Jonathan Gannon’s State Farm Stadium woes continue in Cardinals’ loss to Giants

Sep 17, 2023, 6:19 PM | Updated: Sep 18, 2023, 9:31 am

GLENDALE — State Farm Stadium hasn’t been kind to Jonathan Gannon. Which is a problem if you’re the first-year head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

On Sunday, the Cardinals squandered a 21-point lead in the second half. Their defense yielded 31 points and 358 yards in the final 30 minutes. And as they walked off a brutal loss in Gannon’s Arizona debut, trolls in Philadelphia cackled with glee.

“Looks just like the second half of the Super Bowl!” one of them said in an email.

It’s hard to feel good about a 31-28 loss to New York, the largest Giants’ comeback in the Super Bowl era. In his last two games in Glendale, Gannon’s defense has given up 55 second-half points. The Cardinals did everything they needed to do to blow a commanding halftime lead, and Gannon blamed himself exclusively, covering for everyone in his vicinity.

But it’s not hard to see the progress.

The 2023 Cardinals are this close to being 2-0. They are clearly not the worst team in the NFL nor are they tanking for USC star Caleb Williams. They fought their way out of that narrative on Sunday by manhandling the Giants for 2.5 quarters.

The team showed off its newfound appetite for physicality. Quarterback Josh Dobbs took a quantum leap in performance, just as he promised. The Cardinals had 104 yards of total offense after just two series, a market improvement from the 210 total yards produced in Week 1. And when Dobbs ran through a Giants defender on his way to a rushing touchdown, you could almost feel the Valley swooning over its new quarterback.

There are many ways to lead in the NFL. Serving as your own lead blocker on a touchdown run is very effective.

“We fight,” Dobbs said. “One hundred percent, we fight. We can compete with anyone. And when we execute, we’re a difficult offense to stop.”

But then the bottom fell out of the tub. The Cardinals offense lost its aggression and creativity. Without injured star Budda Baker, the defense wore down. The new coaching staff learned some painful lessons on the fly about finishing in the NFL. And with each successful drive, the visiting Giants emboldened and inspired their legion of fans inside State Farm Stadium

This represents the ultimate failure. The best way to rid this stadium of infidels and bipartisan crowds is to beat the opposing team like a marching drum. To make it fruitless and emotionally painful for all enemy fans who dare step inside State Farm Stadium. The Cardinals were very close to making that point emphatically, very close to planting the first seeds of their next great home-field advantage.

Instead, the scene turned ugly. Tied at 28 with a chance to win the game, the Cardinals committed successive false start penalties because of excessive crowd noise. Because Giants fans found their voices and made communication very difficult. It would happen again on the Cardinals’ ill-fated final possession, and in the end, the team was once again victimized by their home-field disadvantage.

That makes Sunday’s defeat a bitter loss to swallow regardless of progress and entertainment value. After all, it’s hard to feel good when the post-game party is all dressed up in blue.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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