The Cardinals suffered their first setback of the 2010 season with a 41-7 loss to Atlanta on the road. Very little went right for Arizona as the offense struggled to move the ball and the defense was pushed around to the tune of nearly 450 yards and 33 first downs while allowing 64 percent efficiency on third down.
Tim Hightower – Hightower was one of the few bright spots for the Big Red, tallying 115 yards and the team's lone touchdown on 11 carries. This was encouraging after his struggles in Week 1, when he put the ball on the ground several times and nearly cost the team a win. Hightower looked confident, hitting holes with ferocity and protecting the ball very well. He should look to continue this kind of play, even after Beanie Wells returns to action.
The Game Ended…
Offensive Line – Continuity remains an issue up front as QB Derek Anderson was hit and hurried constantly. The o-line's inability to keep Anderson upright affected many of his throws and killed several drives. Growing pains were to be expected with all the shuffling in the offseason, but the unit has had enough time to move beyond those concerns. Reliability along the offensive front will be a necessity for the offense to have success going forward.
Rushing Defense – Even with the injury to RB Michael Turner, the Falcons still chewed up the ground for 221 yards, including 129 by backup Jason Snelling. Atlanta wore down Arizona's defense for much of the contest. The Cards were completely dominated up front; being pushed off the ball, missing key tackles and looking overmatched. Stopping the run must take precedent as the rest of the league will look to exploit the weakness, including the Oakland Raiders this week.
Penalties – This was a problem area for Arizona teams in the past and it has returned at an inopportune time. The Cardinals were penalized 10 times for 109 yards, which also resulted in eight first downs for the Falcons. Discipline has been a key coach Ken Whisenhunt has preached time and time again in his three-plus years in the desert. It will be crucial for the Redbirds to stay true to this mentality and focus on playing quality, fundamentally sound football to get back on track.
Third Down Efficiency – This was a major problem on both sides of the ball for the Cardinals against the Falcons. They surrendered 11 first downs on 17 attempts to Atlanta, and did not convert a single third down in eight attempts on offense. This cut offensive drives short and disheartened the defense when the Falcons were allowed to continue holding onto the ball. Arizona must do a better job of sustaining drives on offense and getting its defense off the field on third down.
Even with all the success the Cardinals have enjoyed in recent years, they've suffered a handful of blowout losses and managed to rebound each time. Whisenhunt is a master at motivating his players after a disappointing loss the week before. This week's home opener against Oakland is an ideal opportunity for the Cards to get back on the right path.
Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52
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