The Cardinals may have been road losers in this week’s game, but not everyone on the team had to be. Those who wisely looked at the Cards as a 2 touchdown road dog, for example, saw their faith rewarded in a close game.
Who were the other winners and losers? Let’s take a look at 6 more from Sunday’s game:
#1. Winner-Kliff Kingsbury between the 20’s
Kliff overcame the early struggles the team had against the Lions and had the passing game clicking on all cylinders. Deep passing plays to Christian Kirk, finding Larry Fitzgerald again as a deep threat and some clutch conversions by Damiere Byrd and KeeSean Johnson.
Before you knew it, Kyler Murray was up over 340 yards against a good (though depleted) Ravens defense. The air raid in the NFL is working so far, forcing teams to cover every blade of grass and Kyler’s 8.3 yards per attempt (think of how far on average he throws the ball downfield)
The run game, obviously was a major focus but Murray and Cam Newton are the only two rookie QB’s to ever throw for over 300 yards in their first two NFL starts.
His offense looks like the real deal now and Kyler’s on pace to shatter a lot of rookie records if the team can get into the endzone. Speaking of which...
2. Loser-Kliff Kingsbury when NOT between the 20’s in the red zone
Is it the play calls? Is it Murray wanting to put it on his arm? Is it the running backs? Or a lack of faith in the offensive line? All of the above?
You’ve got me there. But clearly when the field was open and spread, there was a lot of innovation while on the goal-line there were mostly all passing plays and a coach who despite being down did NOT go for it 3 times on 4th down.
Which many were disappointed by, even if there’s an argument for the Cardinals ending up only down by a single score at the end of the game with a chance to take the lead. It needs to be ironed out or at least have Kingsbury utilize more plays like he did for David Johnson’s touchdown in which he spreads out the defense to run the ball better.
Because you know what they say—once is an event, twice is a coincidence but three times is a pattern. And it’s one that the young Cards can’t afford next week against Carolina.
So here’s where I’ll stand on that for now....
Point 1. It’s fine to have these struggles as an adjusting and growing team as long as they DO learn and grow from it
Point 2. If there ARE continual issues, it’ll depend on how extreme they are as there’s limitations to every coach or scheme in some regard
My take is echoed best by Kent Somers in that it can’t stay this bad forever:
Cardinals have red zone woes but at least they are getting there. 2 TDs on 8 opportunities this year. Look for that to improve. Even the worst teams usually hover around 40 percent.— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) September 15, 2019
#3. Winner-Kyler for all 4 quarters
Hey, it wasn’t just the fourth quarter and OT this time! Murray got into a rhythm early and was dealing with impressive timing, touch and accuracy. He also escaped pressure, only took 3 sacks and didn’t turn the ball over at all this time around. No touchdown passes but all things considered he was lights out in his first road start. Kliff and his lack of a run game were all that was holding him back.
#4. Loser-The run game
David Johnson’s day was only saved by a late touchdown but he had 7 carries overall on the day and no chance to get into a rhythm or really do much. Plus a wrist injury scare that was no big deal. But the line didn’t get any push at all and Johnson looked not elusive for a second straight week. The pass protection collapsed some late but it was the holding call on what would have been a rushing first down for Johnson that ended up sealing Arizona’s fate late in the game.
#5. Winner-Larry Fitzgerald
While I almost mentioned Christian Kirk’s first 100 yard day in the NFL here, Fitzgerald’s surprising use as a deep threat and his first back to back 100 yard games in 4 (!) years is outstanding and it’s obvious that Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray took 3 quarters to figure out what most Cardinal playcallers never could. Fitz is good. Ride him for big plays cause he’ll make them.
It’s worth mentioning that if he keeps up this pace in this offense, he’ll nudge closer and closer to some huge all-time receiver records...
#6. Loser-The defensive effort vs. TE’s...again.
The last play to Hollywood Brown was perfect coverage. The runs by Lamar Jackson are inevitable.
But it’s the lack of ability to cover a tight end that’s truly worrisome for the Cardinals given their schedule and personnel. Jordan Hicks isn’t a speedy coverage guy and Hassan Reddick got turned around and whipped by Mark Andrews on a long touchdown pass. The guy who can stop those players doesn’t seem to be on the roster, nor does Vance Joseph (who called a great game given what he has at corner for a 2nd week in a row, by the way) seem to have any answer.
That means it might only get worse as time goes on and the Cards face the likes of a George Kittle in the division.
Overall—things could have been better, and the team had the chance for the win and shot themselves in the foot.
But it could have been far, far worse of an effort that we saw from the Arizona Cardinals yesterday and that should give anyone a spot of hope for this season.