Rapid reactions: Cardinals dominated by Chiefs in season opener
The Arizona Cardinals snapped a two-year season-opener winning streak Sunday, as they were no match for the visiting Kansas City Chiefs.
The Cardinals dropped their first game 44-21, as they never led at any point.
Kansas City went up 14-0 quickly and did not look back as quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for five touchdowns.
After an offseason of questions regarding Arizona’s poor finish in 2021, the Cardinals didn’t provide many promising answers on Sunday.
Arizona Sports’ hosts, reporters and editors share their thoughts on the Cardinals’ Week 1 loss:
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: If you had concerns about the Arizona Cardinals’ defense going into the year, you were right.
If you had concerns about the Cardinals’ offense and how it would produce without DeAndre Hopkins for six weeks, you were right about that one, too.
Week 1 of the 2022 campaign looked like a carbon copy of how the Cardinals limped to the finish line in 2021.
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense toyed with the Cardinals’ shorthanded defense from the jump on their way to a 44-21 victory at State Farm Stadium – Arizona’s 6th straight loss in front of the home crowd.
Defensively, the Cardinals generated zero pass rush, struggled to tackle and to cover receivers. The Chiefs scored touchdowns on their first three possessions (all three drives were 75-plus yards in length) and never looked back.
Offensively, the Cardinals looked passive. Kyler Murray didn’t look like he had a connection with any of his receivers and overall, the approach appeared to be very vanilla.
Outside of a Dennis Gardeck strip of JuJu Smith-Schuster that led to a turnover, nobody on defense made a play.
There’s a lot of football to be played, but if Week 1 was any indication, it’s going to be a long season in the desert.
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo:
Did we not all see this coming? I mean the Chiefs were healthy, the Cardinals were not. Patrick Mahomes may be the best week one quarterback in the history of the NFL. The Chiefs put up 44 points on Arizona’s defense – the same defense we spent the last three months criticizing for not having a proven pass rusher or properly addressing the concerns at cornerback. The same defense that had major questions on recent first-round picks Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins.
Arizona’s defense had no sacks, no interceptions and gave up 488 yards and 33 first downs. KC was 6-for-6 in the red zone. Mahomes had 5 touchdown passes. That the Cardinals scored 21 points means nothing – 14 of them came when the Chiefs stopped playing.
This one was over early, like real early. The Chiefs took the opening kickoff and went 11 plays and 75 yards for a touchdown. They got the ball back and went seven plays for 88 yards and a touchdown. Again, got the ball back and went 11 plays for 75 yards and a touchdown. It was 20-7 Chiefs and you knew the Cardinals were outclassed and had no chance. The only question was how many points KC would score. It was ugly. The Cardinals have a lot of holes, holes that in all likelihood cannot be addressed this season. The gap between Arizona and the best teams in this league is gigantic.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: You’re in a movie theater (remember those?), a preview for an upcoming release is shown and you turn to your companion and mutter under your breath, “well that looked awful.” Same vibe on Friday when the Cards injury report was released. The Cardinals were predictably awful against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Too many injuries at too many key positions. Not enough pass rush. Not enough coverage in the secondary. Not enough wideouts to keep up on the scoreboard. Too good a quarterback on the other side of the field. Hence the humiliation of Sunday.
The more important question is what it means moving forward. Is this game an outlier? A bad omen? Did the Week 1 struggles of the NFC West minimize the impact? Offensively they’ll be better. The reinforcements are coming; it’s more a question of when they’ll get here (of course outside of the five games left of DeAndre Hopkins’ suspension).
The defense, however, was generous and not in a good way. Reinforcements will arrive there, too, but it’s difficult to believe that Antonio Hamilton or Trayvon Mullen Jr. will dramatically change the equation. J.J. Watt can change it but who is going to count on that kind of availability every week? The lack of attention paid to that side of the football threatens to derail the whole operation.
For the most part, this is your defense for the rest of the year and while they won’t be playing Patrick Mahomes every week, Kliff Kingsbury is right. They have to get better in a hurry otherwise this season is going to slide out of view with the same speed.
Luke Lapinski, co-host of Wolf & Luke: Well hopefully the Cardinals mismanaged the preseason. Because the alternative is much worse. That was a rough game to watch — one of their worst openers in decades — but I tend to believe they’re better than what we just saw. Patrick Mahomes makes a lot of teams look bad (especially when you don’t put any pressure on him), the Cardinals are a lot more beat up than they typically are going into Week 1 and it’s just one game.
The Cardinals did look rusty, and it’s fair to wonder how much even just a few reps in the preseason might have helped. Not for Kyler Murray, for everyone. Would they have won the game today? Um, no. Mahomes could’ve thrown eight touchdowns if he needed to. But would they have potentially at least been competitive to the point where they weren’t dropping interceptions and things wouldn’t look quite so bleak right now? Maybe.
It was just one game, though. I’m going to keep telling myself that. And for what it’s worth, the Rams and 49ers both lost this week too, so it’s not like the season is ruined. But we came into camp with questions about the defense, and this game didn’t give us any answers. Not any good ones at least. Zero sacks when you’re worried about the pass rush is troublesome. Mahomes spreading the ball all over the field to whoever he wants, whenever he wants, isn’t going to make anyone feel great about the corners either. And Kansas City just running right through the Cardinals at will might be the most concerning part of all. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Isiah Pacheco aren’t exactly Walter Payton and Barry Sanders.
The Cardinals should get better as this season goes on. Logic suggests the young guys on defense should improve as they get more reps, and the team as a whole should get healthier. You can’t just ignore the fact that this team is 4-8 since that Thursday Night game against the Packers last year, though. And the first half of today’s game felt a lot like that playoff game in L.A. back in January. Good teams overcome a loss, no matter how painful it was. But the urgency needs to be there for the Cardinals starting right now. Because the Raiders and Rams are next. And good or not, very few teams overcome 0-3 starts.
Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com Cardinals reporter and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast: It’s Week 1, but my optimism for this football team has taken a serious shot.
The Cardinals won’t have to hear about their abysmal playoff showing last season because they just gave fans another reason to question this team once more with a downright ugly performance in a season-opening loss to the Chiefs.
Arizona was out of sorts from the get-go and gave Patrick Mahomes little resistance as he carved up this suspect defense. You have to give credit to the QB, who exploited all of Arizona’s weaknesses, resulting in five touchdowns and 360 yards through the air. Isaiah Simmons’ first game with the green dot was one to forget, with the star backer getting burned by Travis Kelce throughout the afternoon. After all the hype that he could be the catalyst for this defense, he underwhelmed in his first showing. Does he have too much on his plate?
But it wasn’t just him.
Kyler Murray did not hold up his side of the shootout bargain, the running game couldn’t get established outside of a James Conner TD and Zach Ertz was nowhere to be found until the fourth quarter. The lone bright spot in this one was Greg Dortch, who filled in well in place of the injured Rondale Moore.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury made it a point to sit nearly all of his starters this preseason in hopes of rekindling that fast start from a year prior. We’re seeing the total opposite. It’s only Game 1, things can be remedied. But holy cow, that was some uninspiring Arizona football.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com lead editor: This wasn’t about not playing the starters in the preseason or a laundry list of injured starters or complete coaching incompetence. The Cardinals got flat-out embarrassed by the Chiefs because they put all their eggs in the basket of building a roster of stars — many past their prime — over roster-building with the draft. It’s true many of those starting veterans were not available in Week 1, but consider this: The best players on the field outside of a too-often scrambling Kyler Murray (he was just fine) were undrafted players Dennis Gardeck and Greg Dortch.
Meanwhile, among the drafted players still around, Arizona’s two inside linebackers who were consecutive first-round picks got worked. That the Cardinals put so much on Isaiah Simmons and (so far) misevaluated how capable or ready he was is one thing. But to hinge their entire defensive identity on his expanded role and then expect Simmons and the other youngsters to be the reason this team improves on the ugly ending to 2021 is on the Steve Keim-led staff. It’s maybe on the coaching, too — if they had a say in convincing the front office this roster wasn’t in such bad shape. It sure looks like it is.
Erik Ruby, Arizona Sports contributor and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast: Yikes.
I didn’t expect the Cardinals to win, but for some reason I didn’t expect them to fold. I knew Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs would take advantage of a weak Cardinals defense, but I figured the offense would at least make it interesting.
It did not.
They looked like a team that didn’t prepare in the preseason.
If the first possessions on both sides of the ball were any indication on how things will go this season, strap in for five more bumpy weeks(minimum). Rodney Hudson’s concerning start just piled on to the lingering feeling that maybe this Cardinals’ offense isn’t as rock solid as some thought.
This does not mean that there is no hope on the season, or that Kyler Murray and Co. can’t adjust and turn things around. However, I think it’s an honest look at what you’re working with this year. The only way this Cardinals’ roster has a CHANCE to compete “as is” is if they stay fully healthy. But as we’ve already seen with Arizona in Week 1, you can never bank of that happening in the NFL.
Thankfully, there is a DeAndre Hopkins-sized light at the end of the tunnel, but they’ll need to figure out their variety of problems on both sides of the ball if Arizona’s true goal is what it says it is, winning a Super Bowl at State Farm Stadium.
Ending on a bright note before I write four more paragraphs on what went wrong: I believe Greg Dortch can be a reliable target weekly and we did see some sparks between Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Kyler Murray.