TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)Any hope that the Arizona Cardinals might overachieve this season is fading quickly.
The Cardinals (1-5) fell to the Los Angeles Rams 26-9 on Sunday, with the Rams scoring 20 unanswered points after halftime. Arizona has been outscored 51-12 in the second half during their current three-game losing streak.
“It’s hard as hell to win an NFL football game, man,” Cardinals defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter said Sunday.
That’s particularly true for the rebuilding Cardinals, who don’t have a ton of talent to cover up mistakes.
Joshua Dobbs struggled, completing 21 of 41 passes for 235 yards and had two turnovers in the fourth quarter, including an interception and a lost fumble. The Cardinals had a handful of promising drives stall in the red zone, settling for three field goals in the first half.
“It starts with me in the red zone because that’s such an important area of the field,” Dobbs said. “You work so hard to get down there, man. So just simple execution, starting with me, making sure we’re in the right play and making good decisions with the football, and then that will spread to the rest of the team.”
It remains to be seen how much longer Dobbs will get a chance to turn things around. The Cardinals are awaiting the return of franchise quarterback Kyler Murray, who’s still recovering from a knee injury suffered last season.
Until that happens, the Cardinals are in a bit of a holding pattern.
If anything, it feels as if the team’s regressing.
“I don’t question their toughness or effort,” first-year coach Jonathan Gannon said. “I think it’s just going to come down to the details of what we’re doing and we’ve got to make a couple more plays here and there.”
The Cardinals are running the ball well, even after starter James Conner (knee) went on IR last week.
Arizona ranks sixth in the NFL with 141 yards rushing per game and had 130 yards on the ground against the Rams. They’re averaging 5.3 yards per carry, which ranks second in the league. Dobbs ran for a team-high 47 yards against the Rams while Keaontay Ingram added 40 yards on 10 carries.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Dobbs struggled to complete deep balls Sunday, including a pair of throws to Hollywood Brown that could have changed the game. Brown had just four catches, despite 11 targets.
Brown is arguably the team’s best offensive player at the moment, so Dobbs has to find a way to connect.
“You get those two shots, you get Hollywood one-on-one, he’s shown all year that he can win and create those explosive plays,” Dobbs said. “It’s my job to get the ball to him when he does win.”
TE Trey McBride. He continues to look like an important part of the team’s rebuild, catching four passes for 62 yards. The second-year player is splitting time with veteran Zach Ertz, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see McBride get more time as the season progresses.
Rookie CB Kei’Trel Clark. The sixth-round pick out of Louisville had a tough time covering Rams star WR Cooper Kupp, who finished with seven catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. Clark has been a pleasant surprise for the Cardinals this season, but he’ll need more seasoning before handling assignments like Kupp, who’s one of the NFL’s premier receivers.
CB Antonio Hamilton has a groin injury, which is another blow for a banged-up secondary. The team was already without both starting safeties – Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson – against the Rams. Murray is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list, but the Cardinals have given no indication that a move is imminent.
4 – The Cardinals have lost four fumbles this season, all by Dobbs. That’s the most in the NFL, tied with Ravens QB Lamar Jackson and Vikings QB Kirk Cousins.
The Cardinals have another road game next weekend against an NFC West rival, traveling to Seattle.
AP freelance writer Dan Greenspan in Inglewood, California, contributed.
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