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Kingsbury Going For It

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the fact that Kliff Kingsbury in his third season as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals has his team 3-0 while setting a franchise record for three consecutive 30+ point wins to start a season, highlighted by an offense that is currently 2nd in the NFL in yards per game at 432.3, media and fans continue to second guess his in-game decision making.

Yesterday, one ROTB member wrote as “the good, bad and the ugly” of Sunday’s game:

The ugly:

Kliff is still making 1-2 terrible coaching decisions a game. Was there anyone alive besides Kliff that thought that FG attempt was a good idea?

The obvious answer to this question, right off the bat, is K Matt Prater and STC Jeff Rodgers thought this was a good idea when Kliff Kingsbury consulted them on the sidelines prior to electing to try the 68 yard field goal.

Added context, Jeff Rodgers was Matt Prater’s special teams’ coordinator on the Broncos when Prater kicked the NFL’s longest field goal of 64 yards back in December of 2013.

One might argue that kicking in the altitude in Denver is a lot different than kicking in the humidity in Jacksonville. Sure. However, when Prater made the historic 64 yarder in Denver it was under extremely severe weather conditions as the wind chill factor that December day was -18 degrees.

Matt Prater told Jeff Rodgers and Kliff Kingsbury that he felt the ball was carrying well enough in Jacksonville to give him a decent chance.

A strange and bizarre irony was that hours after Matt Prater’s kick came a a few yards short which allowed Jamel Askew to return the kick 109 yards for a NFL record TD —- Justin Tucker surpassed Matt Prater’s record by kicking a 66 yard game winning field goal for the Ravens.

In the aftermath of Week 2, after Matt Prater recently broke the Cardinals all-time longest field goal record when he nailed the 62 yarder to give the Cardinals a 24-23 half-time lead at home over the Vikings, veteran Sports Illustrated writer Howard Balzer had his finger on the field goal kicking pulse just two days prior to the Week 3 games when he wrote this excellent piece titled “Prater Revels in Long-Kick Situations.”

Therefore, add Howard Balzer’s name to the list of the people on the planet who thought Kliff Kingsbury’s decision to give Matt Prater a chance to break his own NFL record was a good idea.

Be honest, Cardinals’ fans. When Kingsbury trotted out Matt Prater in that end of half situation, how many of you thought to yourself “man that’s a horrible idea”?

Personally, I was psyched to see Kingsbury and Prater go for it.

As well all know, hindsight is 20/20.

But, let’s be honest with ourselves.

Aren’t we psyched when Kliff Kingsbury shows the sheer guts to go for it in critical situations?

Sure, going for it is going to make any fan nervous as all get-out.

But, what Kingsbury’s going for it aggressiveness means is that our head coach has a significant belief and confidence in his team.

Some fans and media still harp on a few of Kingsbury’s decisions that backfired in 2020 —- like the 3rd and long timeout late in the 4th quarter versus the Patriots, or the 4th and short loss of downs to the 49ers inside the Cardinals’ own 30 yard line in the third quarter of the 49ers game in Week 16 last year.

But, Kingsbury had made similar decisions in those situations in earlier weeks that season that had led to victories.

Do you know that the Cardinals 4th down conversion rate in 2020 was 5th best in the NFL at 68.0%?

Do you know that the Cardinals’ 4th down conversion rate thus far in 2021 is tied for 1st in the NFL at 100%?

All three of Kingbsury’s decisions this year to go for it on 4th down were very gutsy decisions made during the team’s two closest games —- with the first two of them occurring when the Cardinals were behind:

#1 —- Cardinals down 31-33 to Vikings in 4th quarter to Vikings:

4th & 5 at MIN 41

  • (6:12 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray pass deep middle to C.Kirk to MIN 6 for 35 yards (M.Alexander). (per ESPN play-by-play)
  • Result: Matt Prater FG to make the score ARI 34 MIN 33.

#2 —- Cardinals down 13-7 in 3rd quarter versus Jags:

4th & 2 at JAX 26

  • (9:02 - 3rd) (Shotgun) K.Murray pass short middle to C.Kirk to JAX 23 for 3 yards (C.Claybrooks).(per ESPN play-by-play)

Result: Matt Prater FG to make the score JAC 13 ARI 10.

#3 —- Cardinals ahead 24-19 in 4th quarter versus Jags:

4th & 1 at JAX 6

  • (8:17 - 4th) (Shotgun) K.Murray right end ran ob at JAX 4 for 2 yards (M.Jack). (per ESPN play-by-play)

Result: James Conner TD between D.J. Humpries and Sean Harlow to make the score ARI 31 JAC 19.

Question #1 of the Day: How critical were these 4th down decisions with regard to the outcomes of the games versus the Vikings and Jaguars?

Question #2 of the Day: Why do a number of media and fans choose to dwell on Kliff Kingsbury’s decisions that backfire?

A Cardinals’ fan wrote yesterday “the Cardinals are good team playing some average football.”

  • Cardinals’ Offense: #2 in NFL at 432.3 yards per game; #1 (tied with Bucs) in NFL in scoring (34.4 points per game).
  • Cardinals’ defense: #11 in NFL at 342.7 yards per game; #11 in NFL in points against (21.7 points per game).
  • Cardinals’ Turnover Differential: tied for #3 in NFL at +3.
  • Cardinals’ Special Teams: Rondale Moore tied for #10 NFL in punt return average (10.0); Matt Prater ties for #11th in NFL scoring (25 points); Andy Lee #2 NFL in punt average (51.5); Cardinals’ punt coverage team tied for #3 NFL in net average (45.6); Cardinals’ starting field position on kickoffs and punts, tied for #5 per:

Ugly decisions from Kliff Kingsbury?

Average football?