Talent-deficient roster on full display in Cardinals’ lopsided defeat

Dec 1, 2019, 6:18 PM | Updated: Dec 2, 2019, 10:10 am

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury watches play during the first half of an NFL football ...

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury watches play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — NFL zombies come out in December. They’re the dull-eyed men who’ve lost all interest and hope. The ones who’d rather play dead than play football.

Stunningly, the Cardinals looked the part on Sunday.

Sleepwalking. Disinterested. A team that used their bye week to hibernate and decompress rather than get better. A team that clearly lost its edge.

The Rams won by a score of 34-7. It felt much worse than that. A better barometer is the discrepancy in total yards, where Los Angeles outgained Arizona by a disgusting margin (549-198).

This is a terrible look for the coaching staff and the players. The kind that can cost grown men their jobs.

“Just wasn’t acceptable,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “It was the first game all year I didn’t think we competed like we’re able to. I didn’t think we had the juice, coaches or players. Fans deserve better. This community deserves better than the product like that after a month off and coming back home.”

And how could possibly happen? At a time when Kingsbury was looking for just the opposite, hoping his players would seize an opportunity to finish the season with real strength and momentum.

“That’s something we have to figure out,” he said.

This game will make it increasingly difficult to retain Vance Joseph, the defensive coordinator handpicked by general manager Steve Keim. The results are almost as horrifying as what Mike McCoy brought to Arizona’s offense in 2018, another Keim specialty.

No issues have been resolved on defense. Except for a handful of performers, nothing is getting better on that side of the ball. Opposing receivers are still wide open in space, and six Rams players had chunk receptions of at least 20 yards on Sunday.

Too many Cardinals defenders are still missing assignments and putting up their hands in confusion. They still can’t cover tight ends, still can’t generate consistent pressure and still can’t make key stops on third down.

Meanwhile, the return of Patrick Peterson from a six-game suspension has done little to elevate the group.

To the contrary, Peterson found himself being blocked by Rams quarterback Jared Goff on a broken play in the second half. Peterson could’ve seized the opportunity to knock Goff into next week but chose to do nothing. It was symbolic of the lukewarm effort that marked the afternoon, and you could see a multitude of Cardinals fans streaming for the exits early in the second half. You could almost hear television sets turning off across the Valley.

This is not supposed to be happening at this point in our NFL evolution, and it once again indicts a paper-thin, talent-deficient roster put forth by the GM.

“(The Rams) came out and looked like a team that was in the Super Bowl 10 months ago, and we didn’t,” Kingsbury said. “We didn’t play like we’ve been playing, with the same intensity, effort and passion, things we’ve had all year. Even when the execution wasn’t there, we fought. We didn’t look like the same team tonight.”

The biggest question isn’t whether Joseph loses his job after yet another clunky defensive performance. It’s whether Michael Bidwill sees bigger issues and chooses to replace Keim, even though the GM seems to have made prudent choices in Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.

Truth is, the dramatic failures from recent coordinators have been amplified by substandard personnel provided by the GM. And at this point, would you trust Keim to rebuild this defense?

Me, neither.

Even more shocking was the offensive performance. Entering the game, the Cardinals hadn’t posted consecutive scoreless quarters all season long. They had moved the ball consistently against some of the NFL’s best defensive foes. They did nothing against a Rams defense that allowed 100 points combined in losses to the Ravens and Buccaneers.

I’ll give Murray a mulligan for this ragged performance. He’s been terrific for most of his rookie season. He’s earned the right to have a bad game. But the 2019 Cardinals have now lost five consecutive games, something the 2018 Cardinals never did.

And for all of his foibles and detractors in 2018, Steve Wilks actually kicked off his December with an upset win in Green Bay.

His successors coughed up a hairball.

To his credit, Kingsbury’s Cardinals had forged a reputation for tremendous effort, even in defeat. But on this awful Sunday, it looked like the Cardinals had lost sight of the fight. The whole team was suddenly playing like David Johnson. And that was the worst part of this recurring horror show against the Rams.

The Cardinals looked zombies. And that’s the last thing you expected from a new coach and a new era of football.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


Dan Bickley


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Who’s to blame for Diamondbacks collapsing against Dodgers?

Dan Bickley wonders who should shoulder the most blame for the Diamondbacks loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.

11 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Can Diamondbacks get off the canvas after crushing loss to Dodgers?

After not sealing the deal against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night, Dan Bickley wonders if the Diamondbacks have what it takes to rebound for Game 2 of the series.

11 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: 3 things that could fix the Phoenix Suns

Bickley Blast: 3 things that could fix the Phoenix Suns. Dan Bickley breaks it down.

12 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: How the NBA is limiting the Phoenix Suns

In an NBA free agency period with Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George and Golden State Warriors veteran Klay Thompson on the market, Dan Bickley takes a closer look at how the league is limiting "checkbook championships" at a time that Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia is willing to pay whatever it takes to build a championship team.

13 days ago

Mercury's Diana Taurasi goes up for a layup over Fever's Caitlin Clark on June 30, 2024. (Jeremy Sc...

Dan Bickley

Caitlin Clark may have moved past WNBA hazing with win over Mercury

Clark flirted with a triple-double in the win over Phoenix, her first victory over a winning team. But the moment was far bigger than that. 

14 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Is Mat Ishbia overly optimistic about the Phoenix Suns?

Dan Bickley takes a closer look at the Phoenix Suns owner's recent tweet and ponders if Mat Ishbia is so overly optimistic to the point of gaslighting fans.

16 days ago

Talent-deficient roster on full display in Cardinals’ lopsided defeat