CARDINALS CORNER

Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury: ‘We have to figure out exactly who we are’

Sep 25, 2022, 7:29 PM | Updated: 11:06 pm

GLENDALE — The Arizona Cardinals averaged 15 plays over their four scoring drives in a winnable football game.

But when the dust settled at State Farm Stadium, none of those extended possessions yielded a touchdown. Only field goals.

Three points for a whole lot of time and energy.

And against the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, the inability to find pay dirt — paired with another atrocious start — served as a formula for failure in the team’s 20-12 loss in Week 3.

Unable to build off of the momentum harnessed last week, the Cardinals were once again slow right out of the gate for a third consecutive game. Picking up just one first down compared to the Rams’ eight and getting outgained 158 yards to 26 in the opening frame is anything but inspiring.

“That’s not winning football,” quarterback Kyler Murray said postgame. “We made it tough on ourselves. You see the rest of the game was competitive but that first quarter was — can’t make (expletive) happen, can’t get anything going. It’s bad football.”

With a Rams team that prides itself on getting ahead and attacking the quarterback, that’s exactly what couldn’t happen for the Cardinals to properly execute their game plan and have a fighting chance in a building they haven’t won in since Week 7 of last year.

“(There are) little things that are fixable, which is encouraging this early in the season, but I just think consistency in the offense is what we’re fighting for,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said postgame when asked about the offensive struggles. “We have really good players and I like what we’re doing schematically.

“We got to make sure we’re maximizing the players and figure out exactly who we are. We got to get some of those other pieces back (in DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore and Antoine Wesley). We have some dynamic receivers that will make a big difference at some point. But right now, we got to figure out who we are for the next couple of weeks.”

Despite the slow start, the Cardinals found themselves with more than enough chances to pull off some late-game heroics much like last week.

The defense wasn’t flawless, but it held the Rams to just 20 points and Cooper Kupp to under 50 receiving yards (though he did score on the ground). Defensive lineman J.J. Watt tallied his second sack in as many games and safety Budda Baker came up with a big forced fumble in the red zone during the fourth quarter.

Although the offense turned stale at the end of all their long scoring drives, it at least got over its first-half issues to move the chains and keep things competitive in what had the makings of a blowout from the jump.

In the process, wide receiver Hollywood Brown turned his best day as a Cardinal behind a career-high 14 catches for 140 yards.

The impressive stats mean naught, however, thanks to another blemish in the win-loss column that was avoidable.

“We obviously can’t put ourselves in a hole early and it’s going to be tough,” Watt said postgame. “You can’t have miracle comebacks every single week.

“You have to play sound football and put yourself in a good position early and we’re not doing that right now.”

If there was one takeaway from the Cardinals’ Week 3 defeat, it’s that there are going to be even more questions and eyeballs on this team over the next week, especially with a struggling Carolina Panthers team that has had Arizona’s number in recent history.

We all knew this team would look and feel different without a game changer like wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the mix for the first six games of the season. That’s still no excuse not to have Plans B, C and D to fall back on in a given week.

The Cardinals’ get-right checklist is going to be a long one filled with all the little details missing this week.

“It’s all of us — coaches, players, and play calling,” Kingsbury said. “I don’t know if we’re trying too hard to call the perfect play and do too much but it’s just been one thing after another, so we’ve got to get it figured out.”

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