Gameday leftovers: Cards regroup after loss to ‘Phins; Simmons’ role grows

Nov 9, 2020, 2:26 PM

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) slide before being hit by Arizona Cardinals middle li...

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) slide before being hit by Arizona Cardinals middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (58), linebacker Isaiah Simmons (48) and linebacker Josh Mauro defend during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Officially halfway through the season, the Arizona Cardinals feel like many teams. They’ve blown prime opportunities but in ways feel really fortunate with an open playoff chase ahead of them.

The emotions of a 34-31 loss to the Miami Dolphins may be less sharp on Monday, and Kliff Kingsbury with a night’s sleep (we assume) had better perspective on it.

“Miami had a great scheme. They’re really good on defense,” Kingsbury said. “Going back and watching it, two good corners who can man up at any point. Great front, long, athletic young guys and Coach Flo has them playing at a high level and playing hard. They made some plays when you had to.”

Obviously, the context is the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks lost on Sunday, and that pained the Cardinals for letting an opportunity to win go right by.

Players were not available to reporters on Monday after several of them Sunday described — or could not describe — the emotions of a close loss that came down to a decision to kick and the kick itself.

But for every bad moment for the Cardinals against the Dolphins, there were some good. Quarterback Kyler Murray accounted for a lot of that, throwing for 283 yards and rushing for 106 more to go with four total touchdowns.

Arizona averaged 9.8 yards per throw and 4.8 per carry — pretty good.

As for the bad, well, it’s never as terrible as it seems, Kingsbury said.

“We take about 24 hours to digest it and come up with any answers we need to come up with,” he said.

Speaking of the kick …

Zane Gonzalez’s missed 49-yarder that didn’t even reach the goal posts came on a 4th-and-1 call, and Kingsbury again said on Monday that he felt confident in going to his kicker with less than two minutes remaining.

Kingsbury also told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta that the Cardinals remain committed to Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, of course, also missed a 41-yarder in the Cardinals’ last game against the Seahawks. That also came with controversy because Kingsbury elected to kick on second down with 2:47 left in overtime.

Add those two things up, and it’s something to keep an eye on moving into the second half of the schedule.

Simmons’ keeps taking baby steps

First came rookie Isaiah Simmons’ interception two weeks ago that set up an overtime win against Seattle.

Then came Sunday against the Dolphins, when he played a career-high 32 defensive snaps at inside linebacker. He dropped in coverage 14 times and added nine rushes on passing plays.

Below, you’ll see a nice little blitz from defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, with Simmons rushing from the slot and Jordan Hicks coming from middle linebacker. ILB De’Vondre Campbell and OLB Haason Reddick slide over in coverage.

The result was a Josh Mauro sack.

That’s the kind of stuff that Joseph can scheme up with Reddick capable of falling into coverage from outside linebacker on occasion.

Among other notable rookie performances was undrafted Arizona product Jace Whittaker, who made his debut. He was targeted twice that resulted in two catches for 27 yards and a touchdown, which wasn’t necessarily a bad effort on his part, either.

Whittaker played 48 defensive snaps after starting corner Kevin Peterson went down with an injury.

Injury updates

Kingsbury said he is “hopeful” that nickel Byron Murphy and outside linebacker Devon Kennard will be able to come off the COVID-19 reserve list before the Cardinals host the Buffalo Bills next Sunday.

Kennard shared that optimism with a tweet on Monday.

Meanwhile, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (thigh) and running back Kenyan Drake (ankle) remain day-to-day, the head coach said.

Good to have you back

Two players who the Cardinals welcomed back from the injured reserve, tight end Maxx Williams and safety Jalen Thompson, made their impact after missing most of the first half of 2020.

Williams appeared in 32 snaps, per, and earned Pro Football Focus’ highest offensive grade of the game.

His slip out of a block to catch a touchdown and a block on Murray’s rushing score stood out.

“I thought he did a nice job,” said Kingsbury, who admitted the Cardinals are easing the starter back into it. “He is a veteran, savvy player, gives us a lot of confidence at that position.”

Thompson recorded three tackles with a pass defensed and earned PFF’s best defensive grade.

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