Arizona Cardinals show more good than bad in loss to Vikings
The third game of the preseason is the only one that matters. The Cardinals’ performance can be described in one word:
They were not redeemed. But they were not embarrassed.
They did not win. But they did not lose. Not in any way that matters.
They played a road game in a hostile stadium in Minnesota. And in the end, they quieted all the noise in Arizona.
Their rookie quarterback flickered, even if he never found the end zone. Kyler Murray was occasionally dangerous and always elusive. If he’s destined to spend the 2019 season running for his life, at least he’s well-equipped. His performance against the Vikings should inspire more giddiness than dread.
Their rookie head coach flashed some of his offense acumen and his play-calling skills, helping jumpstart a dormant offense. Kliff Kingsbury might be the most targeted coach inside the NFL, but this was a game that helped quell the growing fears.
The starting offensive line took the field for the first time and held their own. More, please.
The defensive line was gashed by another running back, yielding an 85-yard rushing touchdown. But shortly after, the entire unit took a stand and showed some pride, authoring a respectable performance.
Two wide receivers made impact statements. Damiere Byrd flashed real speed. KeeSean Johnson had seven receptions on seven targets. It was a day when Michael Crabtree didn’t look necessary. Or maybe his mid-week signing improved the focus for everyone.
Granted, the Vikings didn’t blitz Murray like they could have and didn’t run the ball as often as they should have. But the Cardinals left Minneapolis with their key players intact and their dignity restored. Take solace that one debacle did not spawn another.
The Cardinals have lingering issues. Their physicality is underwhelming. Before he was gifted an undeserved reprieve, David Johnson seemed to fumble away a great drive, following a perfectly-schemed screen pass, a moment that seemed to symbolize his two-year deconstruction.
Another quarterback was assessed another bizarre false start penalty, enough to make you believe in conspiracy theories. They must curb their preponderance for penalties. And Murray had enough passes batted down to make you wonder if this will indeed be an issue for a short quarterback.
The Cardinals must ultimately prove they can run the ball and stop the run. It’s the foundation of most successful teams, and you must do a little of both to avoid getting steamrolled in the NFL.
Under Steve Wilks, the Cardinals did neither.
We should all feel better about what’s to come, especially with a heavy influx of waiver wire acquisitions expected on Aug. 31. To wit:
In the first preseason game, the Chargers went through the motions, allowing Murray to find an instant comfort zone, even when starting his career out of his own end zone.
In the second preseason contest, the Raiders cared too much, using the game and their HBO platform to ambush the Cardinals and reveal their agenda against Pretty Boy Football.
We’ve been living with the carnage ever since. The Cardinals were effectively called a bunch of marshmallows, unworthy of NFL standards. The Cardinals’ performance against the Vikings restored hope that this can be a functioning, interesting, high-scoring football team with a game that featured more good than bad.
And after last week, that’s good enough.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.