take care of the football. That will be addressed and it will be fixed. I've just got to move forward because the coaches and the team are counting on me when we are near the goalline."
Once Peyton Manning took over, with his back against the goal line, he methodically marched his offense down the field on an 11-play, 95-yard drive that culminated in a 20-yard TD reception by Reggie Wayne, putting the Colts up for good.
Manning, calling plays and changing them at the line of scrimmage, threw seven times on the series while running back Joseph Addai ran three times for 23 yards. Three of the plays on the drive went for more than 13 yards, with the Colts converting on third down twice in the series.
"We had a great chance of going up 10-0 and seizing some momentum," defensive tackle Bryan Robinson said. "When you turn the ball over, they score and now they recapture the momentum. You dig yourself a hole and it's tough to dig out of."
Coming into the showdown with the high-powered Indianapolis offense, the Cardinals knew they couldn't lose the turnover battle if they wanted to beat the Colts.
In the week leading up to tonight's game, Arizona's other featured back, Beanie Wells, was forced to carry a ball with him after practice and during meetings after fumbling twice the previous game in Jacksonville.
Hightower talked about how he too had to protect the ball, but it was his gaffe that turned the game around.
"It hurts period, regardless of the situation last week," Hightower said. "Any time you fumble the ball, especially down in the red zone, it hurts. The team is counting on me to make plays and when you're placed in that situation, you can't do that. I can't let that happen and I just have to put it behind me and move forward."
After the series that changed the game, the Cardinals went three-and-out on their next possession. The Colts took advantage of a poor punt and had a short field to work with.
Starting on their own 43, the Colts and Manning drove down the field with a six-play, 57-yard drive and scored another touchdown to go up 14-3.
The pain of Hightower's turnover was compounded by the Cardinals turning it over a second time right before the half on an interception after reaching the Indianapolis 1.
"When you get down there you have to be able to get points," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "It's a group effort. We have to get all 11 guys on the same page. We're not going to point fingers; we are going to find solutions."