Arizona Cardinals self-destruct in glaring Wild Card loss to Rams

Jan 17, 2022, 11:28 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2022, 12:04 am
Arizona Cardinals running back Eno Benjamin, left, sits on the bench with teammates during the seco...

Arizona Cardinals running back Eno Benjamin, left, sits on the bench with teammates during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

INGLEWOOD — Against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4, the Arizona Cardinals looked like the unquestioned superior team.

Behind a masterful game plan, Arizona strolled into Los Angeles and came out with an early victory on its way to seven straight.

So despite falling short of the division, ending the season 1-4 and having to face the Rams in L.A. yet again, there was at the very least a winning formula the Cardinals could build off of.

Unfortunately for Arizona, that was clearly left on the tarmac at Sky Harbor.

The Cardinals’ return to the postseason was quick and painful in a 34-11 shellacking at the hands of NFC West division winner Los Angeles Rams.

L.A. moves on to a date with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Arizona limps home.

Whether it be a stagnant offense that looked out of sorts from the start or a defense that was exploited every other play, Arizona didn’t show up.

“You come out against a really good team and don’t do anything right for the first two quarters, that’s what’s gonna happen,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said after the loss.

“Gotta give them credit, they played a great game. We didn’t do much right, coaching or playing the first half.”

Known creator of momentum on the road this season, Arizona’s offense could do anything but on Monday night.

Getting the ball first, Arizona mustered just four yards of offense before being forced to punt.

It would be a sign of things to come for quarterback Kyler Murray and Co., who proceeded to turn in three straight three-and-outs for negative yardage while possessing the ball for just over four minutes.

The same couldn’t be said for the Rams offense, however, which turned in back-to-back scoring drives after a failed first possession to quickly take a 14-0 lead.

Then things went from bad to worse.

Down 14-0 in the shadow of his own end zone in the second quarter, Murray was tasked with trying to make something out of nothing.

Looking to keep things alive on third down with the Rams pass rush bearing down, Murray scrambled out of a safety only to force a desperation underhand toss right in the hands of a waiting David Long Jr. who waltzed into the end zone for Los Angeles third touchdown of the half.

Murray would follow the pick-up with another on the ensuing drive, only adding to the mountain of momentum piled up against Arizona in just two quarters of play.

On a positive note, the Cardinals would finally add some form of points on the board in the second half.

Unfortunately for Arizona, Los Angeles was there to answer right back, keeping more than an arms’ length on the visiting squad.

The 21-point deficit would only grow as time ticked off the clock with every second pushing the dagger deeper and deeper into Arizona’s season.

“Early on we missed a couple things that were close and just got out of rhythm,” Kingsbury said.

“When you’re dropping back against that group it’s not a good recipe and that’s what we found ourselves in so just made it for a tough night.”

Arizona now ventures into an offseason far off from the limelight it once garnered and shrouded by more questions than answers.

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