Larry Fitzgerald has been around a while, and he has – unfortunately – been in some offenses that have struggled mightily. The post-Kurt Warner years were lean, and in 2012, there were times when it seemed like scoring was a pipe dream (Forget the infamous 58-0 loss in Seattle, because that Seahawks defense was historic. But the 7-6 loss in New York against a bad Jets team, an 0-for-15 on third downs day, was what pops into mind.)
But there Fitz was Sunday, after the Cards were shut out in Los Angeles and he had to leave with a hamstring issue. Quarterback Sam Bradford only threw for 90 yards. The Cards could only get five first downs. The veteran wideout knew his team needs a spark. But are we talking match, or flamethrower?
“I’d like to hope it just be one big play,” Fitzgerald said. “That’d be great.”
But Fitz acknowledged it’s probably more than that. It isn’t about effort or preparation, he insisted. I suppose all of that – on both sides of the ball, and in special teams too – will be under the microscope this week. Coach Steve Wilks said as much. It has to be. Two games, two losses by a combined score of 58-6, there’s no other way to see it.
If I had to speculate, I would not think there is a quarterback change this week. I could be dead wrong. Wilks said no decisions were going to be made in the heat of the moment, and I’d guess there will be much internal discussion over the next couple of days. The Cardinals want to be smart with Josh Rosen for one, and if there are a ton of other issues offensively they see, dropping a rookie in there now makes for a very difficult learning curve.
-- Wilks rattled off a lot of things non-QB-related he said needed to be better: Running the ball, pass protection and receivers getting off the jams in press coverage.
-- Certainly, the Cardinals are going to want to find a way to get David Johnson more involved. He had 13 rushes for 48 yards – which, considering the score, probably is about right – but was targeted only twice in the passing game, with one catch for three yards.
-- The Cardinals wanted to play better against the run. Statistically, they did that. The Rams only averaged 2.7 yards per attempt. Todd Gurley was worse than that. But he scored three touchdowns, and a defense has to be able to force passes in the red zone. Patrick Peterson lost contain on one, the others were just short runs up the middle. But in the quest for some semblance of a silver lining, the run defense was better.
-- The pass defense is an area in which I am sure Wilks will study hard. There were times where there was effective pressure – Benson Mayowa delivered a two-sack day – but the Cards are going to want more consistency. Especially when Jared Goff was able to find gaps in the secondary often. When Wilks talks about looking at personnel, you wonder if Bené Benwikere might find his way into the lineup. There was already one significant defensive tweak, with Gerald Hodges starting at linebacker over Deone Bucannon.
-- Peterson missed the one tackle, but he did look as aggressive as I have ever seen him trying to play the run. And he did make a nice interception to stop a Rams drive.
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-- The Cardinals have to hope Fitzgerald is OK. He said the hamstring has been bothering him a little for 10 days, and Sunday it got to the point where he didn’t want to make it worse. But they need him on the field – again, in a quest for bright spots, his diving catch to convert a third down when the Cards were backed way up following Peterson’s interception was a thing of beauty.
The Cards just need more of those plays.