Rapid reactions: Arizona Cardinals shake off slow start in win vs. Panthers

Oct 2, 2022, 5:32 PM | Updated: Oct 3, 2022, 9:13 am

Despite another slow start from the Cardinals on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, Arizona’s offense and defense found a groove for a 26-16 victory on the road.

The Cardinals trailed 10-3 at halftime and had looked like they were stuck in the same rut that was shown in Week 3. Despite that, Arizona’s defense produced three turnovers and the team scored 23 unanswered points to take a 26-10 lead.

The win puts the Cardinals at 2-2 on the year and marks the first win over the Panthers since 2013.

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

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo The first thought is if the Cardinals play any NFL team not coached by Matt Rhule or quarterbacked by Baker Mayfield they lose.

After one of the worst halves of football in Arizona Cardinals football history in which they went three-and-out three times, scored three points and Kyler Murray threw a pick-six, Arizona responded with a dominant second half to beat Carolina 26-16 and end a six-game losing streak to the Panthers.

But the win cannot overshadow the offensive deficiencies this team continues to have under Kliff Kingsbury. Make NO mistake that Arizona won this game because of Vance Joseph and the defense.

Let’s take a look:

First half

  • Markus Golden and Budda Baker stopped Christian McCaffrey on a 4th-and-1 run for no gain.
  • Ben Niemann recovers a muffed double-reverse handoff by Mayfield.
  • Jalen Thompson intercepts a pass on a ball off the hands of WR D.J. Moore.
  • Carolina scored 10 points in the first half and seven came off a pick-six by Murray.

Second Half

  • Zach Allen has a sack and forces a three-and-out on Carolina’s first possession.
  • Carolina goes four-and-out after a nice play by J.J. Watt, who had Mayfield in his grasp on third and 10 to force a short three-yard gain.
  • Gardeck intercepts a pass after another Watt tipped ball at the line of scrimmage and returns it to the Carolina five-yard-line, setting up a Kyler touchdown run that made it 20-10.
  • After an almost-INT by Byron Murphy, Allen swats away a Mayfield pass on fourth-and-one giving Arizona another short field which led to a TD pass from Kyler to Brown that made it 26-10.

So let’s not sugarcoat this.

Arizona scored 23 points in the second half but seven came when the defense gave the offense the ball at the Carolina five-yard line and another seven came when the defense gave them the ball at the Panthers’ 31-yard line. The Panthers had 11 first downs and 220 yards total — 40 rushing. Arizona forced three turnovers and batted so many balls thrown by Mayfield at the line of scrimmage I thought Dikembe Mutombo was on their roster.

Look, this was a must-win for the Cardinals as they look to not fall too far behind the pack with DeAndre Hopkins out until Week 7. But the lack of offensive production in the first half continues to haunt this team. Arizona had a — GULP — 45 yards of total offense and went 0-for-3 on third downs and 0-for-1 on fourth down in the first quarter. This lack of production by the offense is downright pathetic and we cannot expect Arizona to be a playoff contender if this is not fixed and ASAP.

Kevin Zimmerman, lead editor: The Cardinals playing a predictable, bland spread offense. Bad.

The Cardinals buying into their shifty quarterback and deep running back and tight end rooms to play complementary offensive football to set up Kyler Murray’s. Good.

Call me a skeptic when I say I wouldn’t be surprised if Arizona reverts back to throwing bubble screens to start next week’s game. But the optimist would say they found something about their identity in that second half.

That’s about the offense, which has the talent to get a lot more creative despite the receiver injuries and absences. Meanwhile, the defense has rounded into form. I know it’s the Panthers, but Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has taken just a few games to determine how to get production from a lot of different players who might not be the most talented. Of those we’d call the most talented, Zach Allen might soon have a case to be this team’s best defensive player after Budda Baker.

Tyler Drake, Cardinals reporter and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast:  This Arizona Cardinals team.

After not holding a lead over the first three weeks of the season, the Cardinals finally had more points than the other side. It just took most of the game to do so.

Yes, the offense woke up late and sealed the deal, but it was the defense that deserves all the flowers for the Week 4 win over the Panthers. Zach Allen continues to stack games and is looking like a real force in the trenches. Be ready for the double teams because he is warranting them at this rate. And after a scary situation regarding J.J. Watt’s heart this week, the defensive lineman showed up big time and helped lift the defense.

But for all the good the defense did, I cannot leave this space without again talking about the offensive miscues. For another first half of football, the Cardinals were gross as an offense, failing to record any points against a very beatable Carolina team. Kyler Murray was able to produce some of that magic we last saw in Week 2, but it shouldn’t have to come to that. This team will lose more times than not if they cannot right the ship when it comes to starting fast.

On a good note, I thought we saw a dangerous rushing attack with Eno Benjamin, Darrel Williams and James Conner contributing regularly and Hollywood Brown is everything this team expected he could be.

The Panther is finally off the Cardinals’ back. There’s no time to celebrate, though, with the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles coming to town in Week 5.

Erik Ruby, Arizona Sports contributor and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast Football is simple. I will never pretend to know more about the technicalities of pigskin than someone like Kliff Kingsbury(or any coach for that matter.) But football is SIMPLE.

You know what doesn’t work on third and short? Going deep. Second and long? Running it.

You know what does?

Targeting your speedy WR you traded a first-round pick for down the field.

Or having your wildly gifted mobile QB use his legs and not throw the ball behind the line of scrimmage most of the time.

The Cardinals were bailed out by their defense and sheer talent before finally looking like the offense they act like they are in today’s 26-16 win over the Panthers.

Seemingly countless big plays from the likes of Zach Allen, Dennis Gardeck, J.J. Watt, Ben Niemann (!) and Co. gave the offense the chances it needed to get their heads on straight.

In fact, the defense looked borderline dominant. But that could be more on Carolina’s Baker Mayfield-led offense.

Before I continue, let’s get one thing straight, every football team has its problems. Every team from the pros to Pop Warner will be far from perfect.

That being said, there are ZERO other football teams in the NFL who deal with the — frankly — ridiculous problems the Cardinals deal with on a weekly basis.

Thirty-one other teams are not THIS miserable in the first half. How many timeouts have been unnecessarily called to stop a delay of game?

There are zero excuses for a team with the talent level this one must not have a solid game plan going into the first drive. There is no reason for miscommunication to be a theme despite practically no turnover on the roster from last year.

Even bringing back WR Rondale Moore, who many pinned as a “breakout candidate” before he injured his hamstring, didn’t jolt the offense like it could have.

There is a lot of promise for the birds though because when the offense is clicking, they can turn horizontal throws into vertical gains and they use “Hollywood” Brown like the talent he is, they can be a high-powered offense!

There are still SO many details the Cardinals need to work on going into a HUGE challenge next week with the undefeated Eagles heading to Glendale, but if Brown continues his electric run and Moore is used with more variety, Kliff Kingsbury could have a great foundation to drop DeAndre Hopkins into as we sneakily approach Week 7.

The Panthers are a bad football team, but the Cardinals had yet to establish themselves as a good one. While I’m not sure I can give them that title yet, they surely avoided becoming a disaster with a huge second half today. They ended the game the way they need to continue this season, with their foot on the gas.

Kellan Olson, editor: This is a bad football team right now. A four-game sample size is enough to declare this as a fact. BUT. This team is .500 after beating the two teams on the schedule it was supposed to. And, my goodness, we have some positives to take away from the win in Carolina!

In the bigger sense, the offensive play-calling took steps forward in two aspects that should be utilized more often given the makeup of the roster: multi-tight-end sets and designed quarterback runs. While the Panthers are terrible, the execution from the defense was sound. The brain farts and critical mistakes weren’t there.

In the smaller sense, Zach Allen and J.J. Watt had their best games yet and are certified difference-makers. Eno Benjamin looks ready to be the alternative option to James Conner, a spot I was personally worried about when Chase Edmonds departed. And Hollywood Brown’s ball-tracking skills have really stood out, especially with his quarterback Kyler Murray knowing where he likes it in those tight spots.

Again, I am led to believe nothing but this squad being nowhere close to the level it needs to be at to reach the playoffs. The larger moments in this game like Murray’s pick-six, the bad snap from Rodney Hudson, the failed conversions on fourth down and so on keep me there. With that in mind, the Cardinals have managed to keep themselves in a position where they still have enough time to improve during the soft part of the schedule. I’m far from writing this team off, even though it continues to suggest we should.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo Everybody reading this has probably been in — or is currently in — one of those NFL survivor pools. The Cardinals are in one, too. But instead of having to choose an NFL team that has to win in order to survive and do it again next week, the Cardinals have to survive the six games they’re going to play without DeAndre Hopkins by going 3-3. This made today a gotta-have-it affair and they got it, mostly thanks to their defense.

Zach Allen, J.J. Watt (who had a hell of a week by the sound of it), Dennis Gardeck balled out against what is clearly a broken Carolina Panthers offense. Allen in particular has moved to the front of the contract extension line. Wreaking havoc and wrecking Baker Mayfield, Vance Joseph has coached up a unit that is better than I anticipated. Honestly, I didn’t think the Cards would win too many games because of the 11 guys on that side of the ball.

The other side? Needs work. Adjustments were made and it got better in the second half when Kyler started using his legs and the running game found theirs. For the first time the opposition felt Hollywood Brown’s presence and Kyler’s throw to Hollywood is another example of him doing that thing he does. But the offense was so funky in the first half I’m going to hold off on any proclamations that the second half “fixed” what was broken. Instead, let’s say what had to be done was done and if they beat Seattle in two weeks, or the Eagles in one, they will have played .500 ball without their best wide out and given themselves a chance to reinvent their offense with his return.

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Rapid reactions: Arizona Cardinals shake off slow start in win vs. Panthers