Rapid Reactions: Kingsbury gets conservative, Cards lose tough one

Nov 8, 2020, 7:46 PM | Updated: Nov 9, 2020, 7:05 am

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) eludes the reach of Miami Dolphins middle linebacker...

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) eludes the reach of Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Kyle Van Noy (53) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Following the win of the season against the Seattle Seahawks, the Arizona Cardinals come out of the bye week to their toughest loss of the season.

A 34-31 defeat at the hands of the Miami Dolphins had a matchup of promising young quarterbacks that delivered, and judging by how they played, was probably underhyped.

Kyler Murray completed 21 of his 26 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns, also rushing for a career-high 106 yards and another touchdown. Tua Tagovailoa was poised and comfortable throughout, going 20-of-28 with his passing attempts for 248 yards and two touchdowns.

The decision-making and playcalling by Kliff Kingsbury is once again a topic of conversation, especially after Zane Gonzalez’s miss from 49 yards on the potential game-tying kick late in the fourth quarter.

Arizona Sports’ hosts, reporters and editors react to the loss.

Doug Franz, co-host of Doug & Wolf

Didn’t come out ready.

Put Tua in the Hall of Fame instead of his back.

Kliff Kingsbury can go for it from his own 30-yard line and justify it to the fans but he can’t go for it on 4th-and-1 with 2:00 minutes remaining and two timeouts? Which do you think is more reliable: the combination of Kyler’s brain, Kyler’s arm, Kyler’s legs, Chase Edmond’s legs (after Kyler decides to give it to him on an RPO and not on a straight handoff), DeAndre Hopkins’ hands, Larry Fitzgerald’s route running, Larry Fitzgerald’s big play ability, Larry Fitzgerald’s hands and Christian Kirk’s hands VERSUS Zane Gonzalez’s foot?

I haven’t figured out what was more embarrassing from this weekend: ASU’s fourth-quarter clock management, Kliff’s fourth-quarter decision making or Phillip Rivers’ tackling.

Luke Lapinski, host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski

Let’s get this out of the way first — the Dolphins deserve some credit. They’re scrappy, Brian Flores might be the best of the Bill Belichick disciples and Tua looks like he’s going to live up to the hype.

OK, enough of that. This was a game the Cardinals absolutely had to have. First place in the NFC West was there for the taking. The rest of the division is 1-4 this month, and some of that was thanks to Miami. Problem is, you throw away all the ground you gained from the 49ers and Rams losing to the Dolphins when you lose to them too.

Kyler Murray came out and did the one thing everyone said Arizona couldn’t do today on the opening drive — turn the ball over. But then he proceeded to play like an MVP for the rest of the game. And for anyone that feels like maybe he should be doing more, I’ll once again ask which quarterbacks you’d rather be building around right now? Patrick Mahomes and … ? That might be the whole list. It’s at least the only name definitively ahead of Murray, when you factor in age and upside.

Last year, people wondered if Kyler would run more. Now he’s eighth in the NFL in rushing, on pace for 1,084 yards. Earlier this season, the concern was that he wasn’t accurate enough. Now he’s more accurate. Then there were fears that he wasn’t throwing downfield enough. He has four touchdown passes over 35 yards in the last four games. One went for 80.

Thing is, this was supposed to be a game Murray didn’t have to take over. Sure, he’s the quarterback and he has to make plays, but the Dolphins were starting a QB with one NFL start to his name. And he didn’t even have anyone to hand off to because their top two running backs were out. This was supposed to be one the defense could win.

And I get that the Cardinals’ defense is banged up too – especially the secondary. But this game essentially came down to what they allowed Tua to do. He’s a top-five draft pick and one of the best college players we’ve seen in awhile. He’s got the talent and intangibles to do great things in this league, so he’s going to make some plays, even as a rookie. But he also came into this game with almost no experience at the NFL level. That should’ve been worth at least an interception or a fumble or something. And one forced turnover probably would’ve won Arizona the game.

It’s not an embarrassing loss, but it sure is a frustrating one. And after the way the ASU game ended Saturday, I’m ready for football games to be shortened to three quarters.

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo

This one may come back to haunt them. The Arizona Cardinals blew a golden opportunity to pick up a game on Seattle and solidify their standing as a playoff team. At 6-2, the Cardinals would have been hard-pressed to not find themselves in the postseason. So many things went wrong in this game for the Cardinals, but ultimately this is on Zane Gonzalez for coming up short on what would have been a game-tying 49-yard field goal with under two minutes remaining.

But there is plenty of blame to go around. The Cardinals’ defense just could not come up with a stop when it needed one. When the Cardinals needed their secondary to absolutely have a big play, Kevin Peterson, Patrick Peterson, Jace Whittaker and the Cardinals secondary failed time and time again. Arizona was up 31-24 after a great TD run by Kyler Murray but the defense gave it right back allowing Miami to drive 93 yards on the ensuing possession to tie it up.

Then after the Cardinals failed on fourth down for the second time in this game, the Dolphins turned it into a field goal and a 34-31 lead. On the touchdown drive that tied it, Arizona gave up a 3rd-and-9 for 14 yards, a 3rd-and-4 for 6 yards, plus two 17-yard gains. On the field goal drive, the Cardinals defense allowed a 19-yard gain on the first play.

The Cardinals missed Kenyan Drake in this game. As good as Chase Edmonds is, he is not built for the short yardage gains between the tackles. Given the workload, and against a good run defense, Edmonds had 25 carries for 70 yards for a 2.8 average. Murray was good outside of that early turnover that was turned into a Miami touchdown. And Christian Kirk had a big game. But DeAndre Hopkins was shut down, and while the Cardinals offense did put up over 30 points again, it could not overcome a poor defensive performance by Vance Joseph’s squad.

Jordan Byrd, host of Arizona Sports Saturday and producer of Burns & Gambo

We had heard all week that the Cardinals learned their lesson when it came to being prepared to play after the bye week, but Sunday in Glendale proved to a reality check for the Cards and Kliff Kingsbury.

The Cardinals looked sloppy from their first offensive possession of the game when Kyler Murray’s fumble was picked up and ran back for a Miami touchdown. Kyler made up for that early game miscue and played great the rest of the way, but the same can not be said for the rest of the team.

Penalties on both sides of the ball reared its ugly head again after being an area of improvement over the last few weeks. The defense couldn’t get a stop all day and made Tua Tagovailoa look like a 10-year veteran instead of a rookie making his second career start. I kept waiting for Vance Joseph to make some sort of adjustment like the way he did in the second half of the Seattle game but it never materialized. The Cardinals secondary was already short-handed and the added injuries didn’t help, but the Arizona defense took a giant step backwards from the performances we had seen over the last few weeks.

The biggest criticism of the day, though, is reserved for the Cardinals head coach. Kliff Kingsbury has said since last season that one of his biggest regrets from his first year was how his team played after the bye and Sunday won’t change that conversation. Sloppy, mistake-filled football mixed in with some questionable play calls and decisions will make Kliff the number one target for Cardinals fans ire this week (Zane Gonzalez might give him a run for his money, though).

I was fine with the decision to kick the field goal on 4th-and-1 to tie the game with less than two minutes to go, but I understand the frustration of some fans who are perplexed by the decision. Kliff has shown no hesitation in going for it on fourth down and the Cards’ previous possession ended on downs, but a NFL kicker should be able to make that field goal. Now, whether the Cardinals defense could have stopped a last minute drive by Tua is another question, but overtime seemed doable at the moment.

This is a tough loss to swallow. The Cardinals are talented enough to stay competitive even when they are playing far from the best. Unfortunately, too many mistakes and missed plays prevented Arizona from pulling it out Sunday. The real missed opportunity, though, is what happened in the rest of the division this week. After Seattle’s loss to the Bills, the Cardinals had the chance to take first place in the NFC West. Instead, Arizona still sits a game back of the Seahawks and has a meeting next week with a Buffalo team that looks incredibly tough. With a Thursday night showdown in Seattle for Week 11, these next two games could decide the difference between the Cards being a contender for the division title, or just another team in the running for a wild card spot.

Kellan Olson, editor and reporter

Kyler Murray is a star, Kliff Kingsbury has terrible decision-making habits and the Cardinals’ defense has yet to inspire full confidence for a playoff spot. Take your pick of which one means the most. Probably the first, but I can see all three.

Murray found that flow from earlier in the season and was unstoppable. Miami’s defense, ranked number one in various categories entering the game, had no answer for Murray’s ability running or throwing. He’s an incredible player and only just getting going, and he will continue to get more pissed off in postgame pressers like he was Sunday if Kingsbury keeps taking the ball out of his hands in key moments.

Thanks to an unforgettable finish in the Seahawks win, this is not two straight games pointing at a conservative Kingsbury costing Arizona the game. It’s just the one for now! It’s baffling how a guy who is supposedly such a bright offensive mind can see the way Murray is rolling and then get nervous with his playcalling. He elected for two Chase Edmonds runs — when the running game through him stunk — before taking the ball out of Murray’s hands figuratively with a terrible quick throw call on third down and literally with the field goal on fourth down. Huh?

Some might say the claim on the defense is too harsh given the injuries to the secondary and some good performances earlier in the season, but let’s see if they can produce just one average showing against either the Buffalo Bills next week or the Seattle Seahawks the week after. If not, it’s time to get even more concerned about that group.

Remember, the Cardinals’ wins outside of Seattle have come against Jimmy Garoppolo, Dwayne Haskins, Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton. That’s fresh off Tua Tagovailoa dropping 34 points on them without a turnover in his second NFL start, on a team missing five assistant coaches and its top two running backs. If you’re not worried already, literally don’t worry because I am enough for the both of us.

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Rapid Reactions: Kingsbury gets conservative, Cards lose tough one