Rapid reactions: Cardinals fall further behind in NFC West with loss to Seahawks

Nov 6, 2022, 6:04 PM | Updated: Nov 7, 2022, 9:24 am

The Arizona Cardinals knew the opportunity ahead of them entering Sunday.

With three division games in a row starting with the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks, Arizona had the chance to make strides in the race.

Sunday was a setback, as the Cardinals (3-6) fell 31-21 at home vs. Seattle (6-3) to drop to three games back.

The Cardinals started the game on the right foot, scoring a touchdown on their opening possession for the first time this season.

But the offense silenced, not producing another point until late in the fourth quarter.

Arizona Sports hosts reacted to the loss:

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo:

This was it. Anyone who doesn’t think this season is OVA is a fool. At 3-6 the Cardinals are toast – time to start looking at mock drafts and see which OL and edge rusher are going to be available with Arizona’s top 10 pick. The truth is Kyler Murray regressed, Kliff Kingsbury’s offense has been garbage and his team is almost always undisciplined; and too many of the guys Steve Keim brought in aren’t playing well enough.

The Cardinals have a HUGE investment in Kyler Murray – he is not going anywhere. But a decision at some point in the next 8 weeks needs to be made on whether Kliff is the guy to get Kyler to the next level or if they need to hire someone else to get more out of him. Kingsbury got them from 3 wins to 5 to 8 to 11 and the playoffs but he may not have the ability to take this team any further.

And Kyler is on the verge of being just what Arizona feared and why many people wanted to wait before extending his contract – a mediocre quarterback in the mold of a Jay Cutler. Just good enough to keep but not good enough to win you anything. These are trying times in Arizona. There are a lot more questions than answers with this football team.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta:

The Arizona Cardinals and their lackluster 3-5 record still found themselves in the mix of competition in a muddled and underwhelming NFC West heading into Sunday.

With a three-week stretch against the other three foes in the division, the feeling this week was that a win over Seattle could recharge the batteries and turn around the season, which is now past the midway point.

A couple of issues were ironed out in a 31-21 loss to the Seahawks, but ultimately it feels like this season is unsalvageable for the guys in red.

The Cardinals finally scored a touchdown in the first quarter — a first-drive score, no less, but followed that up by gaining a total of nine yards on their next three possessions. Timeout usage wasn’t an issue for the first time in recent memory.

One thing that wasn’t corrected was the Cardinals’ dink-and-dunk horizontal approach to offense. Kyler Murray completed 25 of 35 passes but for only 175 yards. That’s 5.0 yards per attempt. Nothing goes down the field. Arizona had one passing play that covered over 18 yards, and that was a short pass-and-run that DeAndre Hopkins turned into a touchdown. The offensive line is banged up, and Will Hernandez was injured during the game. But the depth of that unit (or lack thereof) has been exposed. Murray was sacked five times and under duress for much of the game.

The defense, which has been a bright spot for much of a dark season, wasn’t good enough to win on Sunday. Zaven Collins’ impressive pick-six to give the Cardinals a 14-10 lead with 9:18 left in the third quarter should have been the impetus for success the rest of the way. Instead, the Seahawks feasted, gaining 241 yards and scoring three touchdowns on their remaining possessions to slam the door shut. Seattle gashed the Cardinals’ defense on bootleg passes, including a dagger of a 51-yarder to tight end Noah Fant on their last TD drive. Seattle converted 10 of 15 third downs, including their last seven. Not good enough.

Starting Wednesday, the nation’s football fanatics will get an inside look at the Cardinals as Hard Knocks premieres on HBO. Will they be watching a team figuring it out and saving its season or a team fracturing from the inside?

The latter seems way more probable.

Luke Lapinksi, co-host of Wolf & Luke:

I generally try be an optimist. Especially when it comes to sports. After all, this is supposed to be fun, right?

There’s nothing fun about this team right now, though. It’s not just the losing. That happens. It’s how they’re losing. Eight pre-snap penalties. Has any team ever won anything with eight pre-snap penalties? And it’s Week 9, so why should I think that’s suddenly going to get better in Week 10?

Honestly, no other stat really matters after eight pre-snap penalties, but five targets for DeAndre Hopkins would be second on the list. Especially when he was the key to marching right down the field and scoring on the Cardinals’ first drive of the game. After that they largely ignored him. And nobody’s going to convince me Seattle’s secondary suddenly figured out how to cover the guy nobody can cover.

What’s the point of holding your breath for six weeks until Hopkins comes back if you barely glance at him in the second half of your most meaningful game of the season? He was supposed to be the difference — especially against the Seahawks, since Arizona didn’t have him when these two teams met last month.

Maybe it wouldn’t have changed the outcome anyway. After all, they did finally go to Hopkins in the red zone late and he came up with the ball for his second score of the day … only to have it called back because of — wait for it — another pre-snap penalty.

Teams have rallied from a 3-6 start to make the playoffs before. It’s not unheard of. And with seven teams making it from a relatively wide open NFC, it’s hardly impossible. But there’s that eternal optimism again. Does this look like an offense that can generate six wins in these final eight games? Is it even going to generate six wins total all season?

The injury issues are real. Just when Arizona finally gets back to playing with 60% of the starting offensive line, Will Hernandez goes down. And by the way, it turns out Robbie Anderson is not Hollywood Brown. But you don’t get points for having a tougher road than your opponent. This is the hand they were dealt, and they need to grind through it. The stretch run is here and the Cardinals are getting left behind. And Hard Knocks starts Wednesday.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo:

Everything is broken. It’s the title of an old Bob Dylan song. It’s also the state of the Cardinals. Their offensive line. Their offense, period. Their discipline. Their defense. Their chances. It’s all in shambles right now. Just in time for the Hard Knocks cameras to give us an all-access pass to the mess.

At 3-6 the season is officially adrift. This is a football team that has lost 11 of its last 15 football games dating back to last year. Simply put, it has been one of the worst teams in football all year. Any playoff conversation belongs in an air-tight jar, on a shelf, not to be opened for some time. 6-2 in their last eight games is not going to happen.

How did we get here? You watched the game, you know. Another anemic offensive performance that not even the great DeAndre Hopkins could save. So many pre-snap penalties you need two hands to count them. An offensive line stretched so thin with injuries that it was bound to crack. Kliff suggested fatigue for his defense in the second half and while certainly that was a factor, tired doesn’t completely explain a Seahawks team that converted seven straight third-downs in the second half or a 51-yard catch-and-run with the game on the line. Zaven Collins’ pick-six changed the game for a moment or two, but two dropped interceptions left far more of an indelible mark; they were both followed up by touchdowns on the very next play.

So now what?

Is Kliff Kingsbury still the coach by the time you read this? It’s never been louder than it is right now. Or does he offer up his play-calling duties as a sacrifice in one last attempt to stir this lifeless offense? The poorly-timed contract extensions to both Kingsbury and Steve Keim and the outbreak of the injuries certainly complicate the issue. But a change at coach feels inevitable, be it today, tomorrow, next week or at the end of the season. Gambo has said it many times and he’s not wrong. Kyler Murray is the one guy in this whole equation (outside of Michael Bidwill, of course) who isn’t going anywhere. Making him the best version of himself is priority number one. With each passing game, Kingsbury feels less and less like the coach to make that happen.

Tyler Drake, Cardinals Corner co-host and editor:

And here I was thinking Halloween was over.

The Cardinals offense treated us all with a first-quarter touchdown on the opening drive of their matchup with the Seahawks on Sunday, only to turn around and trick us into thinking it finally had it all figured out. So much for that sense of urgency we saw on the first possession. The Cardinals basically went to a mansion looking for king-sized candy bars and got dental floss and carrots.

You could probably copy/paste this from my last rapid reaction after a loss: The Cardinals couldn’t get out of their own way — too many careless penalties and poor ball security — and dropped another winnable game, this time against the best of NFC West (that’s still weird to write). Robbie Anderson was “force fed” things on Sunday and proceeded to throw them up (hat tip to Burnsy) behind some bad drops.

The Seahawks now hold a near-insurmountable lead over the Cardinals in the division. The wiggle room that was once there? Yeah, that’s gone.

The defense did all it could once again. Zaven Collins is growing up in front of our eyes. His first career INT and TD return is yet another positive in his strong 2022. But the defense cannot and should not be tasked with making up for this anemic offense. There are no excuses. The offense has more than enough talent to be rolling out these types of performances on a nearly weekly basis.

It’s crazy to think this team was even favored entering the matchup with the clear disconnect this offense is showing.

Blame deserves to be shared across the board offensively after this one. The defense can only do so much — it’s currently pacing the NFL with five touchdowns this season.

I know Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim got their extensions this offseason. Firing anyone less than a year in after handing out massive pay days isn’t a great look. But at what point do those optics outweigh what is being rolled out on the football field? Sometimes, you just have to swallow your pride and acknowledge you made a mistake.

Arizona’s season of Hard Knocks — which has the timely debut date of this upcoming Wednesday — might have to be re-categorized as a soap opera with how this year is unfolding and what might be lurking in the shadows these next few weeks with how this year is unfolding.

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Rapid reactions: Cardinals fall further behind in NFC West with loss to Seahawks