Decision Time

by Zack Cimini

If there was ever an inopportune time to self destruct it happened yesterday for the Arizona Cardinals. On the main stage of Monday Night Football the Cardinals failed in all phases that you could possibly fail in. It seemed as if their game plan was dodged from the get go. Fumbleitis on top of the offensive line woes and Kurt Warner’s inability to suddenly not feel pressure in the pocket. All in all they turned the ball over seven times. Afterwards head coach Whisenhunt basically said it wasn’t their day and they’re going to move forward.

Truly, a loss is a loss and for the most part teams are going to melt down at some point in a season and have to regroup. The Cardinals went through major issues last season as they had huge let down losses but due to the weakness of their division were not bothered by the pressure of any other teams. The same is pretty much the case this season. The Cardinals are not going to fade completely and lose out while the 49ers win out and take the division. That’s not realistic and will not happen.

Something about San Francisco has rose a plethora of constant issues for the Cardinals. That’ll be something they don’t have to worry about until their next matchup versus the 49ers in 2010. What they do have to worry about is the backfield woes they have had all season. Tim Hightower and rookie running back Beanie Wells have coughed up the football with regularity. Basically on a tough hard hit they’ve both been prone to the same fumbling issues. In yesterday’s game Whisenhunt was so frustrated with Tim Hightower that he benched him briefly in favor of third string running back LaRod-Stephens Howling.

These type of back and forth games should not happen this deep into the season. The problem with Arizona that they somehow were able to side step last year is they’ve never been able to run the football. Last year they pulled through in the playoffs because teams could not guard Larry Fitzgerald as he went onto to have a seasons worth of stats in his four playoff games. Who people forget about that did a decent job rushing the football in the playoffs last year was Edgerrin James. Once the Cardinals drafted Beanie Wells they decided to cut ties with the aging back and move forward.

All San Francisco did was get after Kurt Warner and they did that by sending only three or four defensive lineman. Some stunts were done by their linebackers but for the most part they were dropping into zone coverage because the Cardinals were afraid of fumbling the football again. It’s pretty bad when all three running backs fumble in the same game, as happened with the Cardinals. Heck, there are some running backs that go the entire season without fumbling the football.

If you’re Arizona you have to pick between Hightower and Beanie Wells as the main back and progress your team offensively for a playoff run. The team needs to know who they’re going to rely on as their feature back. Clearly when Wells has had the carries he has been a far more effective runner. It’s not his running skills that have the Cardinals hesitant in naming him as feature starter, it’s his pass protection. That’s the area that Hightower excels in and keeps himself on the field with. He does a great job picking up the right blocks and chipping to give Kurt Warner that extra time to get rid of the football.

By fumbling the football five times though as Hightower has, he is proving too be a bigger detriment than plus. Keep his carries limited and see if a coach can diagnose and help him extract his fumbling issues in the off-season. Wells fumbles are only one lower at four so far but he adds another dimension of explosiveness to this offense. Many question why the Cardinals did not go after a veteran back such as Deuce McAllister or Warrick Dunn to help these youngsters out. Now it’s too late and the Cardinals will have to rely on a backfield that’s fumbled the football ten times including Stephens-Howling.