INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP)The second half has become a problem for the Arizona Cardinals.
After surprising the NFL with their competitive play through the first three weeks of the season, the overhauled Cardinals are now struggling to stay in games after halftime, with it happening again in their 26-9 loss at the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
“Nobody’s coming to save us,” defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said. “We know that. We got to save ourselves. We got to play football how we know how to play football.”
The Cardinals (1-5) were outscored 20-0 in the third and fourth quarters. In their past three losses, at San Francisco, against Cincinnati and now at Los Angeles, they have been outscored 51-12 in the second half.
This defeat was all the more frustrating because the Cardinals had played well in the first half. They ran for 103 yards to the Rams’ 5. They protected quarterback Joshua Dobbs, allowing him to distribute passes to six receivers.
What they had not done was put the ball in the end zone, settling for field goals of 32 yards after the Rams fumbled a punt and 27 yards after an 11-play drive.
“The first half, we felt like we moved the ball,” Dobbs said. “Did a good job making plays, extending on third down, finding those dirty yards to stay on the field. We wish we would have finished in the red zone. That’s ultimately what the game came down to, right?”
Sandwiching those two kicks from Matt Prater was another promising possession that ended at the Rams 40. Dobbs had been stuffed on third-and-short, and his successful fourth down sneak was canceled out because left guard Elijah Wilkinson lined up offsides.
Arizona went for it again on fourth-and-six, but Dobbs’ deep throw down the far sideline led Marquise Brown one step out of bounds.
“Man, I thought it was close, but I got to keep him inbounds with the ball location,” Dobbs said. “You get ‘Hollywood’ 1-on-1, he’s shown all year that he can win and create those explosive plays. It’s my job to get the ball to him when he does win.”
The defense had its own what-if after allowing Rams star receiver Cooper Kupp to catch a 49-yard go route up the numbers to set up a field goal with four seconds left in the half, cutting the Cardinals’ lead to 9-6.
Los Angeles built off the momentum, brutalizing Arizona with eight straight designed runs to start off a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter. The first four carries by tailback Kyren Williams netted 47 yards, heralding another frustrating second half.
“They had a lot of the crack toss, they just kept going back to it,” Ledbetter said. “They came out in the second half and they just kept going back to it. We got to figure out how to crack replace and rally to the ball and get outside.”
Ledbetter was pleased with how the Cardinals fought to stay in the game, but the optimism generated by their hard-fought losses in the first two weeks of the season and a shocking 28-16 win over Dallas seems to have faded away.
“It’s hard as hell to win a NFL football game, man,” Ledbetter said. “It’s just the reality of the business. It doesn’t matter, you know, all the hype and everything. You got to go out on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays and do what you got to do to attack that. I think the younger guys are starting to realize that it’s a new week every time. And they just responding. They’re doing well. They just got to keep building and put it together.”
— AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL