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Cardinals must get act together in crunch time

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted Oct. 03, 2011 @ 7:05 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

As long as the Cardinals keep saving their worst for last, a frustrating dry spell figures to continue as far as victories in the desert are concerned. Just about the same time the Diamondbacks received a rude awakening from the Brewers 1,450 miles to the northeast, the wheels came off for the Cardinals on Sunday, as they managed to blow a second-half lead for the third consecutive week. Don't look now, but after allowing Eli Manning and the Giants to erase a 10-point fourth-point lead in what seemed like no time flat in a 31-27 home loss, Arizona has fallen two games behind the upstart 49ers in the NFC West with a disappointing 1-3 record.

In crunch time, both the offense directed by new QB Kevin Kolb and the defense disappeared, with questionable play-calling and a terrible call by the officials on Giants WR Victor Cruz's apparent fumble with three minutes remaining increasing the agony.

The PFW Spin

As soon as this Sunday in Minnesota against the winless Vikings, the Cardinals have a good shot at starting to reverse their misfortune in a division that continues to be the epitome of mediocrity. There are actually some reasons to be somewhat optimistic, most notably the strong play up to now of RB Beanie Wells, who powered his way to 138 yards rushing on 27 carries (5.1 ypc) and three TDs in Week Four. On defense, Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell and rookie David Carter, who forced a big fumble on Sunday, all continue to have their moments up front. And while a lack of pressure and the growing pains being experienced by young CBs Patrick Peterson and A.J. Jefferson are no doubt hindering the back seven, one gets the feeling that new coordinator Ray Horton's unit is at least making a concerted effort to get its act together, which was often not the case last year on a defense that seemed like it didn't give a damn much of the time.

And then there's Kolb, who seems to take two steps forward and three steps backward every week, showing promise but coming up woefully short in the late stages of games with ill-advised mistakes. Kolb's interception by ex-Cardinal Antrel Rolle on a fourth-quarter pass intended for star WR Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday was particularly galling. The time has arrived for Kolb to start becoming more of a closer. Settling for only six points on three first-half trips inside the red zone just isn't going to cut it.

But after the Cardinals gained 368 yards against the Giants, the feeling prevails that Kolb could be on the cusp of a breakthrough performance. Getting more help from receivers other than Fitzgerald — especially current No. 2 Andre Roberts, who was nowhere to be found on Sunday — certainly wouldn't hurt. Same goes for a dramatic reduction in penalties after 11 flags for 118 yards against the Giants.

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