Arizona Cardinals’ first impression against Redskins was a debacle

Sep 9, 2018, 5:54 PM | Updated: 8:28 pm
Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks argues a call with referee Greg Gautreaux (80) during the ...

Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks argues a call with referee Greg Gautreaux (80) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A new season begins with a sickening sound.


Like a bird flying into a glass wall.

The soundtrack to a new era of football couldn’t have been worse. A renamed stadium went eerily silent in the second quarter. A refurbished team drew a chorus of boos before halftime. And nearing the end of the Redskins’ 24-6 demolition of the Cardinals on Sunday, a once-passionate fan base was in need of aspirin and antacid.

The Red Sea had become the Dead Sea.

“Obviously, no one wants to start the season like this,” quarterback Sam Bradford said.

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and this was a debacle. The Cardinals couldn’t stop the run. They couldn’t move the football. Their new head coach was taken to school by Redskins’ boss Jay Gruden, who systematically dismantled Steve Wilks’ defense.

After 30 minutes, the Cardinals had more penalty yards (37) than yards from scrimmage (36). The Redskins had more touchdowns (three) than the Cardinals had first downs (two). The visitors had twice as many first downs (22) than the Cardinals had passing yards (11).

The Cardinals didn’t show much during the preseason. Problem is, they didn’t show much when it counted, either. They deserved to be booed as they left the field. And when Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath took the stage for the first halftime show of the season, he encountered a stadium full of dazed fans.

It made for the most difficult musical challenge since the Blues Brothers performed in a country bar shielded by chicken wire.

“There’s no reason to panic,” defensive tackle Corey Peters said. “But this is not OK. This is not acceptable.”

The sucker-punch performance hit hard because no one knew what to expect from the 2018 debut. And because the preseason carried the unmistakable scent of optimism.

Broadcaster Dave Pasch said the coaching staff was the best from top to bottom that he’s ever seen in Arizona. That opinion was shared by many who raved at the new discipline, energy and attention to detail flowing from training camp.

Until the defense committed three consecutive penalties near the end of the first half, helping the Redskins score their third touchdown with a 92-yard drive.

“There are some things that we definitely got to go back and correct, and that’s going to start with me,” Wilks said. “(But) as I told the guys: One game doesn’t define our season.”

Let’s hope Wilks is right about that. But one game can set an ominous tone, especially for a rookie head coach in the NFL. And it will fuel the skeptics who never thought much of this team in the first place.

During the preseason, the Cardinals seemed to mock the moneymakers in Las Vegas, who had the Cardinals’ over/under for wins at 5.5. Larry Fitzgerald advised fans to bet the over if they wanted to enjoy a really nice Christmas. And when the Cardinals gave David Johnson a contract extension on Saturday night, it was the perfect preamble to a new season of hope.

Johnson’s new deal reinforced a powerful message inside the locker room. It confirmed Michael Bidwill’s status as one of the most user-friendly owners in the NFL, a man who will reward talent, loyalty and those who serve him well.

But the team spoiled that message on Sunday with a pathetic performance across the board, including Johnson, who dropped three passes. It proved once again that preseason football is a function of greed and not to be trusted.

“We felt like we were in a much better position,” Bradford said. “We felt like we were going to come out here and play much better than we did. But it’s one game. We’ve got to figure out a way to bounce back. Got to figure out a way to watch the film (Monday) and figure out exactly what needs be corrected. We can’t let this game beat us twice. We’ve got to figure out a way to just stay positive and keep moving.”

It won’t be easy. Wilks is tasked with an arduous assignment entering a road game against the heavily-favored Rams, and his honeymoon expired before halftime of his official head coaching debut. The general manager must explain why he felt comfortable with this group of wide receivers, where those not named Larry Fitzgerald combined for one catch and four yards. Meanwhile, water coolers will be surrounded by disgruntled fans who have already seen enough of Bradford.

By the fourth quarter, Josh Rosen was already trending on Twitter in the greater Phoenix area.

The obvious disclaimer comes here: It’s only one game.

Try telling that to the sullen and soured fans who streamed out of State Farm Stadium, the ones who fear that’s more of a threat than promise.

Life Changer Loans

Dan Bickley

Inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons #9 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game at State Farm Stad...
Dan Bickley

Isaiah Simmons must become a playmaker for Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals' roster lacks high-end talent and that's why they need third-year linebacker Isaiah Simmons to break out this season.
8 days ago
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals sits on the bench during the second half against the Los A...
Dan Bickley

Kyler Murray’s study clause is embarrassing for Arizona Cardinals, QB

The contract for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray including a study clause is a bad look for the organization and its leader.
15 days ago
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray addresses the media, Friday, July 22, 2022, in Tempe, Ar...
Dan Bickley

Cardinals, QB Kyler Murray embark on Act II of marriage

Training camp is upon us. Kyler Murray is under contract through 2028. It's now Act II in the life of our franchise quarterback. All aboard.  
17 days ago
Arizona Cardinals football players, (L-R) Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown attend UFC 274 at Footpri...
Dan Bickley

Kyler Murray is latest who must deliver after the Valley’s Big Bag summer

Kyler Murray, Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker have signed megadeals of over a half-billion dollars in new hopes and expectations.
20 days ago
David Peralta #6 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates with Josh Rojas #10, Alek Thomas #5, and Jo...
Dan Bickley

Arizona Diamondbacks’ rebuild will require change from franchise

The Arizona Diamondbacks are putting in the time and the losses. Let’s hope they’re choosing the right people.
22 days ago
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on...
Dan Bickley

Losing Deandre Ayton for nothing would be disastrous end for Suns’ only No. 1 overall pick

Losing Deandre Ayton for nothing would be a disastrous end to the Suns' only No. 1 overall draft pick, a gift that could’ve been Luka Doncic.
27 days ago
Arizona Cardinals’ first impression against Redskins was a debacle