Rapid Reactions: Cardinals blown out by Panthers in rough home loss

Nov 14, 2021, 5:41 PM | Updated: Nov 15, 2021, 6:27 am

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) breaks away from Arizona Cardinals free saf...

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) breaks away from Arizona Cardinals free safety Jalen Thompson (34) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

The Arizona Cardinals are missing several key pieces, including quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver Deandre Hopkins.

They were able to overcome that last Sunday to beat the San Francisco 49ers, but that was not replicated against the Carolina Panthers, who blew them out 34-10.

Backup quarterback Colt McCoy was 11-of-20 for 107 yards and one interception.

The Cardinals’ fumble, turnover on downs and interception in their first three drives put Arizona in an early 17-0 hole in the first quarter it couldn’t climb out of.

Arizona Sports’ hosts and editors react to the loss:

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: It’s foolish, I suppose, to put too much stock in backup quarterbacks.

Colt McCoy was amazing in Week 9 against San Francisco.

He was not in Week 10 against Carolina, a game the Cardinals lost 34-10 at State Farm Stadium — their second loss in a row at home.

I don’t think the coaching staff necessarily “put him in a position to be successful,” (a newish coach-speak offering that absolutely drives me up the wall…gee, thanks for offering the dictionary definition of your job description) either. Three consecutive pass plays to start the game turned into a disaster and set the tone for the rest of the proceedings when Haason Reddick sacked McCoy, forcing a fumble that Carolina recovered. Five plays later, Cam Newton ran into the end zone for a touchdown.

Down 7-0 and facing a 4th-and-1 at his own 42-yard line, Kliff Kingsbury opted to go for it — and opted to call McCoy’s number instead of handing it to a battering ram named James Conner or the NFL Network’s Week 9 recipient of the “Angry Runs Sceptre,” Eno Benjamin. McCoy got stoned at the line, and four plays later Newton found Robby Anderson for a 2-yard touchdown. The Cardinals were down 14-0, but it may as well have been 100-0 at that point.

But any hope that may have lingered was extinguished by McCoy himself. Following a couple of positive plays that had the Cardinals with a first down at the Carolina 31, McCoy rolled right and threw late across the middle — a total rookie mistake — and it was picked. It was pretty much over there, and there were still 51 minutes and 25 seconds remaining.

Yes, the Cardinals played without Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, Justin Pugh and others, but they were shorthanded last week in Santa Clara and didn’t bat an eye. This week was simple domination. Carolina came out with noticeable intensity and the Cardinals did not.

And we also saw what very well could prevent the Cardinals from being a real threat to win their first Super Bowl — the run defense isn’t good and can be exploited when playing with a lead. In convincing wins against the Titans, Browns and 49ers, the Cardinals built big leads and, to a degree, rendered those potent running attacks less effective.

With two early turnovers and an early lead in their pockets, the Panthers feasted on the ground. Christian McCaffrey is healthy again and that was bad news for Arizona. He averaged 7.3 yards per pop on the ground and caught 10 passes against a defense that looked genuinely surprised to see him being used that much.

The Cardinals’ goal has to be flushing this loss from a psychological standpoint. The bye week is approaching, but not before a trip to Seattle next Sunday. It’ll be interesting to see if Murray and Hopkins are back on the field, knowing that a week off is on the horizon.

But this loss offered nothing resembling a bright spot.

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: That was ugly. But somehow I would rather lose a game like that than by a field goal as time expired. The Cardinals got their (butts) handed them — plain and simple.

They got behind early and that is not the spot you want Colt McCoy in. He can manage a game when playing from ahead or a close game. But asking him to bring you back from down three scores in the first quarter — yeah, not happening. The Cardinals had their stinker and hopefully that is all.

Most important is that they got Kyler Murray and Deandre Hopkins another week to heal up. There are seven games left and they have everything they want in front of them: the NFC West title. With the loss they do fall behind the Packers as they are tied with two losses but lose the tiebreaker.

This game was OVA before many fans got to their seats! Haason Reddick’s sack and forced fumble set up a short field and Cam Newton came into the game on the Panthers’ first series and scored from two yards out. Arizona failed on a 4th-and-1 and the Panthers took over on their own 41 and four plays later Cam found Robbie Anderson for a 2-yard TD and a 14-0 lead.

McCoy then threw an interception, giving Carolina the ball at their own 34 and Mr. Automatic all of a sudden Zane Gonzalez hit a 44-yard field for a 17-0 lead with a minute left in the first quarter.

Arizona was down three scores, they couldn’t stop Christian McCaffrey and they were relegated to throwing the ball to get back into the game. It was OVA. Nice of Zane to come back and actually make field goals pf 44, 48, 49 and 27 yards out. He made all four of them.

Arizona needs to get past this one quick, as they have Seattle next week and Russell Wilson is back. Hopefully the band will be back together for that one.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: Brutally played and at times unwatchable, the Cardinals accomplished a first for this 2021 season: they were humiliated. So when a loss like this happens in the middle of a season, it seems to me you’ll fall into one of two camps: It happens OR something’s wrong. I would think (hope) the Cardinals have built up enough equity with you that most would fall into the “it happens” category. A really bad day could never erase a really great year. Certainly not yet anyway.

Consider that it isn’t just the Cardinals it has happened to in recent weeks. The Bucs lost to Washington on Sunday. Thursday saw the Dolphins as big underdogs beat the Ravens. Losses last weekend by the Cowboys to the Broncos and the Bills to the Jaguars prove that even the elite of the NFL are going to have a bad day at the office. It happens, especially when missing Kyler Murray yet again.

The spinning white ball of backup-QB-roulette didn’t land on red this Sunday. Their backups (P.J. Walker and Cam Newton) were better than ours (Colt McCoy and Chris Streveler). Such is the reality with a second-string QB. When forced to play multiple weeks, sustainability can be a bear. A healthy Christian McCaffrey certainly didn’t help matters.

That doesn’t mean the Cardinals automatically get a pass for the mess they made Sunday. It was a checklist of bad football. Porous run defense? Check. Turnovers leading to Panther points? Yep. Not using James Conner early in the game? Roger that. Cam? Haason Reddick? Zane Gonzalez? Yes, yup and seriously… now you start making 45-yard field goals? And at some point, we need to have a little chat about why Arizona hasn’t played with the same verve at home as they have on the road.

But in the end, it felt like a game like this was bound to happen sooner or later. Yeah, the Panthers aren’t very good and you can certainly lament a missed opportunity here. But with the near return of Kyler and hopefully DeAndre Hopkins, and just one more game (a big one vs. Seattle) before a much-needed bye week, they should be fine.

Tyler Drake, editor and Cardinals reporter: This one felt over by the end of the first quarter. The Panthers strolled into State Farm Stadium and absolutely took it to the Cardinals on Sunday. That was easily Arizona’s worst game of the season, with the offense out of sorts throughout the afternoon and the defense having no answer for a handful of Cam Newton plays and a determined Christian McCaffrey.

McCoy fell back down to earth Sunday after an impressive showing last week behind a very similar game plan. Haason Reddick and the Panthers sniffed it out from the jump and quickly garnered all of the momentum in this one. Just take a look at the 34-10 discrepancy on the scoreboard.

This is where we will see just how capable the Cardinals are at flushing the type of beatdown they’ve grown accustomed to handing out through the first nine weeks of 2021. With a presumably healthy Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins back in the mix, there’s an automatic boost for the offense. Defensively, who is gonna be the guy — especially with J.J. Watt sidelined — to step up and right the ship? The Cardinals’ physique has been tested and they cannot let a loss like this fester for long.

Next week is the Seahawks, and while Seattle is a far less superior team than in years past, it is not to be looked over on the schedule.

Kellan Olson, editor for The part of last week’s Arizona Cardinals win that went under the radar the most was that they did not turn the ball over. That allowed the offense to have a consistent rhythm and flow, one it couldn’t locate all afternoon on Sunday because of the turnovers.

Look, we can sit here and talk about how veteran backup quarterbacks know how to manage a game, but they are in that position for both their lack of skill and decision-making as well. The latter comes to mind when Colt McCoy decides to try to throw across his body on the run, resulting in an interception. It’s foolish to expect much from a quarterback of his caliber, which is even more of a reason as to why the Cardinals’ clear lack of energy and focus is problematic.

That was more apparent in the run game than anywhere else, where the Cardinals got manhandled in the trenches. Arizona has now allowed at least four yards a carry for the seventh time this season and it would have been the fifth occurrence of five or more yards per carry for the opposition if this wasn’t a complete blowout. In nearly every game this year, the Cardinals’ run defense has been gashed on one or two drives, leading to scores. That is not going to fly in the postseason.

It’s not an issue that the Cardinals had a dud without their quarterback and some other key players. It is an issue that it happened against a very beatable team like Carolina in the fashion it did. There is a reason the Cardinals were still favored by more than a touchdown.

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Rapid Reactions: Cardinals blown out by Panthers in rough home loss