Then he winced. Then he smiled. Then he looked down. The wide receiver wasn’t sure how to answer the question: How surprised was he that points have been hard to come by this season for the Arizona Cardinals?
The pause, the wince, the smile, the look down were the real answer. Then Fitzgerald spoke.
“We’ve got to do better,” he said. “That’s as simple as that. We’ve just got to do better and find a way to get it done.”
A 22-6 victory against the Carolina Panthers can ease the pain of another brutal offensive showing, but it can’t mask the issues. The Cardinals again struggled to move the ball in the first half, gaining 118 yards in the first two quarters and scoring three points. And the issues were the same ones that plagued Arizona against New Orleans and Tampa Bay: third downs weren’t being converted (4-for-12), the Cardinals were unsure of formations (one illegal formation penalty), quarterback Carson Palmer was ending drives with interceptions (three).
“We are fortunate to get 22 points,” Palmer said. “The field position really helped us out but we didn’t capitalize enough.
“We should have won by a much larger margin.”
But interceptions again halted drives dead in their tracks. Palmer’s first was on a flee-flicker to Michael Floyd early in the first quarter. The next two were on plays targeting Fitzgerald, one deep in the end zone in the second quarter and another in the third on a short pass.
“When you try to force it to Larry, you’re going to have problems, especially when he’s double covered,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “You’ve got to fit it in such a tight hole.”
The Cardinals are lucky the Panthers only held a 6-3 lead at halftime.
And like they’ve done all season, the Cardinals started the third quarter on a tear. In its first drive that stanza, Arizona found a balance in its running and passing games. It sparked a 19-0 run.
But why do the Cards find their rhythm in the second half?
“I think that having the chance to go in at halftime and have a look at what we’re seeing and look at what we’re doing and kind of pull some counter punches to some things,” Palmer said. “I know we’ve made some really good adjustments. This week we made some good adjustments.”