The Arizona Cardinals experienced their first loss of the 2020 season when they fell to the Detroit Lions 26-23 at State Farm Stadium. Every Monday you can find my 1st and 10 blog following the Cardinals game. And don't forget to tune in to The 5th Quarter live on Periscope/Twitter immediately following each Arizona game, @radiojody.
1st: Kliff Kingsbury's offense is out of whack
- When the head coaches pre-game wardrobe choices make more sense than his in game play calling, thats a problem. It's not that the Cardinals offense is rudderless or impotent, it's just lacking cohesiveness. Kliff seems to be the kind of coach who falls in love with individual plays rather than series. He's like a director who falls in love with individual scenes but not the story itself. And that's what a Kingsbury called game feels like. There are plays and play designs that are spectacular taken individually but they don't really gel collectively. Nothing sums this up better than the decision to have Chris Streveler on the field for a pivotal 4th and 1 in the first half. Why would you ever take Kyler Murray off the field on a big 4th down? Streveler probably shouldn't be on the roster, let alone the field on a 4th down under center. Why not ride with Brett Hundley as the backup and use the extra roster spot for more defensive depth? If you were given a test following Sunday's game and asked to describe the Cardinals offensive game plan, how would you answer it? Mashing the keys on the keyboard would probably come the closest to a correct answer. There were warning signs the first two weeks that we discussed such as, "What happens when Kyler isn't picking up huge gains on the ground?" and Sunday we got our answer.
1) On the surface this wasn't a sky is falling, question everything kind of loss for the Cardinals. But it could become that in hindsight. If the Cardinals go on the road against a tougher than expected Carolina team coached by a former college head coach with lots of direct experience against the Air Raid and a much stronger collegiate track record of success than Kingsbury in Matt Rhule and lose, the Detroit game will be viewed as a flashpoint for the season. If the Cardinals regroup, assert their talent superiority and iron out the offensive kinks, Detroit will be viewed as a bump in the early season road.
2) Kyler Murray's throwing woes continued Week 3. I'm not overly concerned with this development but there's no doubt he has yet to settle in as a thrower this season. The three picks were bad enough but it was the three picks plus the near 4th pick plus the seven targets to KeeSean Johnson (more on that later) plus the intentional grounding call plus the continuation of missing receivers high plus missing open receivers like he was Jimmy G and you add it all up and it leads to a disappointing loss. For as exciting as Murray was the first two weeks, he needs to make more boring plays to really set the offense up for success.
3) The Cardinals needs to commit to running the ball more effectively. Consider these two facts, one on the macro level and one on the micro level. Big picture-wise, Kenyan Drake led all Cardinals ballcarriers with 18 carries for 73 yards. But only twice did Drake receive the handoff in successive plays. Early in the game, Drake received the ball three straight times and again on one drive in the 4th, Drake received back to back carries. Meaning the other 15 carries in the game were isolated incidents that left Drake standing around waiting for his next opportunity. On a micro level, Drake ripped off a run for 15 yards early in the 3rd quarter then watched as the Cardinals called five straight pass plays leading to Murray's 3rd INT of the day. Even more strange, the Cardinals opened with Chase Edmonds in the backfield, gave him the ball twice for nine yards and then turned to Drake for the rest of the game. None of these decisions make any real sense and need to be fixed ASAP.
4) Did I mention the Lions rush defense had been gashed through two weeks and the Cardinals attempted fewer rushes this game than any game all season? Because that seems important.
5) The KeeSean Johnson problem. Kyler likes throwing to KeeSean Johnson. Its like Kyler made a friend at school that's not the best influence on him and we are all the parents trying to figure out how to keep them apart. Seven targets for Johnson in his first action since mid November of last year and after spending the last two weeks of this season on the COVID list. When you consider Kyler only targeted Larry Fitzgerald twice for one catch and zero yards, it somehow makes even less sense. Going forward, the best way to prevent this from being a problem might be to keep Johnson off the field, like any good parent would try to do.
6) Those are some incredible numbers in the tweet above from Kyle Odegard and yet it still feels like DeAndre Hopkins is being under utilized. How many more catches could Hopkins have had Sunday? 3? 5? 7? Certainly instead of throwing into double coverage down the field to Keesean Johnnson, throwing to Hopkins no matter where he was on the field would've made more sense. Hopkins could've delivered a big win at home for the Cardinals, if only they would've given him that chance.
7) Finally, we have our answer to Where In the World Is Andy Isabella? He was in the end zone the whole time. Of course the diminutive second round WR with two receptions on the season and eleven in his career in 17 games would be the red zone answer at receiver the Cardinals have been trying to find for years. In all seriousness, Isabella looked great and should see even more chances in the future. But I'll never stop playing his song.
8) Another game, another no-show from Isaiah Simmons. The rookie ILB logged 11 snaps and did nothing to stop the Lions TE's from combining for 7 catches for 81 yards, 4 first downs and a TD. It would've been nice if it was Simmons on TJ Hockenson instead of Byron Murphy on the game winning drive that saw Murphy called for an obvious Pass Interference and first down on 2nd and 15. Should Simmons move to safety with injuries to Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson AND Chris Banjo? Would you rather have Simmons on the field at safety or a 4th or 5th string player? Winning can buy time, losing can bring pressure and the pressure is starting to turn up on Simmons and the Cardinals brass.
9) Under the radar stars: Kelvin Beachum, Jordan Phillips and Corey Peters and WR Coach David Raih.
10) What's Next: The Carolina Panthers who proved the wrong people wrong when they won their first game of the year against the Chargers with Christian McCaffrey shelved with an injury. The Panthers are not very talented but pretty well coached, just like Matt Rhule's Temple and early Baylor teams.