What even was that game?
Under the fierce Tampa sun, the Cardinals and Bucs combined for nearly 900 yards of total offense while also contributing five turnovers in the process.
Dropped passes, free runners, bungled challenges and blind officials were all in vogue during Tampa Bay’s 30-27 home victory over the visiting Cardinals.
Former Cardinal and current Buccaneer head coach Bruce Arians squeezed just enough out of the usually mistake prone Jameis Winston to secure the three point victory.
This was, for the most part, a back and forth affair with Tampa securing a 17-13 halftime lead thanks to a Winston touchdown pass to tight end OJ Howard.
Following a Tampa field goal to begin the half, Kyler Murray would respond. The former Heisman winner connected on a 69 yard touchdown bomb to second year receiver Christian Kirk that made it 20 all.
Kirk, who had been hobbled in recent weeks (ankle), had his most productive day as a pro as he hauled in a game high 138 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter, now down 27-23, Tampa Bay was once again driving when running back Ronald Jones inexplicably fumbled crossing mid field. The ball would be recovered by Budda Baker and Arizona thought they were in business with under six minutes remaining.
That was, of course, until receiver Trent Sherfield lost his footing near the ten yard line and allowed a wobbly pass from Kyler Murray to be picked off.
Back came Tampa, now driving with ease, eventually capping their efforts with a Peyton Barber 1 yard touch down run.
That left Murray and company with a little less than 70 second remaining and one timeout to secure a field goal. However, the increased Tampa pressure along with a last minute no call on pass interference aided Arizona’s eventual defeat.
The Cardinals fall to 3-6-1 and have now lost three straight.
Game Ball: Christian Kirk
This breakout effort from Kirk was easy to forecast prior to Sunday’s matchup, considering Tampa’s secondary ranks amongst the league’s worst. However, no one could have predicted this monster effort that would see the former Aggie produce like an All Pro player (138 yards, three touchdowns).
Kirk’s ability to separate downfield has been grossly missing from this offense and it showed in Kyler Murray’s passing production. It’s no coincidence that Murray and Kirk produce career high’s on a day in which they’re both clicking. As of this point, these are your best two building blocks offensively.
And speaking of Murray...
Game Ball: Kyler Murray
Yes, he had the tough interception toward the end of the game but think about all the additional points he MAY have secured if not for his supporting cast.
First there was the brilliantly designed 4th-and-1 call against Tampa that led to Murray hitting tight end Maxx Williams in stride for what would have been a walk in touchdown. Instead, Williams losses the ball in the sun and the Cardinals come up short.
Then, there was the David Johnson fumble inside the redzone following a perfect strike from Kyler Murray.
The Cardinals bungled three separate redzone scoring opportunities all thanks to self inflicted wounds.
Alas, Murray was mostly terrific, throwing for 324 yards on 27/44 passing while connecting on three Kirk touchdowns.
Oh and he was also the team’s leading rushes with 38 yards. That’s...not ideal.
Rookie Spotlight: Byron Murphy
The rookie second round pick out of Washington was solid again Sunday, securing his first career interception against Winston on the team’s opening drive.
His physical presence, along with Budda Baker, allow for some renewed optimism on an otherwise talent deprived defense.
Needs Work: The defense...again
Too many instances this season have led to the Arizona defense showing an embarrassing effort following Cardinal points. No scenario was more evident than following Murray’s 33 yard touchdown strike to Christian Kirk.
The Arizona defense, with 63 seconds remaining, allowed Jameis Winston to drive 75 yards on a mere SEVEN plays for the go ahead touchdown.
That was unacceptable from this Vance Joseph led unit and completely deflated the team heading into the half.
With each passing week, this unit looks as if they want to mirror the ineptitude that was the 2018 Cardinal offense.
And that’s saying something.
- Following a strong debut against the vaunted Niner defense, the Cardinal running game featuring Kenyan Drake was left hanging out to dry. Yes, Tampa fields the league’s best run defense but when Kyler Murray is the team’s leading rusher with 38 yards, that’s not going to yield many positive results. Drake wasn’t as explosive compared to last Thursday, very rarely shedding tackles on their first attempt.
- With each passing week, David Johnson looks more and more like a player that simply needs to be shut down. Sunday’s effort by Johnson, if you can even call it that, was one of the most depressing performances of the season. Put aside his game changing fumble and focus on the fact that the former Pro Bowler looked completely limited running the football. It was like he was running in slow motion compared to his counter part in Drake. The Cardinals and General Manager Steve Keim are going to have a major decision to make on Johnson moving into 2020. His cap hit is far too high to simply release him, however a change of position (HB/WR) should be on the table.
- For the second consecutive week, rookier receiver Andy Isabella displayed the kind of catch and run ability that made him the 62nd overall pick. Following his 88 yard touchdown run against San Fran, Isabella followed it up with another impressive effort on his 55 yard dash against Tampa. The rookie out of UMASS finished the day with three grabs for 78 yards. After the effort from both Johnson and Sherfield, the Cardinals would be wise to slot the speedster Isabella ahead of both on the depth chart moving forward.
- The Cardinal offensive line, outside of some pressures near the game’s final minute, was mostly fine on Sunday. Kyler Murray was only sacked twice on 44 passing attempts and that’s without the presence of an actual run game. Justin Pugh was beaten on a sack from the league’s leader Shaq Barrett but otherwise he performed well again at RT.
- Chandler Jones had another big performance applying heat, netting two sacks on the afternoon. He and former fourth rounder Rodney Gunter (1.5 sacks) are the only real threats for this talent deprived front seven unit. Gunter has quietly become one of Steve Keim’s better draft picks on day three and should be in consideration for a contract extension.
- The Cardinals won the turn over battle 3-2 and still lost the game. How can that be? Well, Tampa Bay was 7 for 15 on third down while Arizona was an egregious 1-10!
- Patrick Peterson left the game mid way through the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. The veteran corner was mostly fine on Sunday outside of when he lined up in the neutral zone which allowed Tampa to convert three additional points. In other news, did you hear that the Cardinals lost by three?
- The lost will likely overshadow how well of a game head coach Kliff Kingsbury called. The first year play caller managed to out gain the Bruce Arians led Bucs in total yards 457/417 and even pulled off one of the better fake punts you’ll see.
- At the writing of this article, the Cardinals have the 10th pick in next April’s NFL Draft.