Tight end Jeff King stretches out to score on his 21-yard touchdown reception Sunday during a 22-21 loss in Washington to the Redskins.
LANDOVER, Md. – A pass with more than 10 minutes left, no matter how pretty or long, isn't going to clinch an already close game.
That's how it felt Sunday, though, as Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb – while being drilled so hard by blitzing Redskins linebacker London Fletcher that his helmet flew off – launched a 73-yard touchdown bomb to Larry Fitzgerald, giving the Cards an eight-point lead.
The feeling was elation. Then, over the next 10 minutes, the elation drained from the Cards like sand in an hourglass, until the Redskins were holding on to the better end of a 22-21 victory and the Cardinals were just shaking their heads.
"It's our own fault," Kolb said. "We accept it. No excuses."
The Cardinals (1-1) don't have much choice after their visit to FedEx Field, a place that always seems to bring coach Ken Whisenhunt's team close games but disappointment.
A defense that had been battered the week before against Carolina suffered too many body blows again. Washington (2-0) piled up 455 yards of offense – 172 yards rushing – and answered the Fitzgerald touchdown with a 13-play touchdown drive of its own. That the score came on an 18-yard pass to Santana Moss on a fourth-down-and-3 play could have been forgotten after the Cards managed to prevent the two-point conversion by batting down a pass.
If the Cardinals hadn't short-circuited two first-half drives the Redskins had steamrolled to inside the Cards' 10-yard line – safety Adrian Wilson made an interception on one, and defensive end Calais Campbell blocked a field goal on the other, keeping what might not have been a close game close --
"We have to look at our mistakes," cornerback Richard Marshall said. "It's not going be easy, especially after we watch it and see what we did, but it is something you have to do, and then you move on."
The Cards' offense, however, went three-and-out. The Redskins moved another 48 yards downfield to set up what turned out to be the game-winning 34-yard field goal by Graham Gano.
And still, the Cards got the ball back, down just a single point, with 1:45 left at their own 20-yard line. On the first play, Kolb found Chansi Stuckey for a 12-yard gain. The ball came loose, and while the officials ruled the ball down, they also called for a replay review – and the big screens above the end zone showed the boisterous crowd what they wanted to see: That Stuckey had lost the ball before he was down.
"I was sick to my stomach," Whisenhunt said. "I saw it on the board and it was a crappy feeling."
In the end, though, the Cardinals weren't dwelling on the Stuckey fumble in particular because there were so many other areas that could have changed the outcome of a one-point game.
The offense performed in fits and starts. The numbers look OK. Running back Beanie Wells had 93 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, although he was absent in the first half (six yards on just three attempts). Kolb was 17-of-30 for 251 yards and two touchdowns, but his one interception came after the Cardinals had reached the Washington 24.
The Cards couldn't do anything with Wilson's interception, either, although they did score after Marshall's pick, on a 21-yard pass to tight end Jeff King.
"We have to be more consistent," King said.
The defense definitely does. After it was the pass that hurt them against the Panthers, this time, it was the running game, as former Card Tim Hightower (96 yards on 20 carries) and rookie Roy Helu (74 yards on 10 carries) kept finding room. Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman also had 291 yards passing and avoided a second-half turnover.
"The good thing is it is about us," linebacker Joey Porter said. "We know it's us. But we have time to fix it. It's not the end of the world."
But it was the end of a chance to steal a road win.
"We couldn't finish it – too many mistakes," Whisenhunt said. "But we're going to learn from it."