DAN BICKLEY

Arizona Cardinals no worse for the wear after win over Panthers

Oct 2, 2022, 5:09 PM | Updated: Oct 3, 2022, 7:37 am

Some rules are sacred in the NFL. Like never complaining about a victory on the road.

That includes the Arizona Cardinals’ 26-16 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

It was messy. It was a clown show for 30 minutes. It revealed the thin ice upon which Kliff Kingsbury stands with the fan base, in stark contrast to the absurd job security gifted to him by owner Michael Bidwill.

But when the smoke had cleared, the Cardinals improved to 2-2 in the standings. For all the internal drama, coaching malfeasance and civic handwringing accompanying a newborn season, our NFL team is no worse for wear.

They are treading water, checking off days until the return of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

The optics aren’t great. Yet again, the offense couldn’t find any rhythm until the third quarter. The usual suspects were in attendance, from slow starts to clock mismanagement. Rondale Moore was subjected to another diet of daffy touches behind the line of scrimmage, prompting one Twitter critic to dub him, “Rondale Less.”

At one point, Kyler Murray demonstratively showed his dissatisfaction with ponderous pace of play calling, displaying the same frustration as the rest of us. The history books will show the 2022 Cardinals didn’t hold a lead in regulation for the first 15 quarters of an NFL season. They look much worse than a 2-2 team should look.

But to their credit, they strung together 23 consecutive points on Sunday. They benefitted from the staggering incompetence of Baker Mayfield, officially one of the most overhyped, overrated quarterbacks in recent memory. They hung tough on the collective grit of their defense, a unit that looked extremely well-prepared and disciplined, keeping the electric Christian McCaffrey largely unplugged.

Tread carefully. We were fooled by that magical comeback in Las Vegas in Week 2, when the Cardinals dominated the second half and scored one of the more breathtaking comeback victories in team history. We all assumed a corner had been turned.

That wasn’t the case. And by halftime on Sunday, the Cardinals were again a team on the brink of calamity.

Fortunately, they brought a different brand of intensity to the second half. Murray willingly ran the football and extended plays. The offense stopped the dinking and dunking and took shots down the field, the kind of plays that help even when they don’t work.

And led by the presence of J.J. Watt, who insisted on playing despite dealing with a heart issue earlier in the week, the defense controlled the line of scrimmage, deflected numerous passes and forced multiple turnovers. They did not stop until boos were raining down on the head of Mayfield.

Alas, it was another game that made you frequently question the competence of those in charge. And in the end, it was another game that spoke to the limitless potential of Kyler Murray’s Cardinals. If they ever get their act together.

Let’s a raise glass, nonetheless. Because you cannot complain about road victories in the NFL. Not now. Not ever. Not even against Baker Mayfield.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6 – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Dan Bickley

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