Arizona quarterback takes blame for some of his interceptions

Updated: October 23, 2003, 11:31 AM ET
ESPN

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jeff Blake accepts blame for only five of his nine interceptions, but he vows to make better decisions when the Arizona Cardinals return from their bye week to face the San Francisco 49ers.

"I'm not playing nine-interception ball. I mean, four of them have been tipped. I've only got five. That's pretty good," Blake said. "So I'm not totally frustrated. I can't do anything about tips."

Blake does take responsibility for the three picks he threw -- all on third down -- in the Cardinals' most recent game, a 26-18 home loss to Baltimore on Oct 12. One of them, a sidelines pass thrown slightly behind intended receiver Anquan Boldin, was returned 73 yards for a touchdown by Chris McAlister.

"I just have to take it upon myself never to let that happen again," Blake said.

Turnovers have been the blatant reason for the Cardinals' 1-5 start. They've thrown 11 interceptions and fumbled the ball away seven times. On the other hand, they've picked off three passes and recovered one opponent's fumble. That's a minus-14 turnover margin, by far the worst in the NFL. The closest are the New York Giants at minus-eight.

It's a statistic that permeates every practice as the Cardinals healed their wounds over a bye week and tried to regroup for Sunday's home game against the San Francisco 49ers.

"My main thing right now is to just play smart," Blake said after Wednesday's workout. "If it's not there, throw it away, run it, do whatever. I'm not giving away any balls anymore. If there's a ball turnover, it ain't gonna be Jeff Blake. I can promise you that."

Blake never has had more interceptions than touchdowns in any of his 11 previous NFL seasons. Through six games this year, he has nine picks and seven TDs.

He is suffering from some of the circumstances that plagued his predecessor in Arizona, Jake Plummer, center Pete Kendall said.

"It's hard to play quarterback from behind in this league," Kendall said. "I think much like what happened with Jake, some of the reason that we're playing from behind is early turnovers. Sometimes the quarterback's had a hand in those. Other times it's not the quarterback's fault that we're behind and yet the emphasis is on him to get us back. So now he has to take chances that maybe he wouldn't take otherwise."

Blake, who is healthy after being bothered by a bruised heel in the loss to Seattle on Sept. 14, will have a few more receivers available this week. Bryan Gilmore and Bryant Johnson are practicing and expect to play.

Gilmore, the team's fastest receiver, caught a 14-yard touchdown pass on Arizona's first possession against Baltimore, then was sidelined a short time later with a sprained left ankle.

Johnson, a first-round draft pick this year, has been out since separating a shoulder against Dallas on Oct. 5.

The Cardinals were down to three receivers at the end of the Baltimore game.

"We haven't hit a deep ball all year. I'm really hungry for one. I believe this game I'm going to get a couple of them," Gilmore said.

The receivers have a role to play in cutting down interceptions, he said.

"We have to take pride in not letting people get picks off of us," Gilmore said, "just giving up on plays or stuff."

Blake said everybody on the team bears responsibility.

"All of us have to play smart -- receivers, quarterbacks, coaches, o-linemen," he said. "We can't have holding, jumping offsides. Things like that that make it hard for us. It's first and 20, and that's tough to get back. We just have to play smart and don't give them anything I think we'll be fine."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index