Hope for Bears loss and Cards W at LA. That said, Cards 0-3 on weeks where practices matter most, following bye week (L to MIA at home), Thanksgiving (L at NE) and Christmas (L to SF at home). All 3 games Cards were favored. Wait, "we talkin' 'bout practice?" No big deal, right?— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) December 27, 2020
Full participation, focus, energy and engagement matters.
Mental and physical toughness matters.
This week is the ultimate test for the Cardinals. They need every coach and player to give it their utmost commitment.
The Cardinals' offense is as much Sean Kugler's (12 personnel) as it is Kliff's. Problem is, for weeks Kugler's OL has not opened consistent holes---so many of the run calls are wasted downs. Focus on run is in part the reason why WRs 2-4 don't get the targets. No Air Raid in AZ.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) December 27, 2020
The Cardinals keep trying to run plays that haven’t worked all season: RB screens, WR screens, between the tackle dives—-these plays require precise execution and timing—-of which the Cardinals have neither. This does not speak well to the attempts to correct these plays in practice. But now it is time to scrap the plays that aren’t working.
In terms of run blocking, Sean Kugler’s OL has been in a funk for weeks now. Opponents are loading the box and Cardinals keep running Kenyan Drake into a brick wall. 3rd and 1, 4th and 1 are nerve-wracking failures waiting to happen because the coordination and execution of the inside running game is skewed.
Plus—-have you ever seen an NFL team so opposed to running a QB sneak?
The 49ers pulled one off with FB Kyle Juszczyk motioning behind the center, taking the snap and plowing ahead for 2 yards on a 3rd and 1.
Kenyan Drake: 18 carries for 45 yards (2.5 ave.), 1 TD.
The token runs and short passes play right into the hands of a team that is stacking the box.
DeAndre Hopkins: 8 catches for 48 yards (6.0 ave.)—-not a good plan at all this week as to how to get Hopkins the ball.
Larry Fitzgerald: 6 catches for 28 yards (4.7 ave.).
Chase Edmonds 2 catches for 8 yards (4.0 ave.)
Kenyan Drake: 2 catches for 5 yards (2.5 ave.)
2 big plays: Christian Kirk for 38 yards and KeeSean Johnson for 45 yards. They had more yards in those 2 plays than Hopkins, Fitz, Edmonds and Kirk combined.
Seemingly every 3rd down play the ball was thrown under the sticks.
The whole concept of an Air Raid offense is to get playmakers the ball IN SPACE where they have room to run. The Cardinals not only negate so much of this by trying to pass and run inside a 20 yard rectangle—-the playmakers don’t seem to relish being RAC receivers. That has to change. This week the RBs, TEs and WRs need to come out tough and ready to run like ballers with the rock.
Imo, Kliff Kingsbury needs to grasp the reins of this offense and he has to stop trying to make his assistant coaches happy. The negative and waste plays have to stop.
The mentality shift has to be “go for it on 2nd down” instead of “go for it on 4th down.”
Have you ever seen a defense that gives up contain and so many chunk yard plays up the sidelines as Vance Joseph's? Edge players bite inside repeatedly---MLB too slow to get to perimeter---CBs laughably reluctant to tackle. Budda often only hope.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) December 27, 2020
Cardinals in VJ’s defense are total suckers who regularly give up contain and then if Budda Baker doesn’t make a heroic play, they are soft as marshmallows on the perimeters while giving up major RAC yards and TDs.
In my opinion, if the lack of contain and marshmallow perimeter play doesn’t change this week versus the Rams who have exploited these weaknesses in VJ’s defense to an average of 400+ yards and 34 points per game in VJ’s 3 games versus the Rams, then the Cardinals need to hire a new DC in 2021.
VJ has come up big in other areas—-like dialing up blitzes and employing tighter coverages when he goes man to man—-but if a DC does not preach discipline and does not value and insist on his edges playing contain and does not insist on having speed at MLB (to the ball versus the run and in pass coverage—-see the easy TD to Wilson on a simple circle route)—-and does not insist on having his CBs force the run, break up screens and tackle like pros the way the 49ers CBs did—-then there is no hope for having a championship caliber defense under the current scheme.
49ers are a way tougher football team. They dominated up front on both sides of the ball. They run harder, block better and tackle astoundingly better. They are better coached & far more disciplined. Cards need to feed off 49ers' example versus Rams to see if they have it in them— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) December 27, 2020
Some fans are still saying the 49ers were a JV squad on the field yesterday. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes they were missing some of their best players due to injuries—-but they came into this game lusting to dominate the game up front and aspiring to out hit and out tackle the Cardinals.
What kind of a statement for them was it to risk playing TE George Kittle in this game?
That tells you all you need to know about how much this game meant to the 49ers.
Yesterday, the 49ers reminded people why they went to the Super Bowl last year. They balled. Look at the push their OL got—-when have we seen that kind of push from the Cardinals? Look at how hard and fast Jeff Wilson Jr. ran with the ball.
Their defense put on a tackling clinic across the board—-as every player bought in. When have we seen great tackling across the board from the Cardinals’ defense?
Tackling matters. For everyone.
As for discipline—-the Cardinals are not taking care of business in practice because again they were a mess in this game.. Practice is where teams clean up all the disorganization and confusion between plays—-that’s where they clean up all the senseless false starts—that’s where the QB and the 2 minute offense is taught that 5 yard passes into the middle of the field are the last thing you want to do with under 1 minute left in the game having no timeouts and having to go 60 yards.
Getting It Right in Week 17
The Cardinals need to do what they did after the Rams last kicked their butts. They took a page out of the Rams’ defensive book and brought it to New York. Likewise, this week the Cardinals need to feed off of the example the 49ers set for them yesterday, Ergo, the Cardinals need a full commitment in practice all week from everyone including DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald and they need to go to LA poised, disciplined and ready to avenge their 38-28 loss back on December 6.
Look—-every team has a clunker every now and then. Let’s not forget that exactly one year ago in Week 16 (the 15th game), the 4-9-1 Cardinals went up to Seattle and pasted the 11-3 Seahawks who were trying to win the NFC West (tied with SF at 13-3) and were vying for a first round bye in the playoffs. The Cardinals dominated up front on both sides of the ball (the way the 49ers did yesterday) and they bottled up and stifled Russell Wilson all game. The score was Cardinals 27 Seahawks 13, even with Brett Hundley taking over for Kyler (hamstring) in the second half.
Hope for this season is not lost. The Cardinals need to show up big all week. They need to prove for the first time this season that they can handle their preparation during a week with distractions (unlike the bye week, Thanksgiving week and Christmas week).
The Cardinals need to remind themselves of all of the good reasons why they are in playoff contention—-and they need to come up with a cohesive, fully committed game plan and supreme effort. They need to summon back the mojo and excitement they generated during their best stretch of the season where they were winning gams in thrilling fashion on national TV. All of this so they can start the new year, as Kyler Murray would say, “1 and 0.”