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.

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