(Sports Network) - A Buffalo Bills team which has fallen off a cliff over its
last six quarters visits the desert to take on an Arizona club aiming for its
ninth straight home win.
The Cardinals, who are 11-3 in their last 14 games dating back to last season,
have problems of their own, however.
Arizona was off to its best start in 38 years before tasting defeat for the
first time back on Oct. 4 in St. Louis, falling to the Rams 17-3.
Kevin Kolb went 28-for-50 through the air for 289 yards but was sacked nine
times for the Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald paced all receivers with eight
receptions for 92 yards in the setback.
"Not a very good effort by us," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We had
our chances, but we didn't capitalize on our opportunities."
Kolb has now been sacked 17 times over the past two games and Arizona, which
was already without Beanie Wells, lost oft-injured running back Ryan Williams
for the season with a fractured coracoid process in his shoulder.
A ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee cost Williams his entire rookie
season after the Cardinals selected him in the second round of the 2011 draft.
The 22-year-old had run for 164 yards on 58 carries and caught seven passes
for 44 yards this season.
Arizona, which ranks a dismal 31st in the NFL i rushing, averaging just 63.4
yards per game, now must rely on LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell and
Alfonso Smith moving forward.
"I feel good about the guys that we've got," Whisenhunt said.
The Bills, meanwhile, have been outscored 90-17 over their last 90 minutes of
football, following up a second half collapse against New England with a
dismal effort in a 45-3 shellacking at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
Ryan Fitzpatrick finished with just 126 yards passing and an interception for
Buffalo, which came in with an NFL-high 16 touchdowns but gained just 10 first
downs in its second straight debilitating setback.
The Bills gave up 45 second-half points their loss to the Patriots and again
had no answer for a 49ers team clicking on all cylinders.
"Obviously there's something I'm not doing correctly with this football team
in the second half, because we've played extremely poorly, and that's as nice
as you could put it, in the second half," Bills head coach Chan Gailey said.
"I don't have the answers today. I have to find the answers."
Buffalo leads the all-time series 5-4 and has won four of the past five
between the two teams. The Cards won the last matchup, however, a 41-17 rout
on Oct. 5, 2008 behind Fitzgerald's two receiving touchdowns.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Rams' game was inevitable for Arizona, one that Kolb called "sickening"
after being sacked nine times. Simply put, the Cardinals are going to struggle
with consistency issues until a number of questions are answered on the
offensive side of the ball.
First and foremost is pass protection. A fluid thing, protecting the
quarterback is almost a living organism, one that requires the signal caller,
backs, tight end and offensive line to be on the same page. Heck, even the
receivers are asked to do their part in certain blocking schemes which require
a chip before heading out into a route. And then there are the sight
adjustments each has to diagnose as the potential hot-read on a blitz. Any
breakdown by any player could result in disaster.
The Cardinals pass protection was dismal in the Gateway to the West. Kolb held
the ball too long at times, there were mental mistakes all over the field and
left tackle D'Anthony Batiste just couldn't handle the speed and quickness of
Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, who finished with three sacks and countless
"We'll look at a lot of things that we've got to do, but I'm not going to
panic," said Whisenhunt, whose team has allowed an NFL-high 23 sacks. "We've
got a team that's tough mentally. They'll bounce back from this."
Buffalo has plenty of big names on its defensive line but doesn't have the
quickness to crash the edges like St. Louis does. That said, it's time for
Mario Williams and Mark Anderson to start earning their ducats because Batiste
and right tackle Bobby Massie are both weak links.
The Bills defense allowed 1,201 total yards in its last two losses, the most
in any two-game span since the New York Yanks (1,227) in 1950. Buffalo also
allowed a franchise-worst 621 yards against the 49ers, becoming the first team
in NFL history to allow 300 yards passing and 300 rushing in the same game.
"I think this is a perfect week to get things fixed," Buffalo center Eric Wood
told the team's website. "We've got an isolated setting. We don't have a whole
lot of distractions out here and it's time to get it straight."
For the Bills on offense, Fitzpatrick, a native of nearby Gilbert, Ariz, seems
to go through these funks every year and has to start showing more consistency
and take fewer chances with the ball. Now that Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller
are back, he has all his weapons to work with.
"We have the talent," Fitzpatrick said. "That's something we know we have."
This game features the NFC's lowest ranked offense, Arizona (273.2 yards per
game) against the AFC's lowest-ranked defense, Buffalo (449.4).
The Cardinals were due for a market correction so to speak and how they handle
their first loss will be a key to their season moving forward.
Having a shaky running game paired with a questionable quarterback doesn't
seem like a recipe for success but look for a lot of max protection by the
Arizona offense since Fitzgerald, who needs just 48 receiving yards to become
the second youngest in NFL history with 10,000, should be able to get loose
pretty frequently, even when he's out in two- or three-man routes.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cardinals 24, Bills 21
The Sports Network