Cardinals Limp to the Finish Line
Aaron Francisco (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty)
Aaron Francisco (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty)

Posted Dec 18, 2007


Injuries have taken a heavy toll on the team's defense, as evidenced by the last two games. The Cardinals have had trouble pressuring quarterbacks, and the secondary just hasn't been able to hold up through the loss of a starting cornerback and strong safety.

In the past two games, both losses, opposing quarterbacks have completed 76 percent of their passes for 579 yards and six touchdowns. The Cardinals didn't have an interception in those games.

It hasn't helped that the team's injury problems hit just as it was playing two of the top quarterbacks in the NFC: Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck and New Orleans' Drew Brees.

They are veteran quarterbacks whose offenses are hitting their strides.

The Cardinals defense, meanwhile, is staggering. The unit misses starting cornerback Eric Green and strong safety Adrian Wilson.

Antrel Rolle is a competent replacement for Green, but there is little depth behind him. Veteran Ralph Brown has moved into the nickel back role, and he's been exposed at times.

When the club lost Wilson five games ago, it needed Aaron Francisco to be healthy enough to play. But Francisco was out with knee and calf injuries and just returned last week.

Oliver Celestin struggled as the starter. Francisco moved into the starting role last week, but the rust from inactivity showed.

The secondary isn't getting much help from the front four. Defensive end Darnell Dockett had eight sacks in the first eight games but hasn't had one in the past six. He's the team's best pass rusher.

The injuries leave defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast with a dilemma. He can hold off on the blitz, sit back in a zone and hope an offense isn't efficient enough to drive the length of the field. Or he can send the blitz and hope he can get enough pressure that the secondary can hold up.

He tried both methods against the Saints, and neither one worked. Lucky for the Cardinals, they finish the season against Atlanta and St. Louis.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Cardinals had 10 penalties on Sunday and now have 125 for the season. The franchise record is 145, set two years ago.

--WR Anquan Boldin didn't appear any worse off from playing with a sore toe on Sunday. Boldin led the Cardinals with six receptions for 83 yards. He didn't anticipate additional problems.

--DE Antonio Smith was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for imitating the quarterback's cadence and snap count. Smith denied it. "What I said was, 'Back set,'" he said.

--RB Edgerrin James rushed for 84 yards, giving him 1,052 for the season. He is the first Cardinals runner since Ottis Anderson in 1983-84 to gain 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. "Getting to 1,000 yards rushing for a season doesn't mean anything when you lose," he said. "That's all I'm going to say about that."

--Even though the Cardinals can't have a winning season, Boldin is encouraged by the progress he thinks the team has made. "It's a situation we've got to learn from," he said. "I know we've been saying that all year, but I truly believe that we're learning as a team. Coach (Ken Whisenhunt) is doing some good things around here."

--Any hopes for a playoff spot ended Monday night when the Vikings defeated the Bears.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Anquan Boldin didn't seem fazed by a sore toe that caused him to miss last week's game. Boldin led the team in receptions (6) and yards (83).

--WR Larry Fitzgerald is still suffering from a sore groin. He's trying to play through it but he appeared slower than last week.

--DE Darnell Dockett now has gone six games without a sack.

--SS Aaron Francisco started Sunday for the first time this year. Francisco had missed the past five games with knee and calf injuries. He appeared rusty.

--RB Edgerrin James gained 84 yards on 16 carries, a 5.3 average. But his attempts were limited because the team fell behind.



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DT Darnell Dockett (profile)
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