Cardinals’ ‘sluggish’ offensive attack not up to Kliff Kingsbury’s standards

Oct 4, 2020, 3:59 PM | Updated: 5:26 pm

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray passes under pressure during the second half of an NFL f...

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray passes under pressure during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

(AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

The Arizona Cardinals entered Sunday’s matchup against Carolina needing a strong offensive showing to help turn the page from Week 3’s loss to Detroit.

A quarter into the bout painted a different picture, though, as it was Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers making noise early on with 14 unanswered points. In the wake of those scores were the Cardinals, scrambling to find a rhythm that was never really there in the 31-21 loss.

But then again, neither was the intensity.

“I don’t have an answer for that, but it wasn’t good enough,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters when asked about the lackluster start via Zoom after the game. “They had more intensity, more focus to start the game, came out, jumped on us and I just didn’t think we responded like we’re able to.

“We closed it to 28-14 in the second half and weren’t able to get any closer until late. So we’ve got to get back to practice, work really hard this week and try to improve. 2-2 after the first quarter. Felt like the last two weeks haven’t been our standard. We have to do something about that.”

All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins once again led the team in targets, but didn’t see his first catch until the last minute of the first quarter. He finished with seven total catches but for just 41 yards, all season lows.

The running game fell flat outside of two plays from quarterback Kyler Murray. Apart from Murray’s 78 yards, the rushing attack of Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds accounted for 51 on 17 carries.

The team managed just three successful third-down conversions out of nine attempts and posted 55 plays on offense compared to Carolina’s 72. Murray connected on 77.4% of his passes but threw for just 133 yards. He tossed three scores, one coming late in the fourth quarter.

Murray had two big misses in the outing, open looks to Larry Fitzgerald and Andy Isabella in the first two drives. Isabella’s could have resulted in a score. Fitzgerald’s, at the very least, was a chunk of yards and a first down.

And even when Murray and the Cardinals appeared to be gaining traction, a strip-sack shut the door on any kind of momentum on Arizona’s sideline. Murray understands plays like that, especially with no fans in the stands, can destroy the morale for a team, especially one looking for that spark.

“I think [the intensity factor] was the area today where we lacked,” Murray said after the game. “We didn’t come out with that same energy we came to San Francisco with and I think it showed today. Everybody was kinda sluggish and like I said, this is the NFL. You can’t do that because we got beat the past two weeks and I feel like a little bit of that had to do with our energy, thinking we were just going to stroll in and beat these teams and that’s just not possible.

“You’ve got to come ready to go. So I think there’s really going to be a sense of urgency from us as far as bringing energy, especially on the road and at home. There’s nobody in the stands so we gotta be better.”

Murray and Kingsbury both know this is not the standard of football they expect to see on the gridiron. The passing game is nowhere near where they would like it to be four weeks into the season. There have been successes, but there have also been failures. Week 4’s showing provided the latter.

“I think [it’s] a number of things, It think we need to have a better plan starting with me and then we just gotta execute,” Kingsbury said.

“When throws are there to be hit, whether it’s a throw at the proper depth or taking the proper footwork on your drop, we just have to be on the same page and take what we’re working on in the practice field to the game. We haven’t hit that rhythm yet, we haven’t been in sync yet like you’d like to in the passing game.”

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