There were a number of surprises in the first four weeks of the NFL season, pleasant and unpleasant alike. While a couple of potential contenders have had some stumbles out of the gate, there have been some unexpected winning starts. The most notable one of those was the Arizona Cardinals’ 4-0 start, which including a stunning win at New England in Week 2.
However, any talk of the Cardinals as a contender and as Kevin Kolb as a potential MVP candidate is extremely premature, as their faults were greatly exposed in an ugly 17-3 defeat at St. Louis last night.
Defensively, the Cardinals performed well after allowing a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. But it looks like their offensive line could do with a few extra workout exercise programs after how it was completely manhandled by the Rams’ defensive line, which is solid but isn’t up there with the NFL’s best. Kolb, who finished 28 of 50 for 289 yards, was sacked nine times, three by Robert Quinn, and he was hit or pressured many, many more times throughout the night. However, he had to take a licking and keep on throwing. Why? The same offensive line that struggled to keep him upright struggled to create holes in the run game, which compiled only 45 yards on 17 carries.
So was this just one bad performance, or are the Cardinals little more than an average team? Well, it was an extremely bad performance, and the Cardinals are little more than an average team. The defense does look like it will keep them in many games, but there are still numerous questions about the offense. It’s nice to have Larry Fitzgerald to throw to, but if the offensive line can’t keep Kolb on his feet long enough to throw to him, then his presence matters only so much.
Also, the Cardinals don’t look any more threatening on the ground than they have in recent years, and that doesn’t look likely to change. Having already lost Beanie Wells for a good portion of the season with a toe injury, it’s possible that Ryan Williams could be out for a while after sustaining a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter last night. If he is, that means Ken Whisenhunt will have to turn to Bilal Powell, Alfonso Smith, or William Sherman, names that don’t exactly inspire much confidence when you consider the limited production Arizona already had from its ground game.
The Cardinals’ good start was helped by having three winnable home games in the first four weeks, but the Arizona schedule is a good bit tougher from here on. Along with two games against NFC West favorite San Francisco, there are road games against the Vikings (another early surprise at 3-1), Packers, Falcons, Jets, and Seahawks, and there are home games against Detroit and Chicago. So, while it was certainly a nice September for Arizona, the rest of the season is unlikely to be nearly as enjoyable, unless they fix the offensive issues that the Rams so highlighted last night.