Cardinals Show True Colors Against Panthers
This was supposed to be a statement game that the Cardinals had a realistic chance at winning. Home field advantage against a hobbled Panthers squad that didn’t have their starting quarterback. Instead they allowed Kyle Allen (a local Scottsdale product and undrafted sophomore out of Houston) throw for 261 yard and four touchdowns en route to a 38–20 drubbing.
Through the Cardinals first two games there was plenty of room for optimism since expectations were low. That optimism was soon lost as Sunday looked a lot like what we saw during last year’s horrid 3-13 season.
Week three started off with two impressive drives by both the defense and the offense. The Carolina Panthers opened the game on offense, but the defense made quick work of Kyle Allen’s first drive as a starter. Chandler Jones secured a nice strip-sack on Allen to give Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense the ball in the opening minutes.
The offense was quick at work starting on their own 26-yard line and unloaded 14 plays for 74 yards and a touchdown. Arizona seemed to have gotten their offense together and gave the Panthers a variety of looks that included designed runs for Murray, David Johnson breaking off long runs, and a flurry of quick passes that kept the ball moving and the defense on the field.
For a moment the Arizona Cardinals looked like a team that was firing on all cylinders, but if being a fan of Arizona sports has taught us anything, it’s that hope will always be buried by reality crashing down.
In a game that saw the Cardinals put up a good back and forth fight (they even held a lead at TWO separate times!) they quickly regressed back to the mean; starting off with this 76-yard touchdown run by Christian McCaffrey:
Followed by this poor throw by Murray:
This signaled the beginning of the end for the Cardinals offense as the next four possessions to close out the game went: punt, punt, interception, and punt. The yardage on those plays? 5, 0, -4, and -18.
Murray didn’t look quite right after getting off to the fast start (30/43 for 173 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) and couldn’t emulate his high octane throwing he’s had so far this season. He had poor throws, forced it too much, and never worked his way through his progressions well enough to get the ball out in time resulting in 8 sacks taken by the young QB. He did have a good night on the ground rushing for 69 yards on 8 carries but the night started with designed runs and devolved into plenty of scrambles as the pocket kept collapsing and he couldn’t find his receivers in time.
As excited as Cardinals fans were for the Air Raid to grace Arizona and all of the talented wide receivers that were lighting up training camp, the defense was just as applauded. We finally get to return to a 3-4 defense that fans were so used to succeeding and Vance Joseph would be at the helm. While shaky through the first two games of the year, the defensive unit looked down right atrocious against the Panthers.
The defensive staples showed out for the Cardinals and made some good impact plays, but it was a give and take for the defense as each great stop like this:
Was met with a big give like this:
(where was Tramaine Brock Sr. going? What was he looking at?)
And this shed a light on a defense that is severely missing they’re top two corners and cohesion across the board. Vance Joseph’s defense has allowed 29.3 points per game this season and 443 yards a game,most of which has been at the hands of opposing tight ends (318 yards and 4 touchdowns).
It was a game to forget for the rookie head coach and quarterback tandem. It was also a stark reminder that this team still has a lot of work to do before they can be considered competitive, both on offense and on defense. There are still thirteen games left in the year but the wait and see attitude that Cardinals fans have been getting from general manager Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury will slowly wear away the enthusiasm that was so prominent from fans at the beginning of the year. The time to turn it around is now, but the Cardinals might not be equipped to do so.