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Analysis of the Cardinals’ 23-21 Loss To Raiders

Oakland Raiders v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images



  • RB David Johnson rushed for 25/137/5.5. As was suggested last week, Johnson needed to mix his speeds and not be so deliberate in hitting the holes. He did just that this week.
  • The makeshift offensive line paved the way for 154 yards rushing and only gave up one sack. Credit OLC Ray Brown for the week’s preparation. Rookie LT Korey Cunningham and newly signed RG Oday Aboushi were solid.
  • QB Josh Rosen’s 3 TDs—-(1) his patented freeze the safety, turn and fire a tight-spiraled dime on the skinny post to Larry Fitzgerald was a Rembrandt; (2) the hitch screen to Christian Kirk was a superb audible, that was sprung by two outstanding seal blocks by TE Ricky Seals-Jones and Kirks’ outstanding burst of speed; (3) Rosen’s roll right pass in the red zone late in the game to Larry Fitzgerald on a fake slant, peel back toward the pylon route was executed to picture perfection.
  • Rosen, unlike BA’s QBs the last two years, is zeroed in on Fitz in the red zone. Their chemistry is building and it could provide hope for Fitz’s return in 2019.


  • Rosen’s two interceptions—-both thrown into heavy coverage on 2nd downs—-and both the result of hastily shown passes and in the first case by poor spacing by the receivers.
  • A return of the vanilla, ultra-conservative McCoy offense in quarters 2 & 3, probably as a reaction to Rosen’s interceptions. You can’t go o-fer in 2 quarters and expect to win games.
  • The heavy use of RB David Johnson between the tackles is stifling other aspects of the offense.
  • Byron Leftwich should know how important it is to get his QB into a nice rhythm—-which is very hard to do (a) with such a heavy dose of running the football and (b) without giving Rosen some easy throws early and often, rather than more difficult down the field throws.
  • This offense will be at its best when they make it a priority to get Rosen in rhythm and to spread the ball around. Plus—-at this point in the season, the coaches have to be concerned about running Johnson into the ground.
  • The last possession was inexcusably horrendous. At that point in the game with a 21-20 lead and the Raiders only having one timeout left, at the very least the Cardinals should have punting the ball back to the Raiders with roughly 1:24 on the clock. Instead, the offense did the unthinkable—-they stopped the clock twice with penalties before the 2 minute warning which gave the Raiders an added 40 seconds of valuable time (without any timeouts). It totally bailed the Raiders out.
  • Jermaine Gresham has never been able to show the kind of discipline it takes to win football games. His nearly $8m a year contract has to rank as one of Steve Keim’s worst football decisions in his 6 years as GM. Gresham is a great guy and a loyal teammate, but he plays by his own set of rules.



  • Josh Bynes is better suited as a 34 ILB, but one has to give him credit for how hard he is playing at 34 Mike LB. The improvement he has made in pass coverage has been outstanding. Too bad he dropped the near interception that would have sealed the win. But kudos to him for his 8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and good pass coverage.
  • The defensive line play from Corey Peters (8 tackles, 1 TFL), Rodney Gunter (7 tackles, 1 TFL), Chandler Jones (3 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 TFL), Markus Golden (5 tackles) and Zach Moore (1 sack, 2 QB hits) was superb. DLC Don Johnson has been one of the real bright spots on the coaching staff. Heck, he’s even getting decent goal-line DT play from C Daniel Munyer.
  • DBs Bene Benwikere (8 tackles, I PD), Antoine Bethea (8 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack) and Tre’ Boston (7 tackles, 12 TFL, 1 QB hit) played good, hard, physical football. Unfortunately for Benwikere he gave up the 32 yard fade pass to rookie Marcel Ateman that put the Raiders in FG range—-in what again remains a gray area in the Cardinals cover schemes, as there was no immediate help over the top from the safety. In that situation, the defense has to keep everything in front of them and the Cardinals did not have the discipline of the scheme to do that.


  • The CB play from Patrick Peterson (2 tackles, 1 PD) and Jamar Taylor (2 tackles, 12 TFL) was marked by their failure to defend Brandon LaFell on a simple 5 yard stick route TD to the pylon (vs. Peterson) and Jared Cook on a 23 yard double move TD (vs. Taylor—-Jon Gruden did his homework on Taylor—-who is very susceptible to taking the bait on double moves). If you go back to the very start of the 2nd half and watch the Raiders’ two big chunk-yard plays amounting to 40 yards for RB Jalen Richard, watch Peterson actually jump backwards out of bounds on the 1st one (faking as if he was blocked) in order to avoid contact and then watch him not even react to Richards being in the open field heading in his direction on the second one.
  • Starting LBers Haason Reddick (3 tackles, 12 TFL) and Deone Bucannon (1 tackle) were a significant part of the reason why the Cardinals gave up an astonishing 152 yards rushing to the Raiders and why the Raiders were able to control the clock in the 2nd half.
  • Steve Wilks has lost two close games at home versus the Seahawks and Raiders by going ultra-conservative on offense late in the game with the notion that the defense will seal the win—-and in both cases the defense faltered due to insufficient pressure on the QB, missed tackles and shoddy pass coverage.
  • As for the lack of QB pressure on the last drive, part of the problem is that by then (after they were on the field the vast majority of the 2nd and 3rd quarters) the defensive line was gassed. Don Johnson tried to rotate his players as best he could, but with DT Robert Nkemdiche inactive and only having 3 other DTs (what has Keim been thinking?), the interior players were understandably stretched too thinly.

Special Teams:

  • This may have been the best all-around special teams performance by the Cardinals in several years. P Andy Lee was sensational (52.3 average, 2 punts pinned inside the 2, the most impressive one made by Trent Sherfield who was able to leap over the goal line and in mid-air bat the ball back to Chase Edmonds on the 1 yard line. Rookie K Matt McCrane was 3/3 on extra points and booted two kickoffs for touchbacks. T.J. Logan had the longest kickoff return off the day—-32 yards. And Christian Kirk had the longest punt return of the day—-18 yards.


  • The players are playing hard—-but are showing a lack of discipline and making the kind of costly mistakes that consitsently lose ballgames. The Cardinals’ play at home (1-5) has been especially disappointing.
  • Byron Leftwich is struggling to find a balance right now—-which is understandable. The secret to play calling is being able to stay 3 play calls ahead of the action. This would seem impossible for Leftwich to do right now because he’s running another coach’s offense and he is constantly having to adjust to an array of penalties and long down and distance situations, particularly on 3rd downs.
  • At times Wilks and Leftwich are still treating Josh Rosen with kid gloves, while at others they are asking Rosen to make the kind of sophisticated decisions that a veteran would make. Like the strange play call on 2nd and 1 on the first possession of the game, David Johnson had just gained 9 yards on 1st and 10, and then, if you are going to pass the ball on 2nd and 1, why not give Rosen as easy short pass to get him in rhythm? Instead, Rosen found himself dodging a swift edge rush to his left and then throwing hastily toward a 15 yard combo route that Fitz and Kirk ran, but botched in terms of spacing.
  • Or—-as in the screen plays the last couple of weeks—-those are very difficult plays to execute for any QB, let alone a rookie. Ever since the Cardinals pulled off a few screens three weeks ago, the current opponents have been keying on those screens. It didn’t help that Johnson dropped the best one Rosen threw.
  • Wilks and DC Al Holcomb have yet to draw up the kind of defensive scheme that can consistently make the key game winning stops—-or——stop the run.