PHOENIX - Effort or ability? Which one was it exactly? In trying to diagnose the Cardinals lopsided loss on Saturday night, that becomes the key question.
Because, if it's simply a lack of effort and/or intensity that we saw on the field, then Cardinals fans can take their concern level down from DEFCON 1.
However, if the Cardinals 24-7 loss to the San Diego Chargers primarily stems from a lack of talent, then, uh, get ready for constant roster turnover that will span the entire season. (No doubt, the Big Red phone on the desk of GM Steve Keim will be ringing non-stop.)
Following the game, I had a chance to talk with head coach Bruce Arians, who reiterated that the Cards were "not ready to play." Just like in his postgame press conference, he labeled the first half "probably the dumbest first 30 minutes of football I've ever seen." (11 flags would be evidence of just that).
In talking with various players, the consensus seemed to be Cardinals lamenting that they "did not match the intensity of the Chargers," as one player described it.
Fair enough. As mentioned, that's certainly more reassuring than the alternative, which is not pleasant considering that the Cards displayed failures in virtually every phase of the game (with the exception of a running game that averaged 6.7 yards per carry).
For example, the special teams units allowed a blocked punt, a blocked field goal, and gave up a significant punt return.
On defense, there were more than enough shortcomings to fill both sides of Coach Arians' accountability sheet. For instance, Jerraud Powers drew three penalty flags during a stretch of the second quarter. And don't even bring up the ill-advised attempted lateral by Rashad Johnson that turned into a Chargers touchdown – labeled "absolutely asinine" by Coach Arians.
On offense, there is no doubt that Levi Brown will hear from the trio of coaches who handle the offensive line. Just consider his pair of flags (false start & holding penalties) and his struggles against Dwight Freeney in pass protection.
If nothing else, the Cards got a head start on the WWE Raw event here in the Valley on Monday, as they suffered their own Smackdown of sorts.
The question again – was it effort or ability? And will it serve as a wake-up call for the regular season opener in St. Louis?