What Went Right and What Didn't for the Cardinals in Week 2

Alex Weiner

Coming off the field, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray said his team’s win on Sunday was sloppy, but getting a “dub” (W) is the most important thing. They defeated the Washington Football Team 30-15 in a game with deep completions, long Murray scrambles, penalties and defensive stands. 

Here are three things that went right for the Cardinals on Sunday, and three that could use some fixing:

What Worked

Kyler’s playmaking

Murray’s legs gave Washington problems. He gained 67 yards on eight carries including two touchdowns in which he basically went untouched. He would have had a third if a penalty didn’t negate his score.

"He adds a different dynamic to this offense when he can go and score from 20, 30 yards out," receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. "It's something that is hard for defenders to be able to attack."

Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury added: "He is as elusive as anybody and that's a weapon. He's just got to be able to protect himself which he does a good job of."

With his arm, he had a couple of stumbles with a poorly placed interception deep in his own territory, a few overthrows and an avoidable intentional grounding penalty. But, he also connected on a couple of huge deep passes that set up scores and established strong connections with Hopkins (eight catches) and Larry Fitzgerald (seven). 

Third-down defense stays hot

The Cardinals played the best third-down defense in the NFL in Week 1 (2-for-11), and they doubled down in the first half on Sunday. They allowed one first down on seven tries before the break.

Washington finished 4-for-12 on third down.

"The physicality has been great, the third downs have been great," Kingsbury said. "That's an area we really struggled on last year, particularly third-and-long."

The Cardinals had the third-worst third-down defense in the league last season. They added several pieces this offseason to close this hole and several others. Even without a full offseason, the new pieces have seemingly fit together so far.

"We have some corrections that definitely need to be made, but at this point, I think we've been doing pretty well jelling together considering that we haven't had a ton of time together," linebacker De'Vondre Campbell said.

Campbell led the team with 10 tackles and fellow newcomer Jordan Phillips forced a fumble that was a strip-sack recovered by linebacker Chandler Jones.

Three phases

The Cardinals got a massive spark from a blocked punt last week that set up their first touchdown. On Sunday, special teams struck again, forcing a fumble against Washington punt returner Steven Sims. 

The Cardinals found the end zone six plays later. 

All three facets of the Cardinals (offense, defense, special teams) had huge moments on Sunday that added up to a victory.

"We've had all three phases rise up together and that's how you get this thing rolling and our guys understand that," Kingsbury said. "To see big plays made in all three phases gives you a chance each and every week." 

The offense scored 30 points, the defense had a shutdown first half and special teams provided a spark once again. 

What didn’t

Penalties

Penalties made this list last week after the Cardinals committed nine. On Sunday, it got worse. 

Eleven flags were thrown against Arizona, eight of which were on offense. By the end of the afternoon games on Sunday, the Cardinals were the most penalized team in the league over the first two weeks (four teams had yet to finish their Week-2 games). Kingsbury said flags blocked the team’s ability to find a rhythm on offense.

“Offensively, we hurt ourselves with those penalties that put us in the second-and-long and third-and-long situations against a very good defense," Kingsbury said. "We've got to keep working, we've got to play cleaner and keep those drives going.” 

Second-half energy

The Cardinals were sitting pretty at halftime. They shut out an opponent in the opening half for the first time since 2017 and owned a 20-0 lead. But they didn’t look as sharp in the third quarter. Their first two drives went 10 plays and netted two yards (20 yards from scrimmage and 18 yards on two penalties). Those penalties added up. The Cardinals were outscored 3-0 in the quarter, and Kingsbury needed to reassure his team.

"We were up big at the half and came out and just went through the motions," Kingsbury said. "I just went to let them know, 'Hey, we're hurting ourselves. We're stopping ourselves with the penalties and if we don't move backwards we'll win this game.' "

Second-half defense

The defense mostly shut down Washington on Sunday, but there was a stretch in the second half where Washington found a rhythm. Washington scored on three straight drives after getting shut out. Linebacker Devon Kennard said the defense struggled when Washington went up-tempo.

The Cardinals had a big lead throughout that run, but Washington cut the deficit to two scores with 6:38 left, slightly opening the door for a comeback. 

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