To lose any game in the National Football League will always be a tough pill to swallow especially if it is in a one-possession game like the Cardinals were in on Sunday in the 34-31 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
However, there should not be any reason to panic.
The Cardinals offense picked up where it left off after returning from their bye week. Kyler Murray finished the day completing 21-of-26 of his passes for 283 yards and three passing touchdowns. He was even more dangerous with his legs, carrying the ball 11 times for 106 rushing yards, and a touchdown.
Maxx Williams made his return to the football field having not played since Week 1 due to an ankle injury. He scored the Cardinals first touchdown of the game and made some critical blocks that opened up plenty of rushing lanes for Murray. He graded out with a 90.2 by Pro Football Focus with 82.3 run blocking grade, both the highest on the team.
Christian Kirk was easily the Cardinals best receiver yesterday after catching five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. He ran crisp routes and took advantage of arguably one of the best defensive backfields in football.
Although the defense had its share of struggles in the loss, it was nice to see their new acquisitions in Markus Golden and Josh Mauro make their presence felt with a sack each in their first game back as a Cardinal.
Jalen Thompson had a near interception early in the game and allowed only one catch for four yards. His 76.2 grade by Pro Football Focus this game is the second highest on the defense. Along with Williams, Thompson has not played since Week 1 and made an immediate impact in their first game back from injury.
Pass protection remained strong after allowing only one sack, which did result in a fumble return for a touchdown, but the rush lanes were not there for Chase Edmonds. He started in place of the injured Kenyan Drake (ankle) but finished the day with 25 carries for only 70 rushing yards.
Andy Isabella looked promising in the first few games of the season but since then has been a liability for the Cardinals. He fumbled on a kickoff return that, fortunately, was recovered by one of his teammates and hauled in a catch that would have been a first down but ran back a yard which resulted in a fourth down in the final minute of the second quarter.
There were many glaring weaknesses on the Cardinals defense that were concerning.
Fourth-round pick Leki Fotu made some critical errors in the first quarter, a neutral zone infraction and a facemask penalty that negated a sack, that ultimately gave the Dolphins momentum on the offense.
The No. 2 and slot cornerback positions were exploited against the Dolphins. Both Kevin Peterson and Jace Whittaker struggled in place of the injured Dre Kirkpatrick (thigh) and Byron Murphy (COVID).
Vance Joseph did not have a good gameplan, being unprepared for the athletic Tua Tagovailoa due to limited film. The defensive line inconsistencies continue to hurt the Cardinals with seemingly no answers to stop the rookie quarterback and fourth-string running back Salvon Ahmed in the run game.
Overall, the offense continues to progress each game. The defense has been very inconsistent this season but there have been plenty of quality individual performances.
Questionable play calls in the fourth quarter
There have been a lot of questions on whether Kliff Kingsbury made a good call to kick a field goal with 1:58 remaining in the game. The 49-yard field goal should have been an easy shot for Zane Gonzalez but the kick itself just did not have enough power.
At 5:20 in the fourth quarter on a 4th and one, Kliff Kingsbury decided to dial up a handoff to Chase Edmonds that was short and became a turnover on downs. At 2:00 on a 3rd and one, Kyler Murray threw an incomplete pass to Christian Kirk. In both of these instances, why not do a quarterback sneak or scramble?
The decision to kick a field goal was good however, considering the Dolphins could not contain the speed of Kyler Murray, why not continue to let him carry the ball on these fourth down situations in the fourth quarter?
Kyler Murray to Kliff Kingsbury after the second-down field goal missed in OT: "Don't ever be conservative again. I got you."— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) October 26, 2020
Bad decisions happen but the team has to learn from this loss and move forward.
For those that are complaining about Kliff Kingsbury, look at the Cardinals record and the rest of the NFL. This Cardinals team is a winning football team and they have not been in a successful position like this since 2015.
The Seahawks and 49ers both lost in Week 9, meaning the Cardinals still remain in second place in the NFC West and are still in the thick of things in the playoff race.
Compared to last season, the Cardinals are one of the most improved teams in the NFL. We can always ponder about how this team should be 7-1 but this will not do the team any good. They are 5-3. They had five wins all of last season.
The Cardinals are a young up-and-coming team that still has so much room to improve. Maxx Williams and Jalen Thompson both came back from injury reserve firing on all cylinders. To get Devon Kennard, Dre Kirkpatrick, Byron Murphy, and Kenyan Drake back possibly soon would give this team a huge boost on both sides of the ball.
Despite the loss, this team is headed in the right direction (offensively anyways) and they will look to bounce back next week against the red-hot Buffalo Bills.