ARIZONA CARDINALS

Rapid Reactions: Cardinals’ tumble continues in loss to Rams

Dec 6, 2020, 6:06 PM | Updated: 8:20 pm
Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson (27) breaks free for a touchdown as Arizona Cardina...

Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson (27) breaks free for a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy (33) pursues during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

As a former Arizona Cardinals head coach once said, they are who we thought they were.

Is that true for the Cardinals after a 38-28 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, making them 1-4 in their last five?

The last four games of the season and the team’s efforts at making the playoffs will tell us just that.

Arizona Sports’ hosts and editors talk it out after a discouraging defeat.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta

I’m not saying Kyler Murray won’t be a good NFL quarterback.

I am saying that he’s not good right now.

For the third straight week, the Cardinals offense sputtered all over the field and it looks very much like opposing defenses have figured out the once-formidable Arizona offense.

Murray started off fine, exploiting a defensive mix-up by the Rams and hitting Dan Arnold on a 59-yard touchdown pass on the first drive of the game.

That was the highlight.

Other than that, Murray completed 19-of-37 passes for 112 yards. He had a fumble and threw a pick-six in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach in a 38-28 Rams win.

Let’s dive into those numbers a little deeper. Murray completed three passes in the entire game that gained more than 8 yards. Three!

For the third straight week, he wasn’t a threat with his legs.

Big picture, this isn’t a good football team. The Cardinals’ last two wins were teases — improbable victories over good teams. In actuality, they’re an Isaiah Simmons interception and a miraculous last-second pass from being on a six-game losing streak.

They’ve failed to respond to the defense’s adjustments against them the last three games and the offense has looked even more bland with each passing week.

It’s hard to feel good about Arizona winning another game this season if this low-energy brand of football continues.

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo

I guess it’s time to ask the question: Is the jig up? The charade over? Are all the doubters correct that this is a gimmick offense run by a way too short quarterback and a head coach in way over his head? Fair to ask now after another loss dropped the Cardinals to .500.

It was their fourth loss in five games and it very well could be a 5-game losing streak if not for a miracle hail mary vs Buffalo.

So now what? Back to the drawing board, most likely.

The Cardinals are married to the trio of general manager Steve Keim, head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray for the foreseeable future. Maybe it really is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. But they are going to keep trying. They have no choice. Murray is in his second season. Kliff too. They have done some good things — but those just happen to be slipping everyone’s mind right now in the midst of this run of disastrous play.

The Cardinals were the talk of the NFL after back-to-back wins on national television against Dallas and Seattle. Now that seems like a decade ago. They had a 5-2 record and the playoffs seemed to be a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t a question of if the Cardinals made the playoffs, it was if they would make it as NFC West Champions or a wild card. Now we are left wondering whether this offense can do anything right.

Will Murray ever run for more than 30 yards again? Can he get the ball to Hopkins on anything down the field? Can he get the ball to anyone down the field? Is playing the outfield for the Oakland A’s something he will think about?

Questions. Followed by questions. Followed by more questions, with no answers in sight.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo

You might be tempted to look at the 38 points allowed. Tempted to blame the 30 first downs allowed or the 9-for-15 third-down conversion rate the Cards gave up.

Resist it. This offense is broken.

How long it takes to fix is the question facing Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. If it takes even another game or two, this season is shot. And don’t come at me with the fact they’ve already surpassed last year’s win total as an indicator of success. That was a perfectly acceptable goal at the start of the season but when you start 5-2 (and 6-3), the eye level changes. The expectations take a different form. Surpassing last year’s win total is now roughly the same as a participation ribbon. Making the playoffs for the first time in a half-decade became the new rightful goal, and if this offense doesn’t fix itself in the next game or two they will not make it. Nothing else scratches the itch at this point.

Kyler’s ability to run now looks like a magician’s trick that everyone understands the secret to. DeAndre Hopkins was ignored for the entire first half. Zane Gonzalez missed another kick in the 40-yard range. Kingsbury’s decision to go for it on 4th-and-12 felt less like a calculation and more like sheer desperation. The Rams defense is no joke, and some credit is owed, but … three first-half completions? 82 first-half yards on 21 first-half plays with the ball for only seven first-half minutes? And remember those numbers were boosted by a 59-yard TD pass to Dan Arnold on the opening possession.

Now, Kingsbury and Murray are under a deadline. Fix it now or sputter to a finish line where the only prize that awaits is the question about the coach and whether he’s actually the man for the job.

Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter

The Arizona Cardinals are nothing more than an average team when Kyler Murray isn’t running the ball, as I’ve written in this space all season. So, throw in Murray’s struggles throwing and the defense getting shredded, and you’ve got quite the egg laid Sunday.

The question is what the real problem is here. Murray’s shoulder is still playing a factor you’ve got to assume, but even still, head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s play-calling and defenses seemingly figuring it out is a huge issue. And if Murray can’t get it going as a thrower, then there’s no way to open up the running game. How much is this on Kingsbury, and how much of it is on Murray? Sunday felt more like Murray, and this is coming from someone who is very high on his ability.

Forget about the playoffs for the time being. Murray needs to prove that he’s a good enough player to overcome schematical and play-calling differences, something Lamar Jackson has had problems with for the Baltimore Ravens this season. If Murray isn’t that guy over the next couple weeks, the Cardinals have much, much bigger things to worry about than everything else wrong with the 2020 campaign.

The defense is what it is. The kicker is what it is. Kingsbury’s ineptitudes are what they are. This is not a good football team, and if you didn’t see it weeks ago, you see it now.

The bottom line is Murray needs to be closer to the talent he was in the middle of the season than this.

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