Rapid reactions: Sloppy Cardinals see problems resurface in loss to Vikings
The Arizona Cardinals fell to the Minnesota Vikings 34-26 on Sunday, dropping to 3-5 on the season.
Arizona lost the turnover battle 3-1, with all of those cough-ups coming in the second half as head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s team tried to rally from another first-half deficit.
Our Arizona Sports hosts and editors react as pre-snap problems continued to haunt the Cardinals’ offense especially.
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: This one should hurt, and at 3-5, it’s time to start thinking about subtracting rather than adding come the trade deadline. The Cardinals could have won this game but they certainly didn’t deserve to. Not with all those mistakes. Yet again Arizona had to play catchup down 14-3 in the first half. They managed to take the lead at 17-14 but the number of mistakes in the second half is just mind-boggling.
Where was the discipline? Two holding penalties in a row by rookie tight end Trey McBride; an ill-timed snap when no one was ready by center Billy Price; a roughing the passer by Zach Allen and an illegal blindside block by Eno Benjamin with Arizona driving and under a minute left in the game that cost them 15 yards. But that wasn’t all.
A poor pick by Kyler Murray on a deep ball underthrown to Robbie Anderson gave the Vikings the ball at the Cardinals’ 30-yard line and led to a touchdown. A muffed punt by Greg Dortch with Arizona trailing 28-26 and about to get the ball back gave the Vikings the ball at the Arizona 25-yard line and led to a touchdown with 8:36 left.
And another interception by Murray, throwing behind Zach Ertz midway through the fourth quarter. Let’s not forget the wasted timeouts. Arizona had to use one to not take a delay of game that was being called. The Cardinals had to use another right before the bad snap by Price on third-and-8 with 13:16 remaining in the game.
So the losing streak in Minnesota continues and is at 11 now, and the season is definitely on the brink. With nine games left, Arizona will likely have to go 6-3 to have a chance to make the playoffs, and that would take a Kingsbury team doing something they just don’t do: finishing strong.
Luke Lapinski, co-host of Wolf & Luke: Maybe this wouldn’t have changed the outcome today, but I’ll never understand the decision to completely go away from Murray running the ball. He was the No. 1 overall pick because he can throw and run. You paid him nearly a quarter of a billion dollars because he can throw and run. If you just decide to take that option away from yourself, you’re doing part of the other team’s job.
He doesn’t need to be Lamar Jackson. In fact, that would probably be too much. But being faster than most of the league is part of Murray’s appeal. And he typically gets out of bounds when he scrambles anyway, so the argument that he’ll automatically get hurt if he takes off every once in a while doesn’t really work. He had 24 rushing yards in the first half, but then still had 24 going into the final two minutes of the game.
Beyond that, the offense is at least moving the ball better. Rondale Moore looked good, and DeAndre Hopkins is uncoverable. They could throw it to him 20 times and it wouldn’t be too much. But the game management is still an issue. Penalties, burning timeouts and taking too long to get the plays in are A) frustrating to your fan base and B) too much to overcome against a good team like the Vikings. And today the Cardinals mixed in turnovers at just the wrong times, too.
By itself, a close road defeat to a 5-1 team isn’t the worst thing ever. Especially when 60 percent of your starting offensive line is injured. But this is when missed opportunities like the losses to the Rams in Week 3 and the Seahawks in Week 6 come back to haunt you. And to be fair, 3-5 doesn’t mean you’re done in the NFC West. The next three games are against Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. One way or another, that’s going to define this season.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: There is a lot to sift through statistically and conversationally, but this 34-26 loss to the Vikings comes down to one simple issue for the Cardinals: they got pushed around on both lines of scrimmage.
It was almost expected by the Cardinals’ offensive line; they were without three starters with D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh and Rodney Hudson missing the game. There was no room to run for Arizona as Eno Benjamin and Darrel Williams combined for 30 yards on 14 carries. Murray was under pressure all day as well.
Meanwhile, the Vikings’ running game gashed the Cardinals’ defense, piling up 173 yards and dictating play.
Despite that, the Cardinals still had chances to win. Their best chance, in my opinion, came on their second-to-last possession of the game. On a third-and-4 from the Minnesota 44-yard line, Murray opted to go to a diving Greg Dortch (short of the sticks) and he couldn’t make the play. On fourth down, Murray dumped it off over the middle (short of the sticks) to Eno Benjamin, who was stopped short of the first down by Jordan Hicks.
Not one throw of the two going to the most unstoppable player on the field, Hopkins. He was once again the biggest weapon offensively with 12 catches for 159 yards and a highlight film touchdown.
Of course, two bad interceptions by Murray and a killer turnover off of a muffed punt by Dortch severely hurt the effort.
The Cardinals continue to struggle in the first quarter — they still haven’t scored a touchdown in the first quarter all year. They continue to struggle with timeout management and are constantly battling the play clock. Players appear confused about where to line up. Even on Murray’s last completion of the game — a 24-yarder from Murray to Hopkins on a broken play on their final possession — there were three receivers in basically the spot on the field.
Eight weeks into the season, too many problems that were evident in Week 1 persist. That is a really big problem.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: There was a certain wash-rinse-repeat feel to this game. Early struggles on both sides of the ball led to an early deficit. The now-predictable rally. An urgent need to call timeouts in moments that shouldn’t require them. Occasional brilliance by Kyler. A yearning to see him run more. And, of course, the latest proof that Hopkins is not of this world.
You know … the usual.
But this game went off script with the three turnovers and the crucial points the Vikings scored off those miscues. Coming in, the Cards were tied for the second-fewest giveaways in the NFL (only five in seven games). Three turnovers turned out to be too much for their delicate infrastructure to handle. The Vikings scored three second-half touchdowns, two were on short fields following Cardinal turnovers. The lack of ball security was a new wrinkle and one that cost the Cards this game.
Truth is the Cardinals aren’t good enough at anything to rise above themselves. The defense makes plays but on Sunday got gashed early on. The offense shows flashes, in particular when Kyler is running or Hopkins is doing his thing. But even he can’t fix everything that isn’t working. Rondale Moore continues to prove he can do things downfield; why it isn’t utilized more is inexplicable. Kyler’s rushes will, at times, spark the offense, but that continues to be an underutilized facet of their game plan. The timeout issue feels like a permanent part of the landscape. There is a randomness to the whole operation that makes the wins this year feel like happy accidents and not part of a plan.
Can they win two of their next three — all against division rivals — to stay relevant? Predict that at your own risk.
Kevin Zimmerman, lead editor of ArizonaSports.com: Operation issues will continue to be the story of the team. Head coach Kingsbury offered to sideline reporter Paul Calvisi afterward that Murray wearing a new play-call sheet on his left arm has something to do with curbing issues getting in and out of the huddles, but the results make it appear that effort isn’t working.
What also isn’t working is anything to do with plays that don’t go to Hopkins. Murray’s lack of juice on deep ball throws showed up again, as did the run game being non-existent for the second time in three weeks.
Maybe the only positives are that the Cardinals staff got good tweaks going in the second half. Arizona’s offense, like it has, looked like it clicked. But turnovers zapped too many possessions.
The defense quietly adjusted to Dalvin Cook dominating in the run game — Arizona gave the Vikings run game some competition in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.