Cardinals characterize latest blowout as 'embarrassing,' 'frustrating'

CARSON, Calif. -- When Josh Rosen rolled to his right about midway through the third quarter, he felt something hit his right throwing hand.

At the time, the Arizona Cardinals' rookie quarterback thought it was a Los Angeles Chargers defender swiping at the ball. It made sense. He was being chased seemingly all game. He "freaked out" and quickly threw the ball away. It was another lost play in another lost game.

Afterward, Rosen was informed that he was hit by a penalty flag, which was thrown by down judge Tom Symonette.

"You can't do that, though, in the middle of a play," Rosen said after thinking about it as another question was being asked. "Whatever."

It was that kind of game for the Cardinals.

And it has been that kind of season.

The Cardinals' 45-10 loss to the Chargers on Sunday at the StubHub Center -- Arizona's second 45-10 drubbing in five games -- was more of the same for a team whose season is officially beyond repair.

To coach Steve Wilks, calling Sunday's loss embarrassing was "definitely an understatement."

"Definitely was embarrassing, definitely not what we want," Wilks said. "This organization, that team in that locker room, those players and coaches, we got to do better."

The offense showed a glimmer of hope, yet again. This time, it took a 10-0 lead on one of the best teams in football. David Johnson looked like the retro version of himself. Rosen was making the hard look easy. Then the offense was stopped dead in its tracks while the Chargers scored 45 unanswered points as their quarterback, Philip Rivers, completed his first 25 passes, setting one NFL record and tying another.

"From that point," coach Steve Wilks said of the early lead, "the wheels just sort of fell off a little bit."

Not just a little bit.

They're still rolling down the 405.

The Cardinals are 11 games into their season and the same issues, the same mistakes, the same errors are still showing up at an alarming rate. The "inconsistency is there," Wilks said.

But, why, after months of games?

"A number of things," Wilks said.


"Tackling, No. 1," he said. "Protecting the football, No. 2. And blocking up front and trying to get positive yardage and trying to get off the field on third down."

Sound familiar?

Tackling has been an issue for the Cardinals for weeks. It comes down to angles and communication, linebacker Chandler Jones said, and defenders wrapping up, moving their feet -- "basic fundamentals," Wilks said.

While many NFL teams use the season as a crescendo, getting better as the year goes on, the Cardinals have digressed in some areas.

It has proven difficult for Arizona to improve when some players still aren't doing their jobs.

"Players have to really buy in to what coaches are coaching," Jones said. "You can't try to do someone else's job. You have to do your job and only your job. [Sometimes] you might get a little nosy and jump out of your gap and that's when they might spring for a big gain."

Defensive tackle Corey Peters said it's "obviously frustrating." Especially when the same issues, same mistakes, same errors are staring them in the face week after week.

"We turn on the film and guys are not executing the way we did during the week in practice," Peters said. "Guys are not doing the things we've been coached to do. That's frustrating. We're not going to be discouraged. We got to keep putting our best foot forward."

Sound familiar?

So, how can the Cardinals fix their season? Don't ask the players.

"That's above my pay grade to tell you what all we need," safety Tre Boston said. "I know as a defense, we got to play better today and get the job done."

Said Peters: "All I know how to do is put my head down and go back to work when things aren't going right."

Cornerback Patrick Peterson said his teammates have to look in the mirror. Individual performances, he said, lead to team success.

Publicly, at least, the Cardinals claim they haven't lost their confidence. Jones said, as a captain and a team leader, he won't let it. Wilks said his team has "great character" in the locker room and is still "fighting" on the field. He pointed to the defense getting off the field on third down late in the game. It did that once.

"I don't think those guys quit," Wilks said. "I'm not going to even stand up here and say those guys quit. Those guys finished. And do we got to play better? Of course we do."

He added: "[We're] going to continue to try to persevere and find ways to win football games."

That may be easier said than done with a schedule that sees them finish with the Packers, Lions, Falcons, Rams and Seahawks.

With the playoffs out of the picture, as much as the Cardinals want to keep their focus on this season, they're playing for next year.

"Just building blocks," Rosen said. "I mean, to state the obvious, guys are playing for their jobs. On a larger scale than that, we're just trying to play respectable football and to ourselves, it's a competition within your job. And I mean, we can't be proud of the product we've put on the field. I don't care if we got 100 games left or one, we're going to go week by week and try to play the best football that we can because there's not really many other options."