Rapid Reactions: Cardinals unable to find end zone in loss to Saints
The Arizona Cardinals came into Sunday’s matchup with the New Orleans Saints riding a three-game winning streak.
Unfortunately for Arizona, New Orleans was coming off its fifth straight with starting quarterback Drew Brees back in the mix for the first time since Week 2.
And while the Cardinals kept things close in the first half, only trailing 10-6, the Saints dominated the second, scoring 21 points to seal the 31-9 win over Arizona.
To make matters worse, the Cardinals were hampered by injuries, with both running back Chase Edmonds (hamstring) and linebacker Cassius Marsh (concussion) unable to finish the game.
Here are the reactions from the 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station staff:
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo:
This should not be about the 4th-and-1 call but I can see a ton of fans wanting it to be about that and I guess it’s understandable. Arizona was only down 10-6 at that point, but the truth is New Orleans was dominating and it was only a matter of time before they broke through.
Arizona could not run the ball, could not sustain drives and could not stop Michael Thomas or Latavius Murray. The Saints were going to score points and they were going to win. So you try something that we all know goes against the book – something that is too risky considering the field position (at your own 29), score (down four) time of game (7:32 left third quarter). Why the heck not? They needed something. Sure it’s the wrong call but the only way you had a chance in this game was by taking some risks. It failed they lost.
But does anyone really believe that had they punted the result would have been any different? No way. So the 4th-and-1 call is just a part of the game and not the reason for the result. The Cardinals were overmatched by a better team. Plain and simple. The Saints are at a different level and it was obvious.
The real concern is Chase Edmonds availability for the 49ers game and the running game going forward with no David Johnson and possibly no Edmonds. The Cardinals’ goal should have been to split these two games vs. the Saints and 49ers. Being .500 in November would be great. A win Thursday still accomplishes that goal.
What we learned is that the Cardinals are not good enough to beat the big boys — not yet. And they have a long way to go to get there.
Vince Marotta, Co-host of Bickley & Marotta:
I didn’t expect the Cardinals to go to New Orleans and beat the Saints, especially considering the return of Drew Brees at quarterback. But I expected a little more than what the Cardinals put out there in a 31-9 loss.
The Arizona defense was quite courteous in welcoming Brees back after a five-week absence by not applying any pressure on him or tightly covering receivers. Michael Thomas, the most productive receiver in the NFL, caught 11 passes on 11 balls thrown his way. He didn’t have to work hard to get them. Taysom Hill, a do-everything player, ran free on three catches, including a 36-yard grab and five-yard TD.
The Cardinals’ streak of 59 straight games with at least one sack came to an end — and curiously enough, the goose egg comes just a week after Arizona terrorized Giants’ QB Daniel Jones for eight sacks.
But, the defense had it tough today. Yes, they had trouble getting off the field, but the offense did nothing to help things. Arizona couldn’t run the ball. At all. They managed 40 yards — 32 of that coming from Murray runs and a gadget play from Christian Kirk. Running backs Chase Edmonds and Zach Zenner combined to run eight times for eight yards. Murray and the passing game weren’t much better. His first completion of the game went to Charles Clay for 47 yards. His next 18 completions covered 173 yards. Problems in the red zone resurfaced and they were closely attached to some curious play calling.
But the biggest head-scratcher of the game came midway through the third quarter. The Cardinals, trailing 10-6, had forced a rare interception from Patrick Peterson and faced a 3rd-and-1 at their own 30-yard-line. The third down call was a screen pass right to Edmonds, and Murray uncorked a wild throw out of his receiver’s reach. On fourth down, head coach Kliff Kingsbury opted to go for it, running Edmonds up the middle for no gain. The turnover on downs gave the Saints great field position and five plays later, Brees hit Latavius Murray on a 15-yard touchdown pass that extended New Orleans’ lead to 17-6, but really made the deficit feel insurmountable.
After that turnover on downs, Arizona was outscored 21-3.
And to make matters worse, Edmonds got hurt, pressing Zenner into action and it was clear his grasp of the offense wasn’t exactly strong (how could it be, he’d been with the team for only a few days). It’s entirely possible the Cardinals will go into Thursday night’s game against San Francisco totally short-handed at RB, and the idea of them being so one-dimensional against a fierce 49ers defense doesn’t portend great things.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo:
Normally, I lean towards aggressiveness on 4th down. And in the Cardinals case vs. the Saints, I can understand the motivation: Big underdogs on the road and a short distance to go. If you’re going to shock the world it requires bold thinking and a little bit of a gamblers touch. But in this particular case it was too much risk, too little reward and Kliff Kingsbury’s decision to go for it on 4th-and-one was too bold given that there was still plenty of game left and you’re only trailing 10-6 at the time. A grateful Saints team took the the field position they were gifted and promptly turned it into a touchdown and a 17-6 lead.
So many other things didn’t go their way. Larry Fitzgerald’s footwork (can’t believe I just typed that) on what could have been a touchdown. A pass interference call the Cards didn’t get on the possession that led to Zane Gonzalez’s 50-yard field goal. Chase Edmonds ill-timed injury. But mostly the Saints were the superior team and woulda-coulda-shoulda doesn’t apply here. Now the question is one of health and time. Will the Cards have enough of either to prepare themselves for the soon to be 7-0 San Francisco 49ers?
Luke Lapinski, Host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski
Losing in New Orleans isn’t exactly reason to panic. Especially on the heels of a three-game winning streak.
The Saints should’ve gone to the Super Bowl last year, and they look like they’re on their way there this season. The Cardinals hung with them for three quarters — on the day Drew Brees returned to the New Orleans lineup, no less. And even though this season’s clearly a rebuild, Arizona is still a respectable 3-4-1 at the halfway point. I’m good with that.
The problem is they’re already in a tough spot heading into their Week 9 matchup with the 49ers. According to Adam Schefter, David Johnson isn’t playing in that game either. And if he’s right, that means the Cards will be without their lead running back and one of their top receivers when they face their undefeated division rivals on a short week. Johnson’s absence was much more noticeable today than it was against the Giants, and it only gets tougher when you’re facing that San Francisco defense.
Making matters worse, Chase Edmonds might not be able to go on Halloween now either. Maybe I’m looking at this glass half empty, but I don’t see Zach Zenner carving up the 49ers. So that’s even more pressure on your rookie quarterback against a very good team.
As far as that infamous fourth down call, I just don’t understand the risk vs reward component. I like an aggressive approach — especially after what we saw last season– but what was the benefit? Even if you get the first down, you’re still on your own 31. And we saw what happened when they didn’t convert. To me, it’s not worth it in a 10-6 game when your defense has been keeping you close.
Did it decide the game? We’ll never really know. They could’ve punted and still lost. But it was very clearly the turning point.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter:
The Cardinals shouldn’t have been in a 10-6 disadvantage at half, but that was a fine position to be in considering all things. Then the second half happened, and both Kliff Kingsbury and Vance Joseph struggled to keep up with Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints’ staff. That was only half of it.
Kingsbury’s curious play-calls on that 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 were problematic, but they were more about how the talent deficit killed Arizona all game. Both the offensive and defensive lines got beat up thoroughly, as the Cardinals couldn’t run the ball nor stop Latavius Murray.
Throw in an inconsistent performance by Murray, and the talent deficit was too much to overcome.