DeAndre Hopkins cures some, not all of Cardinals’ offensive issues vs. Saints
GLENDALE — The last time the Arizona Cardinals played at home on Thursday night, they experienced quite the turnaround.
After putting together a 7-0 start last year, Arizona watched its season take a sudden twist. And not in a good way, with the Cardinals dropping a very winnable game to the Green Bay Packers despite having a shot at the end zone in the final seconds.
The Cardinals fell into an absolute tailspin after that, sputtering their way to an 11-6 finish and an ugly Wild Card exit.
But now almost a year later, the Cardinals are hoping their latest TNF showing can turn the season around for the better.
It also doesn’t hurt that Arizona’s best receiving option on the team was active for the 42-34 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Getting his first taste of live NFL action since he was handed down a six-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy, DeAndre Hopkins put on a show behind 10 catches (14 targets) for 103 yards.
“It was great,” Murray said of the return of Hopkins. “His energy — obviously he’s talented as ever — but just having him out there, it didn’t look like he had any rust. Knocked it off real quick if he had any.
“Just his communication, his feel for the game, all of that, you can’t put a price tag on it.”
His presence was a present for the offense, which looked head and shoulders above its showing in Seattle four days prior.
As a team, Arizona put up 326 yards of total offense, was 3-for-4 in the red zone and saw its running game turn in another 100-yard performance.
But for all the good that came out of the offense on Thursday, head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Co. still aren’t fully satisfied with the product they’re rolling out onto the field.
“Not to our standard obviously, but I thought we started well,” Kingsbury said after the game. “We’ve got to be able to finish in the red zone, but just some execution and stuff that we can’t have happen, burning timeouts, the ball on the ground, snaps and things of that nature. It’s just got to get better.”
With 28 points scored in the first half, 14 of which were scored by the defense near the end of the second quarter, the Cardinals headed to the locker room with a mountain of momentum on their side.
Not only was the defense playing above the standard it established this season, but the offense also wasn’t a complete lost cause like it has been on a near regular basis in 2022.
But just as it looked like the Cardinals were well on their way to an absolute blowout over the Saints, Arizona came out cold to start the second half.
Looking a lot like the Cardinals of prior weeks, the offense wasn’t scaring anyone early on in the third quarter, kicking off the frame with a pair of three-and-outs and a Saints field goal in between.
The two Cardinals drives took just over two minutes off the clock, forcing the defense back on the field sooner than expected.
Against a team that is rolling out a full complement of weapons offensively and not having its quarterback turn the ball over multiple times, that kind of second half start could have been a death sentence. Want to let a team back in the game? That’s one way to do so.
But for all the talk of improvement, Arizona still strolls out of State Farm Stadium with a victory, something that hasn’t happened since Oct. 24 of last year, and a new waterline to beat on the offensive side of things.
“I thought offensively, we took some strides today,” Murray said postgame. “Again, there’s some things that we could have done better, but it’s better than we’ve been for sure.”