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Rapid Reaction: Offense sputters, defense breaks in loss to Seahawks

Russell Wilson improves his road record against Arizona to 7-1.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

For the seventh consecutive time in the Steve Keim era of desert football, the Arizona Cardinal’s lost at home to the Seattle Seahawks.

This one, like many before it, could have been avoided.

Thanks to a slew of Cardinal mistakes that included two missed field goals and one spectacular one handed “pick six”, Arizona now sits in the basement of the NFC West at 0-3-1.

If you’re scoring at home, this is the second consecutive September in which the Cardinals exit the month without a win. Both instances also saw the team have 3 of its first 4 games at home.

The main culprit in this defeat, unlike last week against Carolina, was the increasingly unproductive Cardinal offense.

The unit gained a respectable 321 yards from scrimmage, but once again had serious issues converting in the red zone.

Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray was up and down, completing 22 of 32 passes for 241 yards but had a critical first quarter interception to Seahawk DE Jadeveon Clowney. The former first overall pick stabbed Murray’s intended dump off to running back David Johnson and rumbled 27 yards for the early score.

Arizona didn’t net their first (and only) touchdown until early in the fourth quarter, when a nifty play design saw Kyler Murray dart nine yards for the score. Seattle would respond with a back breaking 15 play, 75-yard touchdown drive that would end Arizona’s comeback hopes.

Game Ball: Larry Fitzgerald

The Cardinal offense doesn’t have much to be thankful for but Larry Fitzgerald did snag five passes for 47 yards. That put the future hall of famer at sole possession on the NFL’s all time reception list.

Game Ball: Terrell Suggs

After a rough two-week stretch, OLB Terrell Suggs made his presence felt on Sunday, netting 1.5 sacks and a force fumble against the Seahawks. The Cardinals have had serious trouble applying heat to opposing quarterbacks and need this Terrell Suggs for the remainder of the season.

Game Ball: Ryan Winslow

A game ball to the backup punter? If that doesn’t suggest a rough Sunday, I don’t know what does. In all seriousness, Winslow filled in admirably for the super productive Andy Lee. The former Pitt Panther averaged 47 yards per punt on three attempts. If Lee is forced to miss multiple games, the Cardinals can at least feel good about his substitute in the short term.

Rookie Watch: Byron Murphy

Is Byron Murphy already Arizona’s best defensive back? That’s a fair question but also shows how far this once dominant unit has fallen. Murphy looked strong again on Sunday, breaking up a sure touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to TE Will Dissly. His savvy, physical style of play stands out on a unit that too often looks soft and out of position.

Murphy’s development is a glimmer of hope for a Cardinal roster littered with high profile draft busts and free agent band-aids.

Needs Work: The Offense

The Cardinal offense is regressing and so too is Kyler Murray. After two phenomenal passing efforts to start the season in which the former Heisman winner eclipsed 300+ yards in the air, Murray has looked out of sync the last two weeks.

Sure, his rushing numbers have improved, but Murray’s accuracy is not what it was. It’s fair to wonder if the constant pressure put on Murray by the egregious Cardinal oline is contributing to his (somewhat) erratic play. Remember, we saw Josh Rosen show promise early in 2018 but poor pass protection and horrific coaching saw him spiral into a shell of himself by season’s end.

The Cardinals need to do everything they can to ensure that doesn’t happen to Kyler Murray. The problem is, while Murray has an upgrade in play calling, the offensive line remains a bottom five unit in football. Additionally, outside of Larry Fitzgerald, Murray’s supporting cast of skilled players have been underwhelming. David Johnson now has zero lateral ability, Christian Kirk struggles to separate and Trent Sherfield quits on too many routes.

An infusion of Chase Edmonds and Andy Isabella could be in order sooner rather than later.

Quick Hits

  • Wide receiver Christian Kirk left Sunday’s game with under a minute to play thanks to a nasty looking leg injury. Speculation surrounds Kirk’s ankle, but regardless I’d expect the second year player to miss (at least) some time. This is a brutal hit to a receiving core that’s already incredibly thin. Expect second round pick Andy Isabella to see an increased role.
  • Speaking of Isabella, the former UMASS product saw significant action on Sunday, albeit on special teams. He made several nice open field tackles on coverage units. Isabella also showed great acceleration on a first quarter reverse that was eventually called back due to holding. Contributions from the rookies are critical as the Cardinals look for reasons to be optimistic heading into the October.
  • The Cardinal offensive line was better Sunday against Seattle then in previous weeks, but still managed to yield four sacks against QB Kyler Murray. To their defense, at least two of those sacks were on Murray for refusing to throw the ball away. For what it’s worth, the Cardinals managed to run the ball effectively against Seattle, netting 115 yards on just 23 attempts.
  • Veteran safety D.J. Swearinger had perhaps his worst game of the season Sunday, looking lost in coverage while missing multiple tackles in the open field. The Cardinals have gained little from Swearinger’s return to the desert and need to find time for both Deonte and Jalen Thompson moving forward.
  • Defensive end Jonathan Bullard was active on Sunday for the first time since being claimed by the team following the preseason. The former third round pick of the Bears had a quality debut, finishing with three total tackles and a sack. Rookie Zach Allen left early after an undisclosed shoulder injury, which leaves the door open for Bullard to start opposite Rodney Gunter.
  • Chase Edmonds carried the ball six times for an impressive 37 yards (6.2 ypc). His explosiveness is evident and the team would be wise to give him double-digit touches moving forward.
  • Through four games, the Cardinals do not have an interception on defense. Their last interception came in Week 8 of 2018.
  • The Cardinals are winless in 17 of their last 20 games. During his six-year stretch in Arizona, Bruce Arians lost a total of 30 games.