Arizona Cardinals teams under Ken Whisenhunt could always be counted on doing two things in games they won: take care of the ball on offense and create turnovers on defense.
Whisenhunt’s 2010 edition has failed to do both with a -9 turnover ratio (31st in the NFL), and it has shown through in the team’s 3-4 record.
This fact came to a head this past Sunday, when quarterback rookie Max Hall threw two interceptions for touchdowns in the first half of the Cards’ 38-35 loss to Tampa Bay. Hall was replaced by Derek Anderson for a second straight game, but the veteran was also picked off twice.
Couple the ongoing quarterback issues with the 11 fumbles lost (also 31st in the league) and it is easy to see why Big Red’s offense has struggled to put points on the board all season long.
The defense has had similar luck with its play. Arizona’s defenses have generally portrayed a bend-but-don’t-break mentality. They could give up the big play, but were able to make up for it with turnovers at crucial times.
Without playmakers Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle on the field, this young, inexperienced unit has struggled to keep the opposition in check this season. They’ve allowed over 374 yards and 28 points per game so far.
This is a talented, but raw defense that has seen many of its veteran leaders depart. The growing pains of young players like Daryl Washington, Dan Williams and Greg Toler have resulted in more big plays for opposing offenses. This needs to be a time of learning and improvement for a defense with a ton of potential for the future.
Turnovers can turn the tide of a game more than any other part. This was evident a week ago when the Cardinals, down 17 points, turned a muffed punt recovery into a score. Then they pulled to within three points after a fumble return for a touchdown. A 14-point swing like this can be all a team needs to rally their spirits or drown themselves in deficit.
For the 2010 Arizona Cardinals, the latter is happening far too often and it is beginning to drag their playoff hopes under tow. The Cards have another shot to right the ship in Minnesota and turnovers will likely be a deciding point in the contest.
Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52