There are no two ways about it: the Cardinals got completely destroyed by the Chiefs on Sunday. They were dominated so thoroughly that you can’t place blame on one particular area or unit over any other. To wit:
- Kliff had a poor offensive gameplan (basically featuring Greg Dortch??) and, as usual, failed to make adjustments over the course of the game.
- The receivers consistently failed to get separation.
- James Conner was plodding and ineffective as a runner and receiver.
- The O-line couldn’t consistently give Kyler a clean pocket or create running lanes.
- Kyler failed to make big plays down the field and wasn’t dynamic as a runner.
If you want a positive, about the only good thing I’ll say is that Eno Benjamin looked good, both as a runner and kick returner. Hope he gets more touches moving forward.
But I’ve only touched on the offense so far. They had a bad game, largely failing to move the ball or chain drives together until the 4th quarter when the game was out of hand. They should (hopefully) play better against the Raiders this week.
But I want to talk more about the defense today. The defense that gave up 44 points and 488 yards, that somehow allowed the Chiefs to rack up 33(!) first downs on 66 plays. Here’s a quick rundown of the defensive debacle:
- Vance Joseph had an even worse gameplan than Kliff, relentlessly blitzing Mahomes long after that tactic proved ineffective.
- The D-line was bullied all afternoon, in both the running and passing games.
- The pass rushers failed to make any kind of impact, failing to record a sack or really even bother Patrick Mahomes at all.
- The linebackers were badly abused in coverage, including and especially our last two 1st-round picks, Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins.
- The corners were routinely beaten when Mahomes bothered to target them.
Just a horrendous effort all around—yet it was entirely predictable. Anyone who has been following the team has been banging the drum on a number of these issues all offseason. Here’s just a sampling from yours truly, but there is a trove of similar pieces all over the internet:
- Treading water and mixed messages: Making sense of the Cardinals’ offseason so far
- Biggest post-draft roster questions for the Cardinals
- It’s only June, but the Cardinals don’t seem like a playoff team
- Does the defense have enough playmakers?
Let me just insert this here. No reason, just like the song:
Every one of these pieces hammers home the urgency of making changes and concerns about the pass rush and corners. Knowing that this is a QB-driven league—and knowing we had Mahomes coming in Week 1—fixing these areas needed to be priority #1 for the offseason. Keim needed to bring in impact players, and Kliff and Vance needed to coach them up.
Of course, none of that happened. We lost Chandler Jones to free agency and elected not to bring back Robert Alford, and Keim did next to nothing to replace those players. He drafted a couple midround pass rushers that either didn’t play or didn’t make an impact (Cameron Thomas, Myjai Sanders) to go along with unproven options like Dennis Gardeck and Victor Dimukeje. (The one stalwart option, the newly extended Markus Golden, had a poor game.)
He did even less at corner, with CBs not named Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson playing just 10 snaps (9 for Jace Whittaker and 1 for Christian Matthew). I know Antonio Hamilton is hurt and he did sign the late Jeff Gladney, but even so the lack of urgency to fix this clear roster hole is just inexcusable. Everyone saw this coming!
Except, it seems, the people in charge of this team. To my knowledge, Steve Keim hasn’t spoken to the press since the Chiefs game (note this was written Monday night), but Kliff appeared on 98.7 Monday morning. This statement should have all Cardinals fans in sheer panic mode:
An eye-opening comment from Kliff Kingsbury when asked by Ron Wolfley on 98.7 FM about the feeling the team lacked urgency: “I think that they knew Week 1 was coming. But I think the level of play that the Chiefs played at was a step above probably what they anticipated.— Howard Balzer (@HBalzer721) September 12, 2022
Note his consistent use of “they” (click through to read the whole statement):
- “the level of play… was a step above probably what they anticipated”
- “I don’t think they saw what was coming”
It almost sounds like he’s throwing his players under the bus. He does go on to take ownership of his own poor preparation and coaching, but this is concerning. Guess who’s job it is to get the players ready to play? Just a nonsensical statement from a coach who might soon find himself squarely on the hot seat less than a year after inking a 5-year extension.
And the same goes for Keim, who either ignored or whiffed on filling the team’s two biggest needs this offseason, and it’s not clear if his last two 1st-round picks are even NFL players. That’s just gross incompetence.
(I’m leaving Kyler out for now—he doesn’t play defense or make personnel decisions, but there are certainly questions, big questions, swirling around his leadership and preparation as well.)
The writing has been on the wall for the 2022 Cardinals for months and months, and seemingly the only people surprised by the Week 1 result are the team’s leaders. Did they really just magically expect last season’s early-season success to continue without big changes? Do they not remember what happened after that 10-2 start?
The past two times this team took an actual NFL field, they have been outscored 78-32 and outgained 863 to 465. And yet almost nothing meaningful changed about the team between those two meltdowns. (And while I don’ think the lack of preseason reps for the starters made much of a difference, it’s worth mentioning as well.)
I know the season is just one week old, but my 9-8 prediction for this team is looking awfully optimistic right now.
Things need to change in a hurry. But change seems to be the last thing this team—from owner Michael Bidwill on down—has on its mind. It’s become a bit of a refrain for longtime followers of the team: same old Cardinals.