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Cardinals look for stretch of 'winnable games'

AP - Sports
Cardinals look for stretch of 'winnable games'
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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona's offense was very bad last season and not much, if any, better through seven games this year.

A new, offensive-minded coach and a new quarterback have yet to solve the issue that has been at the heart of the franchise's problems since Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 season.

Now coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer are looking at a schedule over the next month that holds hope for something better.

Palmer calls it a stretch of ''very winnable games.''

It starts with an Oct. 27 home game against Atlanta. That will be followed by a bye week, then a home game against Houston and a trip to Jacksonville.

That's a bit less daunting than facing San Francisco and Seattle in a five-day span.

Both of those games were 12-point losses, but the Cardinals played much better at the 49ers than in Thursday night's 34-22 home loss to the Seahawks.

Palmer threw two interceptions and was sacked seven times by the Seahawks.

''That's a very good front but we did not play as well as we've been playing,'' Arians said on Monday. ''(Left tackle) Bradley (Sowell) struggled, obviously, with his pressures. (Right tackle) Eric (Winston) struggled with pressure, (right guard) Paul (Fanaica) struggled. The only guy that played really well up front was (center) Lyle (Sendlein).

''Not only in pass protection but in running the ball we struggled,'' Arians said.

That left his trademark downfield passing philosophy in tatters.

''I think this it's the first time in 20 years in the NFL we came out of the game with no explosive plays, runs or passes,'' the coach said.

The Cardinals (3-4) managed just 30 yards rushing in 18 attempts. Rashard Mendenhall gained 22 yards on 13 carries.

Arians would not put the blame on Palmer, who has become a lightning rod for fan criticism after throwing 13 interceptions this season, 11 in the last five games.

Both interceptions by Seattle, Arians said, were not Palmer's fault ''whatsoever.'' He said the same thing about the two interceptions against San Francisco.

Asked to assess Palmer's performance, Arians said, ''I've got to give him credit for standing. You get hit that many times and you still stand in there. Looking back, neither interception was his fault whatsoever. He protected the football like he needed to. We've got to make better plays.''

Palmer ran out of the pocket a few times, but not by design.

''He was running for his life,'' Arians said. ''That's not his style.''

Winston said protecting Palmer was difficult because Seattle continuously rotates fresh players into the defensive front.

''We've got to play better up front,'' Winston said. ''Obviously, the sacks are a concern, anytime you put a big of a number in a game. But most of all we've got to create a more clean pocket, more time for him, where he can step up and really make some throws. We've got to start striving toward that. I think if we're striving toward that the sacks will come down because he'll be able to get his passes off more quickly.'''

The extra time off this weekend is welcome.

''Anytime you play two division games as close as we have, as tough as we have, it's nice to be able to take Saturday and Sunday and just take a deep breath, regroup, see where you're at, then come in with a clear mind to Atlanta and really put all our effort knowing that it's the only game we'll play in the next two weeks,'' Winston said. ''Well really be able to take a wholesale evaluation of the season after the eight-game mark.''

Defense has been carrying the Cardinals, but there were breakdowns early on a pair of drives that put Seattle up 14-0.

''Defensively, we didn't come out with the s peed that we had been playing,'' Arians said. ''We kind of felt our way and uncharacteristically had quite a few mental errors in that (first drive). Once we realized they're just doing what we practiced and what we watched on film we played pretty solid.''

He had praise for outside linebacker John Abraham and defensive end Calais Campbell. Abraham had two sacks. Campbell had a big stop of Russell Wilson on a fourth-and-inches play and recovered a fumble.

''You never think about praising guys in a loss,'' Arians said, '' but those guys were outstanding.''

Arians said there is plenty of time to turn things around.

''Beat Atlanta, get back to .500,'' he said, ''and then I think we can string some together. Our goal is still in sight. That's to make the playoffs.''

Notes: Arizona defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu was fined $10,000 for kicking San Francisco guard Alex Boone in the face Sunday. Boone was called for a personal foul during the exchange and docked $7,875. Ta'amu wasn't penalized on the field for his kick. The Cardinals' Darnell Dockett also was fined $7,875 for a late hit in that game.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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