They say a tie is like....never mind.
Let’s be frank, though, as while down 24-6 in the fourth quarter, Kyler Murray leading the Cardinals back to tie the game after 18 unanswered points felt like a moral victory all the same.
And hey, it wasn’t a loss.
The Cardinals had struggled for 3 quarters until Murray Magic hit hard in the fourth but there’s other players to get to, so let’s take a look at who won the day and who lost it:
Winner: Jeff Rogers, Special Teams Coach (and his players)
Special shoutout to big plays by Trent Sherfield, Dennis Gardeck, booming punts by Andy Lee and a perfect Zane Gonzalez. But what Rogers has done taking over maybe the worst special teams unit in the NFL to where it might be considered one of the stronger ones is remarkable.
Loser: Coverage units (mostly on T.J. Hockensen)
While Jordan Hicks was sensational in the run game, the Cardinals couldn’t find a way to stop T.J. Hockensen at tight end, as he was too much for the linebackers to handle and the safeties didn’t match up one-on-one and as a result he carved up the soft zone that they were playing today.
It’ll be a concern for next week against the speedy Mark Andrews and it’s a blessing that the Lions tried to run the clock out when they did as Arizona kept leaving him in single coverage and might have had to double-team him if the 4th quarter shook out differently. A blown TD happened during a Stafford scramble as well as a wide open Danny Amendola also was the icing on the cake in which the Cardinals just looked helpless.
The good news is that it wasn’t like this defense got carved up with Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford at the corner spots. But it’s a hit when you have young corners who get burned and can’t be reassuring for fans despite the defense putting up a solid effort.
Vance Joseph? You’re on deck to get this figured out.
Winners: David Johnson & Larry Fitzgerald
Fitz had 8 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Johnson had a TD and over 100 all purpose yards and wasn’t just thrown to as a checkdown option but had downfield targets (finally).
It’s clear that the offense still runs through them, and while Christian Kirk’s the next guy up, Murray can get the ball to Fitz and DJ and even gave Johnson a bit of running room today as he himself was a threat to take off. The highest paid guys on offense were able to live up to it today after a disappointing 2018 campaign.
Losers: Christian Kirk & KeeSean Johnson
Both Kirk and Johnson had big plays but also a few big drops and some miscommunications and generally neither looked like the true #1 receiver who could put the game on his back and make a play like Fitzgerald did. They’re still young and coming into their own but both need to step up in the future to ensure the team HAS a future beyond the 36 year old Fitzgerald
Winner: Fans who stuck it out until the 4th quarter
Some fans legit left after the team went down 24-6 to beat traffic. Oh how robbed were they of little faith in Magic Murray. (Hey, even I was a doubter for a while up until it clicked)
There’s no denying the desire to get into traffic or not watch bad football but sometimes special moments happen when you have competitors who won’t give up and there’s been enough games at State Farm Stadium where the best solution is to stick it out until the end win or lose.
Cause sometimes a special moment might just happen. If you count a tie as a special moment, that is.
Loser: Matt Patricia & Lions fans at this game
Have to mention this....the Lions let off the gas and let the Cards back in the game. Credit Murray and Kingsbury for taking advantage of it but from leading by 18 points to suddenly NOT leading at all when you’re a defensive head coach is a terrible look. I think that Darrell Bevell was a big win for the team in terms of improving the look on offense and throwing in a few tricky plays that fooled the Cardinals but after a first half in which the Lions used some exotic blitzes and coverages that fooled their offensive line and Murray, they essentially ran none of that in the 2nd half.
Crazy how Lions fans went from lording it over fans to going pale and “oh no, here we go again” as well after the first 3 quarters they looked like a team to beat.
Winner: Kyler Murray
Duh. Gotta mention the debut kid.
Of course you can’t not mention the impressive comeback with some impressive drives and confidence that the team was going to score...without mentioning why they were down 18 points in the first place. 75% of the game was a trainwreck as far as Murray’s debut where the Cards had a stronger 2018 opener than they did a 2019 opener for the majority.
Fortunately, Kyler gave 110% in that last 25% of the game. He finally got into a rhythm and made sharp, accurate throws and overall good decisions.
The very last few plays were a bit shaky but after a disastrous interception he settled down and the accuracy smoothed out where it became clear as to why he was the top pick in the draft...and why he fits so well in an air raid.
He clearly has a LOT of haters and people who don’t think he can succeed in this scheme in the NFL and while he’s got a long way to go, you can’t argue with the first 300 yard passing game by ANY Cardinals quarterback since Carson Palmer did in 2017 Week 4 against the Niners.
And he did it almost all in just about 2 quarters of action. The future is bright and Murray Mania was in full effect this sunday.
Loser: Kliff Kingsbury
Kliff should probably count as a winner today too for his going all out in calling a great few drives and putting the Cards back into the game and in position to win it.
But there were errors at the start where too much was tried to be done (Kingsbury even admitted as much postgame) and in the redzone the Cards stalled multiple times. TWICE when they had a chance to win the game and even on their first scoring drive in the game which ended in kicking a field goal from the 1 yard line on 4th and 1.
Many had hoped that Kingsbury wouldn’t be as conservative as many of his counterparts, but he certainly seemed so at times today, ending in where he went not for the win...but for the tie.
Fortune favors the bold and if Kingsbury had confidence, perhaps the Cards would have converted a time more or two and walked away as unlikely underdog winners. Or perhaps they would have missed and the Lions would have kicked a field goal for the loss.
In any case, going for the tie and NOT the win is something worthy of criticism and Kliff sure took a lot of hits throughout this game for how he decided to manage the game and in some cases, was just as responsible for the team’s lack of a victory as Matt Patricia was for Detroit.
Still, he did go to show that his 10 personnel Air Raid system isn’t quite worthless, but he’s got a ways to go to put the Cardinals in position to be contenders and indeed, favorites in their games.