Cardinals Need To Produce In Critical Areas

What bothered coach Ken Whisenhunt most about the loss to the Redskins last week was his offense's inability to execute in critical situations. Last season, the Cardinals were among the league's best in scoring touchdowns once in the red zone and in executing its two-minute packages.

They failed miserably in both areas at Washington and will need to find solutions if they're going to find success on the road this week at the Jets.

The Cardinals settled for a field goal after having first-and-goal at the 10 against Washington. And down by a touchdown, they had the ball at mid-field with just under four minutes left. Three plays later, they were punting.

It's not what people had come to expect from this offense, which had scored at least 20 points in 10 straight games before losing to Washington, 24-17.

"If we want to be a good football team, we have to take it down and score there," Whisenhunt said of the team's failure in the final minutes.

The good news is that there is no reason the Cardinals shouldn't be successful again in those areas. The only new starter on offense is center Lyle Sendlein, and he surely isn't the problem.

Yet the Cardinals have scored touchdowns on exactly half of their red-zone opportunities (six of 12), which is down from last year's rate of 68 percent, which ranked third in the league.

Against Washington, defensive end Jason Taylor batted down two passes in the goal-line situations. On the final possession, quarterback Kurt Warner was under some pressure but just had trouble finding open receivers.

The key to success in the red zone might be running the ball. Teams are likely to try and double receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. If that happens, it would make sense to try to run.

Running back Edgerrin James has some instincts near the goal line and rookie Tim Hightower has shown the power and speed to make big plays.

Sunday's loss to Washington was a disappointment to the Cardinals and their fans because the club had a chance to go 3-0 for the first time since 1974. But they could salvage a considerable amount of respect by beating the Jets.

It's the team's third road game in the first month of the season. A victory would give the Cardinals a 3-1 record heading home to play Buffalo and Dallas before the bye.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nobody said we're at the top. All that hype about 2-0, you can't listen to it. Keep your head down and your elbows up and keep going." -- Cardinals FB Terrelle Smith, on bouncing back from the loss.

LINEUP WATCH: Elton Brown is pushing for right guard Deuce Lutui's starting job, and the coaches are creeping closer to giving him a shot. Lutui has great talent and he appeared to play better against the Redskins than he had in previous games.

Lutui tends to make mental errors, and coaches are beginning to lose patience. Lutui is in his third year and should be getting beyond those mistakes. Brown started games last year at guard and tackle and is a solid player.


--LT Levi Brown appeared to play well Sunday in his matchup with Jason Taylor. Taylor had one quarterback pressure but he did bat down three balls. That didn't seem to be Brown's fault.

--OLB Bertrand Berry had a sack for the third straight game. Berry has played well after finishing the past three seasons on injured reserve.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald had 109 yards receiving, his 15th 100-yard game in his career. His 62-yard touchdown catch from Kurt Warner was the longest of Fitzgerald's career.

--QB Kurt Warner committed his first turnover of the season on an interception in the fourth quarter. Warner had WR Steve Breaston open but underthrew him by a yard. The ball bounced off a defender's helmet before being intercepted.

--NT Gabe Watson didn't play and might be a week away from his season debut. Watson suffered a fractured kneecap over the summer and has participated in one full week of practice.

--CB Eric Green had a possible interception in his hands but couldn't hang on. Green has played in 41 games in his career, starting 27 of them, yet has just one interception.

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