ARIZONA CARDINALS

Kingsbury, Murray look like deer in headlights in 1st playoff game

Jan 17, 2022, 10:00 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2022, 12:04 am
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury walks off the field after the Los Angeles Rams defeate...

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury walks off the field after the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cardinals in an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

What happened in Los Angeles Monday night wasn’t even a game.

A game requires two teams to actually show up. Only one did. And that team wasn’t the Arizona Cardinals.

Make no mistake about it, the Rams are a far superior team to the Cardinals, but the one-sided domination from play No. 1 through the final snap of the game was more an indictment of the guys on the Arizona side than it was an advertisement of Los Angeles’ strength.

I don’t care that it was Kliff Kingsbury’s first playoff game as a coach. I further don’t care that it was Kyler Murray’s first postseason start as a quarterback. They both looked like deer in headlights, completely ill-prepared for what the playoffs are about despite promising “increased urgency” and spouting predictions of career-defining peformances.

The Cardinals got dominated on both lines of scrimmage all night. Their secondary can’t cover anyone. The play-calling (before the contest quickly got sideways) was strange to say the least. Screen passes to third-string tight ends? Gadget plays early? Not involving James Conner or Zach Ertz early in the contest?

Then again, if Kingsbury had called perfect plays, I’m not sure they would have worked. I’ve watched football for a long time and I don’t ever recall seeing a pro quarterback look as rattled as Murray did on Monday. His careless second quarter fling from the end zone to avoid physical contact that ended in one of the most pathetic pick-sixes in football history was a perfect synopsis of this game.

Bigger picture: both Kingsbury and Murray had huge stages to quiet the questions about them. The questions about how Kingsbury’s teams annually sputter in the second halves of seasons. The questions that despite his immense talent, Murray’s stature, aversion to contact and lack of leadership will prevent him from being an elite franchise quarterback.

The chatter on both only got infinitely louder heading into the offseason. They both gave ample fuel to their haters, of which there are many.

If Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim were embarrassed and mad about how the 2020 season wrapped up, they’ve really got to be fuming about 2021. The Cardinals were 7-0, then 10-2, and at one point had a 95% chance of winning the division. They went 1-5 in their last six games and turned in (by far) the worst league-wide playoff performance in a weekend littered with one-sided affairs.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is introduced before an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) cannot catch a pass in bounds while being defended by Los Angeles Rams defensive back David Long Jr. during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp catches a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford passes against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, left, is sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) runs against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden, top, sacks Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) scrambles against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) rolls out against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) drops back to pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers, middle, runs against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) catches a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., top, catches a touchdown against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Marco Wilson (20) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) passes against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (54) gestures during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams running back Sony Michel (25) runs against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., top, catches a touchdown against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Marco Wilson (20) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) catches a touchdown against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Marco Wilson during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee, foreground, runs against Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) and safety Budda Baker during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) is sacked by Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Von Miller during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) runs against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay walks on the sideline during the first half of his team's NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee reacts after catching a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers, foreground, runs against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., left, is tackled by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., right, is congratulated by running back Sony Michel (25) after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. celebrates against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, middle, scores a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, middle, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) celebrates with quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) scrambles from Los Angeles Rams defensive end Greg Gaines (91) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker (6) celebrates with teammates after punting against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, left, tackles Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury watches during the first 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) Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on during the second quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at SoFi Stadium on January 17, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandon Powell (19) runs against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antonio Hamilton during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams defensive back David Long Jr., top, is congratulated by cornerback Donte' Deayon (21) after returning an interception for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Troy Reeder, left, pressures Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) into throwing a pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by David Long Jr. during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Troy Reeder, left, pressures Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) into throwing a pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by David Long Jr. during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals is tackled by by Leonard Floyd #54 of the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter of the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at SoFi Stadium on January 17, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Los Angeles Rams defensive back David Long Jr. celebrates after scoring on an interception return during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver A.J. Green, right, cannot catch a pass while defended by Los Angeles Rams safety Nick Scott (33) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams defensive back David Long Jr., foreground left, is congratulated by cornerback Darious Williams after scoring on an interception return during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Von Miller (40) celebrates during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Marquise Copeland, left, intercepts a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams defensive back David Long Jr., right, is congratulated by inside linebacker Troy Reeder after returning an interception for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Marquise Copeland (93) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rondale Moore, right, catches a pass in front of Los Angeles Rams defensive back David Long Jr. (22) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) celebrates during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Tanner Vallejo (51) tackles Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Marquise Copeland (93) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers, right, runs against Arizona Cardinals free safety Jalen Thompson (34) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, bottom, scores a touchdown against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., left, and cornerback Luq Barcoo (27) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Arizona Cardinals tight end Darrell Daniels (81) is tackled by Los Angeles Rams defensive end A'Shawn Robinson, left, and inside linebacker Troy Reeder during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams defensive back Eric Weddle (20) congratulates teammates during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, left, celebrates after catching a touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Players try to separate Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, middle left, from Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams defensive end A'Shawn Robinson (94) tackles Arizona Cardinals tight end Darrell Daniels during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) runs for a touchdown 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/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Arizona Cardinals fans react to the score during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker, bottom, falls forward after tackling Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers (23) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson, left, catches a pass against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Marco Wilson during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals is carted off the field after an injury during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at SoFi Stadium on January 17, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker is carted off the field 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/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers, middle, is tackled by Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt (99) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) gestures during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz (86) is tackled by Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Troy Reeder, top, and cornerback Darious Williams during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) 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) Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury walks off the field after the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cardinals in an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp walks off the field after the Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals in an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) walks off the field after the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cardinals in an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. walks off the field after the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cardinals in an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) smiles after the Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals in an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Los Angeles Rams cornerback Donte' Deayon, right, breaks up a pass intended for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Antoine Wesley during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford walks off the field after the Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals in an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay gestures toward fans after the Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals in an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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