Winning in the NFL is hard. Sometimes, losing is harder.
That’s likely the feeling this morning as the Cardinals dropped their first true loss of the year on a last-minute play that they almost had a chance to steal a victory from against Green Bay.
Let’s talk a bit about what the takeaways were from the game, both positive and negative.
#1. Pro Bowl Talents are...important
Who woulda thunk it?
The Cardinals, valiant as he has been, were without J.J. Watt and his presence as an interior pass and run defender for their first game this year. On the other side of the ball, Rodney Hudson was still out BUT with Max Garcia out for the game, it came down to Sean Harlow and Josh Jones being the least experiences linemen in the game for Arizona.
In the end, there were a few plays in which each had errors. Harlow had a high snap (in which Arizona and Murray overcame) and Jones seemed a bit lost without Hudson and was walked back strength-wise once or twice.
Arizona was able to figure out their offense in the second half, but it was a continuation of the Texans game in which AZ had issues in protection.
But none of that equaled the stagnation that the offense had without DeAndre Hopkins at times up until a 4th quarter in which Murray went basically DHop free down the field.
Hop has been there with a big play to jolt Arizona out of the doldrums a time or two this year, and if he isn’t healthy while it’s good to know Arizona has depth...they’re at their best when they can have him, Green, Kirk and newly added Zach Ertz all on the field at once.
#2. ...they also are for the Packers (looking at Davante Adams)
I don’t know if this game is close if one team was fully healthy and the other wasn’t, and it certainly felt like the Packers’ run heavy gameplan was also predicated on the lack of maybe the best receiver in the NFL being on the field Thursday.
There were multiple drops and while Rodgers was able to toss two touchdowns to Randall Cobb, the receivers didn’t make much of an impact or (in Robert Tonyan’s case) made a catch and then came up limping. It might be a different game if he hadn’t caught Covid, and that’s purely how talented Adams is...and how much Rodgers relies on him.
#3. We need to talk about the resilience of the Cards
Despite struggling to get stops at times, the Cardinals defense came through when they needed to most in two of THE most critical situations in the game.
In 3 redzone trips, Green Bay only came away with 10 points. That’s an 11 point swing, and the holding of Green Bay to a field goal after Rondale Moore’s fumble (more on him) and the late 4th down swat of Rodgers by Devon Kennard were HUGE plays that probably would have decided the game for Arizona.
They were battered and bruised but not only fought back into the game but arguably should have won it.
#4. G.O.A.T.s can also become goats
Ahhh scapegoats. What a thing. In a team sport it’s inevitable that (unless it’s a kicker) that teams win and lose together without the game hinging on ONE player.
But it sure felt like it with A.J. Green, huh? Call it a brain fart or a miscommunication but the awareness should have been that Arizona wasn’t going to run the ball with no timeouts and 14 seconds left. He might not even have been the guy the play was drawn up for but being aware of a scramble, change etc. was an issue. Still, his day wasn’t as bad as Rondale Moore’s.
Moore waved off a fair catch and misjudged a ball, pretending that it didn’t hit his hands when it clearly did on replay. The ball went to the Packers...oof. It was a nice try but teams are too well coached to NOT simply go after and secure the ball and the replay confirmed it.
Another play I think was put on Moore that was a result, in part, of the OL and Murray not setting up a great inside screen, and it led to a INT.
The extra camera angle shows that the rush got there quicker than was expected and that Kyler’s throw was a bit high as a result, so while Moore got his hands on it, the tipped ball unfortunately led to a Packers score.
All in all, football is a tough sport, but it’s one in which this game pretty easily comes down to one stat: 3 turnovers by Arizona, 0 by Green Bay. That 10 points (and the final possession) was the game.
#5. The Packers showed some vulnerabilities but also some strengths...that Arizona might need to look at heavily now or in the future
The Packers were able to, like other teams, run the ball on Arizona. Pretty easily, but especially so after Zaven Collins was taken to the blue tent and ruled out. He’s been solid against the run and add in that, JJ, Peters and more out...it got rough at times for Arizona with how A.J. Dillon seemed to have fresh legs running over guys and Aaron Jones did well in picking up yards and a score.
What we saw that might be beneficial for AZ was....just how “dinky and dunky” the Packers’ offense was. Their quick passing game keeps Aaron clean but it needed 14 and 10 play drives to end in redzone struggles.
I think that this plus Covid is what will have me give Chandler Jones a pass for a week...but only a week.
He was essentially invisible throughout the game after one solid early play, and against a backup LT, no less. The best pass rushers in the game were Allen and Kennard and the Red Hot Start that Jones got off to has kinda fizzled out with zero sacks in the last 7 games now. He’s gone from a lot of money to a lot of questions and while the Packers seemed at times to be a team that couldn’t stop Arizona and wasn’t able to stretch the field without Adams...the beat up AZ defense is missing Watt terribly.
You can’t simply replace him. But the guys they’ve brought in to help stop the run were fortunate that Rodgers chose to pass the ball several times in the redzone when the smart move might have been handing it off. I do think that Arizona will need to be investing with an early pick either at Edge or DL next year.
And talking about lines...
#6. Do we need to have a conversation about Josh Jones?? Or someone else?
With the trade deadline of November 2nd approaching, Arizona has already been active, already acquiring someone who was needed after an injured player went down.
My opinion on replacing J.J. Watt hasn’t changed. Arizona can’t replace him with more than the guys they currently have on the team, and as we’ve seen...they can get a stop when needed. Just like J.J. did!
But...if Zaven Collins misses time, he’s a force and tackler that Tanner Vallejo isn’t, and using Jordan Hicks in a different role or more LB for Isaiah Simmons might hurt how both guys are being used. A longer term injury might mean a need to acquire a cheaper linebacker, especially since he was ruled “out” versus questionable.
The bigger question is Josh Jones. It might be that it’s a combination of technique and Rodney Hudson’s guidance that has taken his hot start to a cooled off chill, but it’s worrisome that teams seem to be content to attack him and win matchups one-on-one the last two weeks.
With how he’s been walked back once or twice into Murray, the pocket hasn’t been clean and it’s affected them greatly. I don’t think it’s time to call for a benching, but it will be something to see especially if it continues post-Hudson. We can’t call him a Mason Cole just yet, but the importance of having a strong interior offensive line for a shorter (and mobile) QB in Murray can’t be understated.
Hurry back, Hudson.
That’s all for now.