Rapid reactions: Arizona Cardinals kept from end zone in loss to Rams

Sep 25, 2022, 5:09 PM | Updated: 11:12 pm

The Arizona Cardinals put together four drives of 12 or more plays on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams but were held out of the end zone in a 20-12 loss at State Farm Stadium.

Arizona fell behind 13-0 before kicker Matt Prater delivered the first points of the afternoon, but the defense kept the team alive. The Cardinals cut the deficit to eight points with just over a minute left, but the Rams recovered the game-clinching onside kick.

The loss puts Arizona at 1-2 after last week’s dramatic overtime victory in Las Vegas. The Cardinals still have not won a home game since Week 7 of last year.

Arizona Sports reporters, editors and hosts reacted to the loss:

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & GamboOne of those “If I would have told you” games. So very frustrating loss for the Cardinals. If I would have told you the Cardinals held Cooper Kupp to four catches for 44 yards receiving, you would have said Cardinals win. If I would have told you Hollywood Brown had 14 catches on 17 targets for 140 yards, you would have said Cardinals won. If I would have told you that the Cardinals had scoring drives of 19, 16 and 17 plays, you would have said Cardinals won. If I would have told you the Cardinals defense held the Rams to 20 total points, you would have said the Cardinals won. If I would have told you that Kyler Murray threw for over 300 yards without an interception, you would have said Cardinals won.

Except the Cardinals lost.

All those drives were field goals. Murray was bottled up and could not run. Arizona started slow again, going 3-and-out, 4-and-out and 3-and-out to start the game. They fell into a 13-0 hole and had to play catchup – again. Down 20-9 with 11:35 left in the game, Kliff Kingsbury decided to go for a 4th and 4 from the Rams 26-yard line instead of kicking a field goal to make it a one-score game. Prater is almost automatic from that distance – it would have been a 43-yard FG. Instead they went for it and a pass for Brown was incomplete. The Rams took over and drove down to the 1-yard line before Budda Baker forced a fumble that Jalen Thompson recovered on a run by Cam Akers. But instead of being down by eight, Arizona was chasing 11 and it absolutely effects how you play being down two scores. Arizona kicked a field goal with 1:10 left to make it a one-score game but they needed the onside kick to have a shot and they didn’t get it. Not sure if it would have mattered had they kicked that field goal late fourth quarter – all I know is that it would have been the right thing to do.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & MarottaAfter three games, there doesn’t seem to be much mystery about it. The 2022 Arizona Cardinals are not very good.

The Week 2 fourth-quarter/overtime miracle in Las Vegas provided excitement and highlights but was also the 180-degree opposite of what we’ve seen in the other 11 quarters so far.

The Cardinals once again snoozed through the first quarter Sunday, fell behind 13-0 and lost 20-12 to their in-division nemesis, the Los Angeles Rams.

Most thought that the Cardinals’ offense would need to carry them early this season and outscore opponents. They played 60 minutes of football and didn’t score one touchdown. There is little to zero explosion in this scheme right now. Kliff Kingsbury’s attack is nothing more than a methodical dink-and-dunk approach that is quite frankly, boring and frustrating to watch. Kyler Murray did not register a rushing yard until there were four minutes remaining IN THE GAME.

For as comfortable and in-control as Murray looked in the win in Las Vegas, he looked just as skittish against the Rams on Sunday. Under duress, he’d bail on plays by throwing the ball away or throw off his back foot to avoid contact and mitigate risk.

The understaffed defense is doing what it can — and in fact, holding the Rams to 20 points should’ve been enough to win. But once again, Isaiah Simmons was mostly absent (Ben Niemann getting early snaps over him is a concern). Zaven Collins whiffed on a sack of Matthew Stafford that led to a big third-down conversion on L.A.’s last touchdown drive and got obliterated on a block by wide receiver Ben Skowronek on a big Cam Akers run. Collins, as has been documented, again used poor technique on the play. It’s not just them — the entire linebacking group has been pretty much a disaster through three weeks.

And once again, Kingsbury made some puzzling decisions. To his credit, he didn’t hesitate in going for it on fourth downs deep in his own territory to attempt to kickstart the offense. But in the fourth quarter, down 20-9, he opted to go on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal that would have cut the lead to 8. The attempt failed and even though the Cardinals forced a turnover on the Rams’ ensuing drive, the game was pretty much over.

Mind-boggling stat of the week: The Cardinals’ four field goal drives spanned 60 plays! Three of them were 16 plays or longer. Not acceptable.

The Cardinals, considering their three-game start and the tough schedule, look like a 5-6-win football team at this point.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & GamboAt this point I haven’t decided what is more irritating about this loss. How it started or how it ended. The stuff that happened in the middle isn’t exactly like the cream filling of an Oreo cookie, either.

How it started: Like a teenager who needs seven different alarms to go off before they finally get out of bed and go to school, the Cards need way too much coaxing to get going. A combination of big plays from the Rams and the literal exact opposite from the Cards had them staring at yet another first quarter double digit deficit. So far this season they’ve been outscored 31-0 in the first quarter, 56-13 in the first half of their three games combined. Equally as frustrating; nobody has the first clue as to why. Assuming the first several plays are off a script, is it in need of re-write?

How it ended: Zero urgency, zero tempo. A team that was playing like they had some miracle 11-point play in their pocket. I know they knew they needed a second possession but they sure weren’t playing like it.

The stuff in the middle: Bad throws, dropped passes, plenty of plays and not nearly enough points. I’m a big believer in expecting the unexpected but I’m not sure I ever would have believed a team could run 81 plays and score only 12 points. Isaiah Simmons snaps, or lack of them, continue to be an issue. Zaven Collins might have produced the play of the game – in a bad way – when he whiffed on the sack of Matthew Stafford then proceeded to get blocked out of the ensuing touchdown run by a wide receiver masquerading as a fullback.

The conclusion: This team has played 12-and-a-half quarters of football but only three or so have left you satisfied. They haven’t held the lead for one second of regulation. They haven’t won a home game in nearly a year. But then you look up last year’s schedule and you see that four teams made the playoffs despite a 1-2 start, and I think most of us would have taken 1-2 with that schedule. Until this operation gets better on multiple fronts you should dream that dream at your own risk.

Tyler Drake, Cardinals reporter and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast: All the good feelings and momentum fostered from Arizona’s Week 2 comeback win in overtime against the Raiders? Yeah, those are out the window.

The Cardinals had a prime opportunity to knock off the defending Super Bowl champs but again fell flat early on. There was no Murray Magic this time, either, as the offense could not hit on all cylinders, especially when it came down to the red zone. Field goals aren’t going to win games in this NFL, and that’s all Arizona could muster on Sunday.

Making matters worse, the Cardinals saw yet another injury to the WR room in A.J. Green. We don’t know the extent of the injury, but he looked very hobbled by the knee issue suffered in the loss.

It wasn’t all horrendous. I thought the defense had its moments over the course of the matchup that allowed Arizona to stay within striking distance.

But at the end of the day, this was very much a winnable game. The Rams aren’t the same juggernaut we saw last season. There were chances to say the least. You can’t take any moral victories away from this one, just more questions that need answered.

Kellan Olson, editor: I remain worried about how below average the offense looks. We knew the defense was probably going to be bad. An elite offense, though, was supposed to help supplant that. I cannot reemphasize enough that Kliff Kingsbury is here to bring out that offense and specifically get Kyler Murray to the star QB level we all know he can get to. But for now, the Rams showed how easy it is for a competent defense to limit the Cardinals’ offense.

Los Angeles consistently made Murray’s pocket collapse and didn’t give him many windows to run. That contained Murray, and in the air, he was given a lot of the short throws the Cardinals like to take. The Rams dared Murray to beat them by finishing drives through precision. Murray failed at that. It was nice to see Hollywood Brown have a huge game, 14 receptions for 140 yards, but a lot of this was based on the scheme of Los Angeles not letting Brown get loose on deep balls and welcoming the smaller chunk plays. Los Angeles’ banged-up secondary was OK with that.

This offense really needs to show something. Fast.

Erik Ruby, Arizona Sports contributor and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast: What a strange yet expected outing from the Arizona Cardinals. The defending Super Bowl champions came into State Farm Stadium not looking like a dominant powerhouse destined for a second ring, but looking vulnerable. One would assume that after their last meeting, the Cardinals would be frothing at the mouth(beak) to jump out and put a stamp on this game early. 

Unfortunately, some questionable play calls and miscommunication on both sides of the ball made it blatant that we needed to strap in and get ready for, at least, another shaky first half. 

Despite an entire week spent emphasizing their desperation for a fast start, the Cardinals looked like it was deja vu from Weeks 1 and 2.

Somehow as the 2nd quarter started, Arizona was poised to out-stink their embarrassing start to Week 2. But luckily, Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown reached what appears to be close to their maximum potential and couple big FGs from Matt Prater gave AZ a chance at home. 

The Cardinals trailed 13-6 going into the locker room at half and the general feeling was “Wow, this should/could have been way worse,” and I began to think that maybe, just maybe, this team was ready to shed the perpetual weight on their shoulders that is the Los Angeles Rams. 

They were not. 

However, they were ready to show fight, which is still a welcomed site. The Cardinals are a team in purgatory, an incomplete skyscraper waiting for the penthouse to finish construction. The foundation(Kyler Murray) is solid and the support (Brown, Conner, Ertz) are the glue that holds everything together, but EVERYTHING changes when DeAndre Hopkins makes them complete. 

Not to mention they are still without WR Rondale Moore, who many believed was poised for a breakout season. If you combine the firepower of those two on offense, you have a legitimate top-tier unit when all is clicking behind K1. 

This version of the Arizona Cardinals has shown they have the ability to make huge and sometimes even game-shifting plays on both sides of the ball. But they have also shown the ability to get in their own way every single time they make one of those plays. 

Not sure why there was an overall lack of urgency at the end of the game, why Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins continue to have unpredictable snap-counts and I REALLY don’t understand not kicking a FG and going for it on 4th and 4 to no success. 

I usually appreciate aggressive play calling and going for it on fourth when you have a QB like Kyler Murray surrounded by a couple playmakers. But there is a limit, and the Cardinals went past that limit. 

Holding the Rams to 20 points was somewhat a victory, but made it more obvious this version of L.A. is not as dangerous as previous iterations. Thus, this lackluster performance is a major disappointment. 

There are positives, there is even hope but there’s no denying the flaws that haunt this team and their apparent inability to solve them.

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