Anyone who watched Sunday’s Cardinals win will tell, that was an ugly one…but in the NFL, any win is a good win and the Dolphins showed up ready to play. For the majority of the game, the Dolphins appeared to be the better team on that day. However, the Cardinals defense kept them within striking distance and a comeback felt possible even after an extremely lethargic first half and I am not just talking about the team. The vibe in the stadium felt almost like a preseason game to me. I guess it says a lot about how far the Birdgang fanbase has come, if we have now come to a level where we expect wins without much effort. The season is still young and the Cardinals don’t roll like that…there has to be dramatics otherwise it just is not a Cardinal game.
When I saw the inactive list pregame, I had a feeling the game might be an uphill battle. It was not the sheer number of regulars who were injured, but the names and what their roles mean to the team. Larod Stephens-Howling as a returner has been so reliable that I take a quality return game for granted, plugging in either Powell or Smith is just not the same. And sure, I have come to expect seeing Beanie Wells and Todd Heap in street clothes but to not have Dockett in the lineup was concerning.
The absence of the great Nine-O was big, really big. I knew that his presence would be missed, I just didn’t really how much. Nick Eason and David Carter are ok in spot relief, but they don’t have the presence of Darnell Dockett. In a 3-4 scheme, down lineman don’t look great statistically so if you don’t watch Cardinal games you wouldn’t really get what Dockett means to them. Of course he is the vocal leader and, in my mind, the intensity of the D was not up to what we have grown accustomed to lately. On the field, when he isn’t sucking up double-teams to keep Lenon and D Wash free to make plays, he is disrupting the backfield and moving the QB off his spot. The Cardinals sorely missed that push the majority of the game.
The defense played ok overall and did create some opportunities at times but they looked out of sync to me. Early on, Wiliam Gay was bullied by Davone Bess and Brian Hartline so often, I thought they were going to steal his lunch money. Toler came in to shore things up somewhat which was good to see but it still was not what I expected as Ryan Tannehill was getting a fair amount of time to find open receivers or set up a lemonade stand…whatever. Eventually, the D did rise up though and pressure the young rookie at crucial times into making some mistakes.
I do give credit to Miami though. They came in with a gameplan that appeared to involve quick reads to minimize the pass rush and quick snaps to cut down on noise issues playing on the road. For the most part they were effective at executing it. Tannehill was better than I expected. Given what he was being asked to do, he did well. He certainly did not lose them the game. On the other hand, the Miami coaching staff did him no favors with some of the play-calls to end the game. On Tannehill’s fumble with 2 ½ minutes left, why were they even attempting a pass? Reggie Bush seemed to be getting stronger and another first down, the game may have been over. Weird. But again, I’ll take it.
Offensively, the Cardinals just could not get in a flow until late in the game. I was thoroughly confused what the game plan was as I expected to see a heavy dose of Ryan Williams. Instead, we see just activated William Powell for the entire middle third of the game. I can only assume Williams is not considered a good pass-blocker at this point as they were playing from behind and passing was essential.
Kolb was Kolb. When he is in a rhythm and confident, he can be very good. When he is behind and pressing, he is…well, not so much. The first pick was, I guess, a back shoulder fade that no one told Fitz about and the other was a ball that should have obviously been thrown away although I question why that play was even called. In that spot, I am ok with three runs into the line and hope Ryan Williams is the back I think he can be. No reason to get tricky…but I digress. With the game on the line, Kolb was sharp. His rapport with Andre Roberts has been a pleasant surprise. He is accurate and he is getting more decisive as time passes, which I like. Although he nearly lost the game, some could argue he also won the game in a lot of ways.
Given that there is an extremely short week before the Rams game, there is a couple things I am hoping get fixed asap. I am hoping that Massie’s rough day at the office was an anomaly as he has been pretty decent up to this point. Cameron Wake is no joke but I am thinking that he learns from that experience. I also really would like to see Patrick Peterson protect the ball when he is returning. He is a great returner, no doubt. He was very lucky to not lose any of the THREE fumbles he had due to his tendency to carry the ball like a picnic basket.
From what I have seen, the Cardinals are better than the Rams…but it won’t be easy and they should not be taken lightly. Any road game in the NFL is tough but on a short week, even tougher. I expect the defense to rise up and lead the team once again in a low-scoring affair. 17-13 Cards. Let’s see if we can run it to five because I think we will need ten wins to bring the playoffs back to the nest.