The Cardinals are the most heavily penalized team in the NFL. On Thursday night, their mental miscues led to 115 penalty yards, directly led to 12 points in the second half and otherwise prevented them from scoring a massive road win over Seattle. Any parent or teacher can relate to what I'm about to type next: Being a disciplinarian sucks. My kids know when they do something wrong. I know they know. But in order for them to know that I know, I have to show some tough love. Kliff Kingsbury appears incapable of this. Immediately after the game, Kingsbury said he leaves players alone after a mistake because he knows they feel bad. The head coach of the team feels bad that players feel bad about making egregious mistakes. Kliff needs to get out of his feelings and into the faces of his players occasionally otherwise he's just a guy and not a leader of men.
Dre Kirkpatrick's 15 yard penalty was the kind of mistake from a veteran that demands a coach holding the player accountable. I don't expect Kliff to flip tables and go all Denzel in Training Day but I would expect the head coach to make sure the player knows that can't happen in a not so polite way. Kliff isn't coaching 18 and 19 year olds anymore, these are grown men and well paid professionals. I don't think its in him and that's a concern for the long term.
Kyler Murray's intentional grounding didn't get the scrutiny it deserved because of the safety that quickly followed. You can make the argument that his grounding penalty was the worst penalty of the night. Kyler does many, many things well on the football field but there do appear to be times he's still surprised NFL defenders are the caliber athlete that they are. Its like he's rarely been tested as an athlete and still has a tendency to panic when he's facing a quick decision.
This offense found out what happens when Kyler can't tenderize the defense with his legs. The question going forward this year and beyond is how does the offense thrive if Kyler can't gash teams on the ground? Drake and Edmonds were non-factors and Kyler never found a rhythm in the air, especially with DeAndre Hopkins. Its entirely possible the Cardinals still need to make some upgrades personnel wise in their passing game.
Let's break up the bitch-fest with some positive news. There were two major positive takeaways that we'll cover in this article. The first is its clear the Cardinals have eliminated the gap with the Seahawks. Not just closed it, but eliminated it. These two teams are peers of each other. They are on the same level. Two games, two nail biters, two different outcomes. If these two teams played each other 10 times, which is still possible in COVID times, what would the record be? 5-5? 6-4 either way? That is a monstrous hill that the Cardinals have climbed.
Okay, back to the bad stuff. Patrick Peterson was not good on Thursday night. He's an easy player to pick on because of his public trade demands and PED suspension in the last 18 months but he was bad for real. Peterson has done a decent job this year; he limited Metcalf in both games to five caches and 69 yards combined and has also done a good job on DeVante Parker and Stefon Diggs in recent weeks. But its clear he's no longer king of the mountain at the position athletically. He struggles near the line of scrimmage, gets beat deep too often and doesn't have the jets to eliminate those mistakes with his god given talent. He's still a useful player but he's not the true #1 CB the Cardinals need him to be which creates a very interesting offseason ahead.
Troy Aikman was awful on the broadcast. He probably hates calling games on Thursday night. His prep basically boiled down to orgasming about DK Metcalf for most of the game and ignoring any actual X's and O's on the screen. Tony Romo has elevated that position to a different level and Aikman is unable to meet it. He's the Patrick Peterson of color guys. He and Dick Stockton deserve each other for the rest of the season.
The offensive line was not good on Thursday night. They were dominated by an improving Seahawks defensive line. They were beat for a sack on the final play. They committed multiple costly penalties. My biggest fear for this unit, despite their impressive rankings on the season and obvious improvement, is that they wouldn't hold up against the best teams in football. This was either a bump in the road for a previously solid group or the beginning of a long final six games.
If it weren't for the dazzling play of Isaiah Simmons, I'd be screaming about whiffing on three franchise tackles at #8 overall. The fact of the matter is that Simmons was so good on Thursday night, he might be able to single handedly keep this Cardinals defense afloat the rest of the way. Off the edge, busting up screens, in coverage over the middle, Simmons was a force. His size and speed really popped for the first time in a major way. If this is the start for Simmons, I might be eating some major crow this holiday season.
Under the Radar Stars: Joe Buck, the officials. That's pretty much it.
What's Next: Bill Belichick's brain tease. The Patriots will try to overwhelm the Cardinals defensive line physically and will make sure Kyler doesn't kill them with his legs offensively. In other words, the perfect test before December.