Rapid Reactions: Turnovers doom Cardinals in season finale loss to Rams
The Arizona Cardinals couldn’t make it three wins in a row to end the season Sunday.
With a less-than-100% rookie quarterback and five costly turnovers, the Cardinals played from behind for most of the game.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams offense continued to be a thorn in the side of Arizona’s defense, putting up a 31-24 win over the Cardinals in Los Angeles.
Now it’s onto the offseason, as the team looks to build off of the successes of 2019.
Here are the rapid reactions from the 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station staff:
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta
The Cardinals just couldn’t go into the offseason on a high note now, could they?
Let’s start at the beginning. While I appreciate Kyler Murray’s willingness to play in a meaningless game at the end of the year, I have to question it as well. Arizona had been formidable offensively in wins over Cleveland and Seattle because of the quarterbacks’ (Murray and Brett Hundley) ability to run. Everyone at The Coliseum knew Murray was a pocket passer Sunday, and on the few occasions he did roll out to escape, he looked like he was heavily favoring his strained hamstring. Was he in the game to improve his Offensive Rookie of the Year résumé? If so, four turnovers (although two weren’t on him) won’t exactly do that.
In a small sample of duty, a fully healthy Brett Hundley gave the team a lift, finishing off a drive that made it a one-score game with a few minutes left. I’m curious to see what 60 minutes of a healthy quarterback would’ve given the Cardinals against the Rams.
The Cardinals would get the ball back with a chance to tie or win, but having zero timeouts and questionable play-calling (weird first-down throw to Larry Fitzgerald, two straight throws in the middle of the field, opting not to attempt a Hail Mary and go for the lateral-it-all-over-the-place approach) ultimately sealed the 10th loss of the season.
Moving into the offseason, you don’t need to be a detective to figure out what the Cardinals need to do — knock everything down and almost completely rebuild the defense. Your building blocks are Corey Peters, Chandler Jones, Jordan Hicks and Budda Baker. Everybody else (yes, even Patrick Peterson) needs to be evaluated, as does coordinator Vance Joseph. By giving up 424 yards to the Rams, Arizona finished 32nd in the league in total defense. The pass defense was an absolute sieve for most of the season.
Offensively, there is promise, but as the franchise quarterback, Murray needs more playmakers around him. Despite drafting four wide receivers over the last two years, the Cardinals need more help in that area. Whether that’s adding outside personnel through the draft or free agency or rolling the dice on the disappointing 2019 draft class remains to be seen.
Overall, the season was pretty much what I expected: offensive improvement (of course the bar was on the ground) and an increased win total. The year-long struggles on defense were incredibly disappointing. Yes, the Cardinals had some adversity roster-wise with suspensions, injuries and unforeseen releases — but this is the NFL — every team goes through those things.
The good teams overcome them.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo
Personally I was happy to see Kyler Murray play. All along I had hoped he would be healthy to give it a go although you have to wonder if one of the conditions of him playing was not running. It was obvious that was not in the game plan. The turnovers were unfortunate, especially since the lack of them had been one of his true calling cards in his rookie season. But no matter. The season was defined by the progress of Murray; it was always going to be that way. Today’s turnover filled performance aside, it’s been an excellent debut for the number one pick overall. His unique skill set, cohesion with Kliff Kingsbury and overall competitiveness will serve him and the franchise well for years to come. The one thing – and it’s a big big thing – to come out of 2019 is knowing you have a young franchise quarterback for years to come. It’s a position the Cardinals haven’t been in for quite some time and it feels gratifying to have that box checked.
As for the rest of it, my best guess is David Johnson is gone (though how is a mystery) and Kenyan Drake, DJ Humphries and Patrick Peterson are back. I know they gave up 31 points to the Rams today but the defense as a whole mirrors the work of their 8 time Pro Bowl Cornerback. When he plays inspired and with the skill we all know he has the rest of the unit seems to follow and that could serve them well next year.
I am also guessing that Steve Keim will return. Won’t be popular with the fan base and it might be a tough sell for the loyalists but the signals coming from the Cardinals GM resonate with the confidence of a man who knows he’s secure in his job.
As for Larry Fitzgerald, I’ll take a shot in the dark and say he’s not back. That opinion is based on no information I’ve heard. Just a feel that #11 is ready for different challenges and a new direction in life. But, hypothetically, if they were to announce tomorrow that he’s reached an agreement on a new one year deal I wouldn’t be surprised either.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter
The 2019 finale was a nice summation of showing just what the Cardinals were: on the rise with a franchise rookie quarterback giving his underwhelming team in terms of talent a chance. Even though Arizona didn’t have its running game going, Murray threw 42 times for 325 yards, two touchdowns and two picks on a bum hamstring; that was a nice showing for a guy still building credibility within his locker room and the NFL as a whole. The defense didn’t have communication or scheme breakdowns, but its lack of talent allowed for a big scoring day for the Los Angeles Rams.
Tight end Dan Arnold and running back Kenyan Drake were the main offensive weapons for the Cardinals on the final game of the season, and while they are legitimate NFL players, that they were midseason pickups shows the talent void for the roster as a whole.
That leads us into an offseason where there can be no more bargain free agent signings of over-the-hill, injured players or hipster draft picks of players who don’t see the light of day under Kliff Kingsbury. The first-year coach, by the way, showed he has what it takes to succeed in the pro ranks. And as a leader, he showed in his own way that the best players will play — and that he won’t be shy to let a newcomer step in immediately if they impress him enough in practice.Array