Another week, another brutal loss for the Arizona Cardinals as they come up short again to the division rival Rams and are now 6-6 on the year.
Who won and who was the loser from this past game? Let’s take a look at the six that stood out the most:
HONORABLE MENTION: Christian Kirk.
One catch, 2 yards.
No Larry Fitzgerald for the second week in a row.
AZ better figure out who’s gonna be their new #2 receiver next season. Cause it won’t be him at this rate.
WINNER: Dan Arnold
The man broke loose for 2 touchdowns on the day, one of them a 59-yarder, proving that he was indeed a Ram-beater all the same as he had been when he had four catches for 75 yards the last time the two teams played in January of 2020.
Arnold hasn’t been featured much this year with only 20 receptions, but he’s at least made the most of them and has been a reliable presence on the field.
LOSER: The Cardinals vs. McVay, Again
Ahh, the Cardinals since Sean McVay joined the Rams. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride.
Even with the Cardinals putting up 21 second half points on a Rams team that had been giving up an average of 6 second half points this year, they were totally unable to close the gap, and even gave up points going back the other way.
The game for whatever reason never felt close, and by the end of it, truly wasn’t at all with multiple 4th quarter turnovers to the Rams sending the Cardinals to the shadow realm of Week 13.
Kingsbury has managed to grow a bit closer to the Rams, and even managed to put up what could have been over 30 points had Zane Gonzalez made a field goal. But the turnovers and a truly AWFUL start on offense doomed Arizona. Speaking of which...
WINNER: Cardinals “Coronavirus Emergency Kicker” Mike Nugent
Zane Gonzalez seems to have lost all his confidence or, at the very least, the finer details of being able to kick field goals between 40-50 yards.
He’s pushed the ball wide left on nearly every field goal and even an extra point last week, and the Cardinals are in the middle of a playoff race.
Part of the reason they aren’t secure in that race is because of him. And if the Cardinals truly feel they are contenders, it’s time to pull the plug.
There’s a veteran kicker who’s able to step in at any time, and even if Arizona has issues where the need to change up their kickoffs, if they can’t move to him, then that’s a Steve Keim issue as Gonzalez has seemingly lost it.
And if they don’t make the switch, the team’s confidence will keep taking a dive.
Make the change.
LOSER: Arizona’s Playoff Chances
While the Cards are still the favorites to land a playoff bid (they do play the Giants and Eagles the next few weeks after all and the Vikings have games against the Bears and Saints) they took a big hit.
And they’re currently out of the playoffs and are hoping that the Buffalo Bills can beat the Niners to stay ahead of them and keep only one team close in the race.
The Cardinals, honestly, played like they’ve deserved a playoff spot to start the season. But against ACTUAL playoff teams they’ve looked pretty outmatched, or have found ways to lose even if Kyler has closed the gap.
In some ways they’ve relapsed to the team they were in 2019 and that means that they nee to figure stuff out, quickly.
WINNER: Kyler & Kliff’s critics
We’ve seen it all this year from “Kliff isn’t an NFL head coach” to “Kyler has been figured out by NFL defenses”.
And with each loss the Cardinals are taking, they’re getting louder and louder. I’m still pretty bullish on Arizona, but they expectations has been raised and they haven’t risen to the challenge.
The coach had to push the QB to not simply avoid Jalen Ramsey (Paul Calvisi said at half he told his QB: “don’t be afraid to throw it at Jalen Ramsey” and sure enough, Deandre Hopkins responded and they managed 3 touchdowns in the second half.
But the hot & cold nature of Arizona and fact their offense EVAPORATED once Kyler Murray’s rushing yards declined has people questioning if Kingsbury’s offensive design is just a backyard football look.
The field would say that it isn’t, but given how he was never looked at as an NFL caliber coach to begin with. Ironically...look at the rest
LOSER: The Cardinals Defense against Jared Goff.
Goff went from being atrocious against the Niners to throwing for some 400ish yards on Arizona and protected the ball well all day. While Arizona’s edge rushers made it easy on him by not getting home, he still stepped up and made some tough throws to get the Rams to victory. Even pouring it on in the second half.
For some reason, Arizona has never been able to stop him or figure out a way to consistently pressure him as other teams have, which is something bizarre to say the least given how close the two teams are playing each other twice a year.
At some point, the Cardinals need to get more than a miraculous interception and game-tying drive from Murray beating the Seahawks at home and get a solid defensive performance against Goff and the Rams because if they can’t, it’s Not For Long as the N.F.L. is often said to stand for.
Honorable mention goes to Patrick Peterson here, who really has gone from “shutdown corner” to “grabbing the jersey of guys after he’s been beat handing 7 points to teams” over the course of basically two seasons.
So while the defense gave it their best shot in years...ultimately NO ONE was able to make one play when it counted.
One sack, one stop, one pick, one tackle on 3rd down...
Sure, the offense is more to blame all things considered but talent-wise there’s only so long that this defense can bend before it eventually breaks and that’s not great as Arizona at 6-6 has officially hit the “average” marker for the second time this year.
And nothing kills you slowly quite like mediocrity.