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Rapid Reactions: Cardinals go from sluggish to solid in season opener

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) celebrate his two point conversion catch with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

The Arizona Cardinals truly had a tale of two halves on Sunday.

After getting obliterated in nearly every category at the start, the Cardinals were able to right the ship in the second half, tying the Detroit Lions 27-27.

Accumulating just 58 yards of total offense in the first half, the Cardinals turned it up in the second, recording 329 yards and 24 points in both the half and overtime.

For rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, the game went from forgettable to fiery, as he went from 41 yards in the first half to more than 250 and two scores in the second.

Here are the rapid reactions from the 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station staff:

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta

When halftime hit at State Farm Stadium Sunday, I had to check my calendar.

Yeah, you read that right — I wanted to make sure it was 2019, because the first 30 minutes of Arizona Cardinals football felt a lot like the slog of last year.

The first half yielded zero points and 58 yards of offense on 29 snaps — more actual yardage than the 2018 Mike McCoy offense produced in the first half of  its opener against Washington (but less per play).

When Matthew Stafford hit T.J. Hockenson on a 23-yard touchdown pass with 14:47 to go in the game, Detroit took a 24-6 lead — the exact final score of last season’s lid-lifter. It was kismet, right?

Nope.

Kyler Murray led a furious fourth-quarter comeback that featured 18 straight points to force overtime — and the Cardinals improbably took a 27-24 lead in overtime before settling for a 27-27 sister-kisser in their 2019 debut.

I found it very refreshing to hear rookie coach Kliff Kingsbury admit that “it was three quarters of the worst offense” he’d ever seen in his life. He also gave credence to the question of whether his keep-everything-secret vanilla offense in four preseason games actually affected the Arizona output Sunday.

There was plenty of talk about “learning experiences” after the game and it was definitely promising to see Murray and the offense shake off the cobwebs and hopefully exorcise the demons from the worst offensive season in Cardinals history.

We’ll see how much more they learn before traveling to Baltimore next week.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo

Winning is awesome. Ties stink. Hate wearing them, hate watching them. This is a universal truth that cannot be denied.

But… a tie forged from three quarters of some of the ugliest football we’ve seen in a while — and that’s truly saying something — is one I’ll take.

Down 24-6 at the start of the 4th quarter with fans leaving early and social media critics wanting everybody fired and everybody benched, rallying for a tie is a far more satisfying alternative than what this game was shaping up to be.

It was interesting to hear Kingsbury take the heat for this one claiming that it was his “too cute” playing calling that kept his quarterback from getting into a rhythm. Perhaps. But once in rhythm, Murray showed off the kind of skills that Cardinals fans are building their future on. It was an odd debut filled with promise and pitfalls and it left me wanting to see more.

Two quick things:

I thought the play calling on 3rd and 7 in overtime needed to be more of the two-down territory. Try to get a few on third down knowing you’re going for it on 4th.

And finally, a hypothetical: If Brock makes the pick at the end, does he have the wherewithal to go down or go out before the clock runs out or does he try to take it to the house? We’ll never know.

Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter

Kyler Murray is technically still undefeated.

If you take the backend of the second half of Sunday’s game, the Cardinals — and more notably Kyler Murray — looked as advertised in the offensive department.

It was the start that had everyone wondering what the team had been doing for months.

It was a rough way to open up a game to say the least — forcing fans to relive the 2018 experience — but Arizona did figure it out as the game progressed.

You could see a different team on the field in the closing quarter and overtime, a unit with some added fight and confidence.

It was especially refreshing to see Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson actually utilized in the offense, something that wasn’t seen just a year prior.

But can that offensive lull be suppressed moving forward? And while they limited the damage on the ground, can the defense stop the pass, specifically the tight end spot?

Those questions linger after the tie, especially after watching TE T.J. Hockenson work the Cardinals for 131 yards and a score on six catches.

A tie isn’t a win, but if we’re being honest, the stalemate is the next best thing for the Cardinals to start the season.

They didn’t lose, and gained some valuable experience in the process.

Experience they’ll certainly need with the Baltimore Ravens — who put up 59 points in Week 1 — up next on the docket.

Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter

The first three quarters felt like last season’s opener.

Except this time, the Cardinals at least had the excuse of a rookie quarterback starting the first game. Kyler Murray looked off, and he got little help from his teammates — the offensive line was literally running into him and the receivers were struggling to get themselves open.

And then, almost on cue, Arizona started going, tempo-ing and Air Raiding their way back into things. Murray found a rhythm, began taking deep shots and leaned on his most experienced teammate, Larry Fitzgerald.

Murray looked like, well, not a rookie. Kliff Kingsbury said after the game he scrapped a “cute” gameplan and got back to what he knew his team was good at.

That was the biggest takeaway on Sunday in a tie against the Lions: that Kliff and Kyler could make mid-game adjustments if things didn’t go their way.

And paired with a defense that aside from a few busted plays looked competent, maybe the 2019 Cardinals won’t take a dark, depressing turn like the 2018 version.

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