ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals’ pass defense struggling despite 2nd straight win

Oct 13, 2019, 6:34 PM | Updated: 8:49 pm

Jalen Thompson (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...

Jalen Thompson (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Six games in the books. Patrick Peterson’s six-game suspension is over.

The presence of the eight-time Pro Bowler will certainly help Arizona’s sagging pass defense, but there’s no way it’ll fix everything wrong with it.

Take Sunday, for instance. Yes, the Cardinals hung on for a 34-33 win over the Atlanta Falcons, but the pass defense did very little to help the effort.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta’s veteran signal caller, had a historic day at State Farm Stadium — it just wasn’t the right kind of history. Ryan threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns, building a passer rating of 144.9 — it’s only the eighth time since 1970 a quarterback has had a rating of 144 or over with 20 pass attempts and lost the game.

It’s not the first time Ryan has suffered this statistical indignity either. In Week 3 of last year, Ryan put up a rating of 148.1 in a shootout loss to New Orleans.

On the Arizona side of things, it wasn’t just Sunday’s performance that has lagged. The six opposing quarterbacks the Cardinals have faced (Matthew Stafford, Lamar Jackson, Kyle Allen, Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton and Ryan) have completed 149-of-210 passes for 1,776 yards with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.

That’s an aggregate passer rating of 121.85. If that stat line belonged to one player, he’d be among the NFL leaders in all categories and second in passer rating, first in touchdowns.

“Any time you give up yardage and points, you want to get better,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said after the game. “I think I understand where we’re at. We’ve got some young players back there, a secondary who’s banged up. We get Patrick Peterson back tomorrow, and hopefully that helps.”

Kingsbury’s sentiments aren’t without truth. Arizona’s secondary has been compromised by suspension (Peterson), injury (Robert Alford) and underperformance (D.J. Swearinger, who was released after Week 4). Rookies Byron Murphy, Deionte Thompson and Jalen Thompson have all been pressed into extended duty.

But to the untrained eye, this looks deeper than a personnel issue. Opposing receivers (and more to the point, tight ends) have run free through the Cardinals’ defense. They’ve allowed three receivers (Danny Amendola, Tyler Boyd and Julio Jones) and three tight ends (T.J. Hockenson, Mark Andrews and Austin Hooper) to gash them for 100 yards or more.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph admitted he’d have to adjust to playing more zone after the preseason losses of Peterson and Alford, so the former’s return might allow a shift back to a more aggressive coverage plan that will make things harder on quarterbacks and receivers.

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Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) runs against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters (98) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Damiere Byrd, center, pulls in a catch as Atlanta Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen (37) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons running back Ito Smith (25) is hit by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy (33) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs as Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (59) pursues during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) motions during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle Jake Matthews (70) lines up against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones (55) runs a play against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury makes a call during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Fans pause for a moment of silence in memory of the late Arizona Cardinals owner William V. Bidwill prior to NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals tight end Maxx Williams (87) scores a touchdown as Atlanta Falcons defensive back Kemal Ishmael (36) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals tight end Maxx Williams (87) celebrates his touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons with teammate Chase Edmonds (29) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) is hit by Atlanta Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen (37) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) is hit by Atlanta Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen (37) and outside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (59) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) celebrates after a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) lines up against Atlanta Falcons strong safety Damontae Kazee (27) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, top, lunges for the end zone for a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Haason Reddick defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) runs into the end zone for a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Haason Reddick (43) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) reaches for the end zone for a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Haason Reddick (43) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) runs as Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones (55) pursues during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons running back Kenjon Barner (38) runs the ball against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (81) makes a catch as Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Haason Reddick (43) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) makes a catch against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) is hit by Arizona Cardinals strong safety Budda Baker (32) and cornerback Byron Murphy, left, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals cornerback Kevin Peterson (27) breaks up a pass intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (81) scores a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Haason Reddick (43) pursues during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (81) celebrates his touchdown against Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) scrambles as Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Terrell Suggs pursues during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) lines up against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) celebrates his touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) scores a touchdown as Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (59) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) is hit by outside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (59) anduring the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones (55) runs a play against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) runs in a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (3) walls to his bench after missing the point after against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (3) unsuccessfully attempts a point after during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (3) reacts to missing the point after against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (3) reacts to missing the point after against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (3) runs to his bench after missing a point after attempt against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 34-33. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (3) reacts to missing the point after as Arizona Cardinals linebacker Brooks Reed celebrates during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 34-33. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, left, greets Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury after an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 34-33. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) greets Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) after an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 34-33. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) greets Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) after an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 34-33. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (56) chases down Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) and quarterback Kyler Murray (1) wear a "WVB" patch in memory of the Cardinals' late owner William V. Bidwill prior to an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) scores a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals defensive back Jalen Thompson (34) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley, left, scores a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals defensive back Jalen Thompson defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons center Alex Mack (51) battles against Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Haason Reddick (43) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez (5) kicks a field goal as punter Andy Lee (4) holds against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) scrambles as Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) pursues during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) is hit by Arizona Cardinals middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Atlanta Falcons running back Ito Smith (25) makes the catch against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) scores a touchdown as Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (45) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) celebrates his touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) scrambles as Arizona Cardinals middle linebacker Jordan Hicks pursues during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) scores a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) celebrates his touchdown with teammate tight end Charles Clay against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) signals first down and goal against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters (98) celebrates his sack of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs as Atlanta Falcons defensive back Jordan Miller (28) pursues during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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