First: The Cardinals lack of attention to detail finally caught up to them
- Over his four years at the helm of the Arizona Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury has been a mixed bag of results on the field but one constant has been true: his teams are often sloppy and disorganized. Poorly timed timeouts, penalties after timeouts, panicked timeouts with the play clock winding down more times than you can count and more have been a Cardinals staple since 2019. It finally caught up to them in a big way on Sunday. The Cardinals and Kyler Murray had the Philadelphia Eagles defense on roller skates with the game hanging in the balance. Instead of a confident team looking to win the game, the Cardinals were an aloof team that settled for a failed chance to tie the game. 22 seconds is a long time in the NFL and instead of gathering themselves and calling a situationally appropriate play, Kliff and his staff panicked and called to spike the ball. I'm not pretending that the final seconds of a game are easy to navigate but I am saying a leader with better composure under pressure likely makes a better choice. Even Kliff's explanation after the game didn't make a lot of sense. The Cardinals were not playing to win this game, they were settling for a tie and that's not the kind of leadership that matters in the NFL.
1. This was still the most encouraging game of the season for the Cardinals.
Sure, the failed to score a first quarter point for the fifth consecutive game and flew the final series of the game but still, it was an improvement. The Cardinals offense didn't wait until the second half to come alive, they scored 10 points in the 2nd quarter and the play making of Kyler Murray was on full display on the ill fated final drive. The defense made some smart adjustments after the Eagles first two TD's and helped contain Jalen Hurts and Isaiah Simmons wasn't a total disaster!
2. The Cardinals slow starts are a feature not a bug.
No Cardinals player or coach can explain the team's first quarter failures. Here's an idea: if the script sucks for five straight weeks, let someone else write it. Most teams have more than one cook in their offensive kitchen but its The Kliff Show in Phoenix. Sure, Sean Kugler has some nominal input but Kliff needs to hand the paper and pen to Kugler and Kyler for the whole script to change.
3. Rondale Moore finally mattered.
Watching Rondale Moore, beyond the line of scrimmage, making defenders miss was a joy to see. Finally, the Cardinals found a few ways to manufacture some touches for Moore that were beyond the line of scrimmage and it paid off. Its not hard now to imagine a world where DeAndre Hopkins, Marquise Brown, Moore and Zach Ertz are wreaking havoc on opposing defenses.
4. Byron Murphy has been amongst the best defenders in the NFL so far this season.
If the Cardinals were a better team, Murphy would be getting buzz as a NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. His ability to lock down four straight no doubt about it #1 WR's has been a remarkable boon to the Cardinals defense. Who needs to rush the passer when you can shutdown the wide receiver? Actually, you still need a pass rush but Byron Murphy is playing at a peak Patrick Peterson level. Let's hope his story ends better.
5. Eno Benjamin should be the guy going forward.
Admittedly, I was not much of an Eno Benjamin guy when the Cardinals drafted him. I didn't see it at ASU and I didn't see it in limited preseason action with the Cardinals. And I was wrong. Benjamin gives the most juice to this offense right now and he and James Conner should flip flop their spots in the RB rotation.
6. Kliff's fake punt call was an absolutely masterful call.
It gets lost in the shuffle of the disastrous ending but Kliff's fake punt play call, play design and timing were all perfect. It could've been a fake punt that saved the season but then Kliff decided to act like 22 seconds left was really like having 2 seconds left and put the game in an practice squad Kicker who looked terrible for the Chiefs earlier this year. Still, the fake punt was a thing of beauty. Maybe just run that play over and over again in the first quarter, couldn't get any worse, right?
7. I'm not saying Kyler's pre-game suit choice cost them the game, actually, yes I am.
The problem with Kyler's pre game drip was everything but the real problem is he didn't wear it with the confidence of a runway model. He looked self conscious and kind of unsure. If you are going to wear a neon green pant suit from the Hilary Clinton collection, you better wear it with the confidence of a 1000 Russell Westbrooks.
8. The scales have been reset after this game.
Maybe the simplest explanation for this game and the fluky nature of the finish it was just a karmic rebalancing of the scales after the Cardinals miracle win in Las Vegas. That or Kliff Kingsbury has no confidence in the final minute of a game and it rubs off on his team. Let's just call it karmic balancing for now.
9. Under the Radar Stars:
Zach Allen, Kelvin Beachum for not retiring midgame after Haason Reddick abused him, Isaiah Simmons and Marco Wilson.
10: What's Next: @ Seattle
Never in a million years did I think I would type: Geno Smith might be the 2nd best quarterback they've faced this season when the Cardinals head to Seattle for what is always a wild road trip.