Let me assure you: I take no satisfaction in this. But… I told you so.
The Arizona Cardinals, despite having the best offensive player on the field on Sunday, despite having an overwhelming advantage on defense, and despite being 5.5-point favorites, fell, somewhat predictably, to the Oakland Raiders 23-21.
This isn’t quite rock bottom—I still think the 45-10 embarrassment on national TV against the Broncos was worse—but this loss absolutely typifies the 2018 Cardinals season. Impotent offense? Check. Stupid penalties? Check. Late-game defensive collapse? Check. All that was missing on the bingo card was was a shanked Phil Dawson FG.
It was an ugly game, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t lessons to be learned. Here were my three biggest takeaways from this depressing loss.
This Is a Poorly Coached Team
This is straight from the “No s***, Sherlock!” files, but it can’t be overemphasized just how bad a job Steve Wilks has done in his first year on the job. On Sunday, the Cardinals committed 7 penalties for 62 yards, had 2 turnovers, and possessed the ball for just 24 minutes. For the Raiders, those numbers were 4 penalties for 20 yards, 0 turnovers, and 36 minutes of possession. Yes, the players on the field are share some of the blame, but the head coach can directly be blamed for the lack of discipline and efficiency shown—especially in the 4th quarter. After the Cardinals took the lead 21-20 with just over 5:00 remaining, the Cardinals ran 7 plays for -14 yards… and that’s with two Raiders punts in there. The first play on each 3-and-out was a Mike McCoy classic David Johnson plunge up the middle. Even worse was the touchdown-nullifying holding penalty on Ricky Seals-Jones. A head coach needs to put his players in better positions than that. This was an eminently winnable game that the Redbirds gave away due to terrible coaching.
It’s Impossible to Evaluate Josh Rosen at This Point
Yes, Josh Rosen threw a career-high 3 TDs on Sunday, but he also only completed 9/20 passes and tossed 2 picks as well. And keep in mind this was against one of the worst passing defenses in the league. Seven starts into his career, we really have no idea what we have in Rosen. He’s completed only 55% of his passes, with a 6.2 YPA and 9:10 TD:INT ratio. Those are really bad numbers. But is his poor performance really that surprising… or even his own fault? He was hamstrung for 4 starts by McCoy, and he’s played behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league with very little talent at the WR/TE positions. Christian Kirk has had a pretty good rookie season, yes, but Larry Fitzgerald has been a shadow of his former greatness, and every other WR/TE who has caught a pass from Rosen probably wouldn’t see the field for most other teams. Rosen deserves better than the poor coaching and sub-par talent he’s experienced thus far. Will he get a clean slate in the offseason?
The Defense Deserves Better Than This
Let’s be clear—the defense isn’t without blame for Sunday’s loss. They failed to create a turnover for a second straight game, gave up over 150 yards on the ground, and were burned down the stretch by something called a “Marcell Ateman” and other castoffs. But they also sacked Derek Carr 4 times, stonewalled the Raiders on 1st and goal at the 2 in the third quarter, and held them to just 325 yards of total offense. They obviously didn’t have a perfect game, but they played well enough to win the game—as they have for most of the season. Earlier in the season, there were a few rumors of a potential locker room rift; I wouldn’t be surprised if those rumors made a return in the coming weeks. This has been a top-10 defense that has kept an absolutely abysmal offense in most games. That kind of disparity tends to breed discord. How Wilks handles the inevitable animosity may very well determine his fate as the Cardinals’ head man.
The Cardinals are now 2-8 with perhaps the only winnable game left on their schedule behind them. Here are their final 6 games: at the Chargers, at the Packers, home to the Lions, at the Falcons, home to the Rams, at the Seahawks. That sure looks like 3-13 at best to me. This could be a brutal final month and a half. Let’s just hope Rosen survives it.
What did you think of the Raiders loss, Redbirds fans? How much blame do you put on Wilks? What did you think of Rosen’s performance? The defense? Let’s wrap our heads around this dispiriting loss in the comments.