Kent Somers
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Cardinals running back Emmitt Smith has gained considerable knowledge in his 15 NFL seasons, but there are questions for which he has no answers. Such as, how could the Cardinals play so poorly in the first half and so well in the second Sunday against the *****?

"If I knew the answers to those things I would know how to find Osama bin Laden," he said.

The offense went nowhere in the first half, gaining 135 yards and scoring three points. advertisement

But in the second half, it rallied for 235 yards and 25 points, helping to send the game to overtime. Smith had little room to run in the first half, gaining 13 yards on 10 carries, but he was effective in the fourth quarter, gaining 36 yards on five carries, including an 8-yard touchdown run.

It wasn't enough. The Cardinals lost 31-28 in overtime.

In the first half, Smith was getting hit in the backfield. In the second, he was finding creases in the defense.

"When you have guys taking shots in the backfield, untouched, that's an execution problem," he said. "I don't think guys actually got physically beat that bad, that's a mistake somewhere along the line."

Some of the mistakes the Cardinals are making are "elementary," he said.

Players need to evaluate their effort, study habits and communication with each other, Smith said. And he seemed to suggest that coaching plays a part, too.

"I think we have enough experience and played in enough games to know how to overcome certain things," he said. "Sometimes you have to overcome coaching. Sometimes you just have to do that."

That Smith was even playing was amazing to Cardinals coach Dennis Green. Smith missed last week's game against Detroit with a sprained left toe, and it bothered him throughout this week.

Smith was "pretty amazed," he said. But there are questions about how much he has left. He's in the last year of his contract, but sounded Sunday as if he wants to continue playing.

"I still think I can be a 1,000-yard back for the Cardinals or for anybody," he said. "You've seen me perform this year."

But he came to Arizona with the desire to help the Cardinals make the playoffs. That hasn't happened.

"The only thing I could say is that my mission has failed," he said. "I feel like I've failed my position and feel like I have not done enough."