Cardinals turn in another day of uninspiring football in loss to Seahawks
GLENDALE — For a handful of minutes on Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals offense looked like it could do no wrong.
Finally starting a game off with a visible sense of urgency, Arizona made minced meat of an improved Seattle Seahawks defense, needing just nine plays to travel 83 yards and find pay dirt behind a 22-yard catch-and-run by DeAndre Hopkins.
It was some of the cleanest football the offense had played all season, especially that early in a game.
But just when it appeared Arizona’s offense had turned over a new leaf, it came crashing back down to earth in a hurry, reminding all in attendance and watching elsewhere of its consistent inconsistencies on a weekly basis.
The Cardinals may have scored the first touchdown of the afternoon, but it was the Seahawks who got the last laugh in Arizona’s 31-21 loss on Sunday.
With the defeat, the Cardinals now trail the Seahawks by a full three games. Seattle also holds the divisional tiebreaker, further burying Arizona’s chances at winning the NFC West.
“Everyone’s got to evaluate themselves,” quarterback Kyler Murray said postgame. “We understand what’s going on right now as far as just playing bad football. It’s not winning football. That’s the result you’re going to get when you out doing stuff like that.”
After looking like a well-oiled machine out the gate, Arizona got back to its self-inflicting ways, whether it be false start or holding penalties or just flat-out carelessness with the football.
Once again, the Cardinals couldn’t get out of their own way, a recurring theme for this football team in 2022.
“When Cardinals are beating Cardinals, that’s when it’s most frustrating,” offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum said postgame.
“Give credit to the Seahawks today but it’d be different if they were just beating you physically and beating you from an execution and coaching standpoint but it’s Cardinals beating Cardinals right now and that’s the most frustrating.”
Outside of the Cardinals’ opening drive that spanned 83 yards, Arizona was held to 95 and no scores over its final four drives of the first half.
Even when it appeared the Cardinals had figured out something positive, they found a way to ruin it.
After getting out of the shadow of their own end zone late in the second quarter, Murray and Co. were well on their way to ending their three-drive streak of punts and ugly play. Eventually driving down to the Seattle 40-yard line, Arizona faced a fourth-and-four.
Escaping the Seattle pass rush with his legs, Murray took off, clearly having enough for the first down and more. But just as the Red Sea was rising up, the signal caller coughed up the ball with safety Ryan Neal doing just enough in his pursuit to jostle the rock loose.
What looked like a field goal at worst — which would have tied things up at 10-10 — ended up being a massive momentum shift to end the first half.
And unlike the last time the Cardinals were at home, there would be no bailing out the offense from a defensive standpoint. Although, the unit tried mightily behind an interception returned for a touchdown by Mike linebacker Zaven Collins following an Arizona three-and-out to kick off the second half.
Just like that, the Cardinals found themselves with a 14-10 lead. And just like that, they watched it slip right through their fingers in the form of a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on the Seahawks’ ensuing possession.
At that point, the defense looked gassed, having to play more and more with the offense sputtering and coming off the defensive TD with no rest. The Seahawks turned to running back Kenneth Walker at that juncture, who proceeded to churn up yardage and put the game out of reach. He ended the day with 109 yards and two scores on 26 carries as he continues to put the division and league on notice.
For the majority of the evening, it felt like the Cardinals took one step forward and three or four steps back. That’ll happen when the team racks up 12 penalties over the course of the afternoon, with pre-snap issues a common occurrence throughout Sunday.
“Stress, heat of the moment, I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you,” Murray said postgame. “Stuff that can’t happen is happening. I wish I had an answer for you. It’s hard to continue to push ourselves back and try to make up for those yards against teams that are playing (bend-but-don’t-break defense).”
Throw in dropped passes from the likes of Robbie Anderson, who was supposed to be force fed this week as he gets familiar with the playbook, a couple bad snaps on center Billy Price’s part, Murray’s ball insecurity and overall miscommunication and the cards were stacked against Arizona regardless of the competition.
Frustrations are running at an all-time high, with numerous media members hearing a loud crash coming from the locker room postgame. It’s unclear what was said or what exactly went down behind closed doors, but it’s evident something has to change and soon.
Until then, however, Arizona heads back to the drawing board with a plethora of questions that need answered, a regular occurrence for the franchise this year.
“Just for whatever reason we have not been in sync with that stuff all season,” Kingsbury said when asked about the numerous penalties. “It starts with coaches, and then players have to take ownership and responsibility for that. If we can’t stay onside, snap the ball and execute routine plays, it’s going to be tough against quality teams and that’s what ended up getting us.”
“It’s something we have to all look at as a staff and as a team because it’s hurting us,” the head coach added of the self-inflicted mistakes. “I haven’t been around this through this many games where it continues to show up. We’ll continue to talk through it and try to find ways to get it fixed.”