AL HAMNIK: Bears shouldn't expect a walk in the desert

2012-12-22T17:15:00Z 2012-12-28T14:25:18Z AL HAMNIK: Bears shouldn't expect a walk in the desertAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
December 22, 2012 5:15 pm  • 

I'm worried. Are you worried?

The Arizona Cardinals aren't worried.

There's no pressure on them whatsoever.

Everything you've heard and read has the visiting Bears using them for a welcome mat today, wiping their claws all over the NFL's worst offense.

Arizona started 4-0, then lost its next nine games with the league's worst rushing offense and 29th-ranked passing offense.

I'm still worried. Are you worried?

Here's the skinny: The Bears have also stumbled, losing five of the last six and barely averaging 14 points in that sad stretch.

Worse yet, the players know that winning their final two games might not be enough to earn a wild card spot, admitting they may need some "help" at 10-6.

The Cardinals, despite their woes, are not dessert.

There is some grit and substance there, with six losses by 14 points or less, the NFL's No. 4 passing defense and a league-leading 22 interceptions.

Jay Cutler, listen up. Cornerback Patrick Peterson and his seven picks want to meet you. And in 14 games, opposing quarterbacks have a 68.0 rating.

That's why I'm worried. As for Dru Grigson, he's undecided. The 1996 Highland grad is a regional scout for the Cardinals and in his fifth year with the team.

"We had a bad, bad streak there. We started off so hot and everything was looking great," Grigson said. "We beat New England at home. You look at what our defense has done and it's incredible."

And yet, the Cardinals find themselves at 5-9 and left for dead.

"If you can't throw the ball, which we haven't been able to do, you can't win," Grigson said. "We pick off (Atlanta's) Matt Ryan five times, force another turnover, and we still don't come out with a win.

"Chicago's playing for a playoff berth. We're playing for pride and the names on our jerseys."

Starting QB Kevin Kolb (ribs) went on the injured reserve list in Week 6, leaving John Skelton and rookie Ryan Lindley, both of whom struggled.

They've combined for 2 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a QB rating comparable to today's temperature.

"You don't want to go to No. 2 and No. 3. It's hard enough to find a No. 1," Grigson said. "A lot of No. 1's aren't No. 1's.

"If you play average defense in the league and you can throw the ball vertically, you're going to win. That's just the way the game's being played now."

Larry Fitzgerald, the National Football League's best wide receiver when he has a quarterback who can throw him the football, joins Andre Roberts as potential game changers.

Running backs LaRod Stevens-Howling and Beanie Wells each have more rushing touchdowns than Matt Forte, but average a mere 3.4 and 2.8 yards a carry, respectively.

Stevens-Howling is only 5-foot-7. Wells is a load at 230 pounds but missed half the season with injuries.

"The losing hurts but it's fun trying to get it right," added Grigson, a long-time scout.

Fortunately, Cardinal fans aren't reaching for their torches and pitchforks. Today's game marks the 73rd consecutive sellout at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Another reason to worry.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

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