Nine questions after the Cardinals’ frustrating loss to the Patriots
So many questions to ask after this ugly, ugly 20-17 loss to the New England Patriots.
1) Are the Cardinals capable of doing anything offensively if Kyler Murray isn’t willing/able to run the ball?
Murray had -2 yards rushing in the first half and finished with 31 (19 on the last touchdown drive). There may have been a blueprint laid out (on accident) by Seattle in the Thursday night game. Murray gets dinged up early in the game and Kliff Kingsbury’s play calling is limited without that ingredient. It’s like fighting someone with one hand tied behind your back.
The Cardinals had only two active QBs on Sunday against the Pats, indicating that Murray’s full offensive arsenal was available. It obviously wasn’t. Very little in terms of designed runs by the quarterback, and when that doesn’t happen, there’s no wiggle room in the passing game.
2) Where are the big plays?
The Cardinals got a 19-yard gain on a run from Andy Isabella on their first play from scrimmage. That was their longest play. Seventeen of Murray’s 23 completions were for eight yards or less. Three were for more than 10 yards (longest: 17).
3) Why did Kliff Kingsbury call a timeout late in the fourth quarter on defense?
After Zane Gonzalez missed ANOTHER CRUCIAL FIELD GOAL, the Patriots took over with 1:47 left with no timeouts in their pocket. After a second-down sack of Cam Newton by Trevon Coley, the Pats were facing a 3rd-and-13 from their own 32-yard line. Kingsbury, presumably thinking about getting the ball back with time left (and no timeouts of their own), called a timeout with 56 seconds left.
Yes, it left the possibility of getting the ball back with a chance for a redemption kick by Gonzalez, but it also gave New England OC Josh McDaniels a chance to draw up a play with no pressure via the clock. Newton then uncorked a 15-yard run for the first down and Isaiah Simmons picked up his second personal foul penalty of the game, adding another 15 yards, giving the Pats a first down at the Cardinals’ 39-yard line.
4) Why was no Cardinal defender acting as a spy on Newton on that third-down play?
The New England passing game is an affront to offense. Newton is terrible on downfield throws, so why did the Cardinals blitz? Newton’s running ability is the only halfway viable threat they have. Just perplexing.
5) Why does Kingsbury continue to trust Gonzalez in clutch late-game situations?
A lot of us in the Valley appreciate what Zane did during his ASU career, but this isn’t college anymore. He’s dreadful in pressure situations. This should be the end of his tenure.
6) When was the last time you saw the Cards’ special teams play that badly?
I know the obvious answer is “SEE AMOS JONES ERA” but man was that ugly. After the Cardinals went up 10-0 in the first, they immediately allowed a 53-yard kickoff return to Donte Moncrief. Six plays later, James White found the end zone to put the Patriots on the board and that really changed the tone of the game.
In the third quarter, after a short Andy Lee punt, Gunner Olszewski ripped off an 82-yard punt return that was (wrongly) wiped away by a blindside block call. Still, Olszewski was credited with a 58-yard return. The Patriots would get a game-tying field goal from Nick Folk on that drive.
And this was before the missed Gonzalez field goal.
7) Did Cam Newton just win a game with the worst starting QB passer rating of the season?
8) Is Kyler Murray having any fun?
After the Cardinals tied the game in the fourth, Fox cameras caught Murray coming off the field looking like his dog just got kicked.
9) Are the Cardinals a playoff team?
With five games left, it’s still very possible, if not probable. But if they do make the playoffs, it’ll largely be due to the ineptitude of the teams chasing Arizona in the Wild Card chase.