That was embarrassing.
For a number of reasons.
Lets start with the fact that the New England Patriots aren’t close to what they once were. This is a franchise that’s likely going to be picking in the top half of the NFL draft while sporting perhaps the least talented roster in the NFL. Cam Newton was all kinds of awful yesterday, failing to complete double digit passes while gifting Arizona two interceptions.
Again, this game was there to be had for an Arizona Cardinal team desperately trying to reach the post season for the first time in half a decade.
The conditions were fine in a Gillette Stadium that housed approxiamtely zero rowdy Patriot fans. It was 50 degrees and sunny, something that rarely happens in Boston come late November.
There was no Tom Brady, no Julian Edelman, no Dont’a Hightower, no Patrick Chung, no Marcus Cannon.
Instead, there was what equated to a practice squad level 53 man roster that was unforunatley still led by (perhaps) the greatest coach in NFL history.
And that was enough.
The Cardinals entered this game needing to avoid playing the kind of contest Patriot head coach Bill Belichick wanted to play.
Sloppy, ugly football that resulted in the finesse Redbirds suffering a mindnumbing defeat.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Cardinal head coach Kliff Kingsbury was not great on Sunday, which shouldn’t shock most. In a coaching matchup against his former mentor, one would assume he’d have some nerves. The problem remains, however, that this Cardinal team appears to be getting worse as the season goes on. It seems like ages ago that Kliff Kingsbury outcoached wonder boy Kyle Shanahan to open the 2020 season.
Kingsbury’s Cardinals were better, top to bottom, at nearly every positional group yesterday against New England. They dominated in total yards, time of possession, passing, rushing and even won the turnover battle.
It didn’t matter. Belichick exploded a suddenly vulnerable Cardinal offense, surrendering a mere seven points in the final three quarters of play. He also schooled the Cardinals on special teams, a unit that is too often taken for granted.
Belichick won that game singlehanded and a large majority of us could see it coming from a mile away. That’s because this Cardinals team still makes far too many mistakes and when Kyler Murray isn’t right, not even his immense talent can overcome them.
The penalties aren’t going away and that’s on Kingsbury.
Since their 5-2 start, the Arizona Cardinals are 1-3 with their lone victory coming at the hands of a miracle catch by DeAndre Hopkins. Yet as we enter the home stretch of the season, the Arizona Cardinals are still above .500 and in the drivers seat for a playoff birth.
This Patriot loss, which knocks the Cardinals firmly back to reality, doesn’t have to define their season. With five games remaining, the Cardinals still have an opportunity to reach the postseason, especially with some favorable matchups left on the schedule.
However, that would require some internal soul searching on behalf of Kingsbury and company. The defense, while still incredibly limited, is holding up it’s half of the bargain to date. Vance Joseph and company are top 20 in total defense, with back to back strong outings against Seattle and New England.
It’s suddenly the Cardinal offense that remains stagnant, and there’s absolutely no excuse for that. Unlike the defense, Kingsbury’s offense is 100% intact with their starting personnel from week one. In fact, the large majority of these players have been with Kingsbury since the spring of 2019. Which means we should be seeing the best of this group.
The best of Andy Isabella, Christian Kirk, Kenyan Drake, Justin Pugh.
Questions surrounding Kyler Murray’s health are running ramped, as the electric young playmaker has looked completely neutralized since suffering a shoulder injury at Seattle.
Still, that doesn’t excuse the mundane play calling on behalf of Kingsbury in conjunction with a vertical passing game that has never really taken off.
The bottom line is if the Cardinals hope to reach the postseason in 2020, it will need to be behind their sometimes, kind of prolific offense. The unit that carved up the likes of Miami and Buffalo must return in full force for the Cardinals to have any shot down the stretch.
The Cardinals need to be better. Kliff Kingsbury needs to be better.
And it needs to start now.