Cardinals continue mockery of home-field advantage in loss to Rams
With sagging shoulders and heavy hearts, Cardinals fans stream toward the exits. They feel no joy. No bragging rights. No sense of shared accomplishment.
The scene has become a recurring nightmare at State Farm Stadium
Good football teams don’t lose seven consecutive home games. But following a 20-12 loss to the Rams on Sunday, the Cardinals haven’t protected the nest since October of 2021. They are mocking the notion of a home-field advantage in Glendale.
It’s embarrassing for everyone involved.
There are plenty of more issues on the table. The Cardinals are poorly coached on offense. Clock management has been a debacle for three years running. And for some bizarre reason, the Cardinals still struggle to find the urgency to play football.
They began Sunday’s game with a three-and-out and a blocked punt. They have allowed 31 first-quarter points and scored none. I blame that on the head coach, who still seems over-promoted and in over his head, a man whose contract runs through the 2027 season. The absurd extensions awarded Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim seem even more dubious now.
The Cardinals are the worst first-quarter team in the NFL. They haven’t led in regulation over the first three games of the season. For the second consecutive week, they were lucky to avoid an insurmountable deficit at halftime.
“I wish I had the answer right now,” Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray said. “I’m not sure, man. It’s not winning football. You see the rest of the game, and it’s competitive. But that first quarter, (we) can’t make (expletive) happen. It’s bad. It’s bad football.”
Oh, there were some bright spots. Hollywood Brown had 14 catches in 17 targets, setting a career-high in receptions and displaying his obvious connection with Murray. Greg Dortch continues to be a breakout performer. And for all the personnel deficiencies on defense, Vance Joseph’s unit is fighting hard, giving the team a chance to win games.
But Isaiah Simmons can’t get on the field. The running game is erratic, at best. A.J. Green is cooked, a wide receiver with a bad case of the yips. If Murray isn’t scrambling and making plays with his feet, the offense scares no one. The Cardinals ran 81 plays on Sunday and gained only 365 yards.
It’s also clear that Murray isn’t all that comfortable when facing the Rams and the monstrously talented Aaron Donald. The speedy quarterback didn’t have a rushing attempt through the first three quarters on Sunday while attempting 58 passes. That’s not a good sign for Arizona.
Murray correctly noted that “dudes are juiced up” at the start of games. He noted the Rams are smart and adhere to gap integrity. He said the lanes he likes to exploit happen later in games, when the defense is gassed.
But a quarterback like Murray and an alleged offensive guru like Kingsbury should produce a little more than four field goals against a Rams team that took the field with a depleted secondary. And if Kingsbury is truly an offensive mastermind, why does his team struggle so mightily on opening possessions, when Kingsbury should hold a dramatic advantage?
“We need to get the ball in the end zone,” offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum said. “It’s not that difficult.”
The Cardinals have now lost seven of their last nine games under Kingsbury. On Sunday, he helped jumpstart the offense with a handful of successful fourth-down attempts in the second quarter. But he also pushed his luck too far, eschewing a field goal attempt near the goal line that effectively pulled the plug on his team’s comeback attempt. And the lack of energy and desperation on the final drive was astounding.
Had the Cardinals not pulled off a miracle comeback in Las Vegas, this team would be in dire straits, alone in last place.
“Consistency on offense is what we’re fighting for,” Kingsbury said.
In Year 4 of the Murray-Kingsbury partnership, consistency on offense shouldn’t be that difficult.
But like home victories and clock management, somethings are inexplicable in Arizona.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.