‘Not good enough:’ Kyler Murray, Cardinals flop mightily vs. Rams
Nov 26, 2023, 7:36 PM | Updated: Nov 27, 2023, 8:48 am
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
GLENDALE — For a second straight game, the Arizona Cardinals struck fast behind quarterback Kyler Murray.
And for a second straight game, that was the highlight of the day for Arizona offensively in a lopsided 37-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12.
Based on the Cardinals’ opening drive, that’s not the score many in attendance envisioned when the clock read zero at State Farm Stadium, but here we are.
“Not good enough, obviously, today,” head coach Jonathan Gannon said postgame. “Felt like we didn’t match their level of effort and enthusiasm throughout the game. That falls solely on me when you get beat like that.
“We got to take a good hard look of how we’re setting up the week, because it really wasn’t competitive in my mind. That’s on me first and the coaches next. We got to put together a better plan going into Pittsburgh.”
A closer look at what went right and what went wrong in Murray’s third game back from a torn ACL and Arizona’s 10th loss of the season:
The blueprint to success
After watching the Rams cut through the defense with ease on their way to an opening-drive touchdown from Matthew Stafford to Tyler Higbee, Murray and the Cardinals followed suit.
Needing three more plays than L.A. to go the distance, Arizona wrapped up a 12-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown scamper from Murray himself before rookie Clayton Tune had himself pushed in for the two-point conversion.
The possession not only ended with Arizona taking an early lead against a team that has consistently had its number in recent memory, but it also gave the Cardinals the perfect blueprint to follow.
Despite using a heavy dose of shotgun since Murray’s return the past two weeks, offensive coordinator Drew Petzing opted for a much more balanced attack with five plays under center to seven out of the gun.
The nearly even distribution resulted in four plays of at least 12 yards that helped put Murray and Co. in position to find paydirt early out the gates.
Just when it looked like the Cardinals had found their blueprint to follow, they went away from it completely for some reason or another.
Despite finding that early success, the offense reverted back to a whole lot of shotgun.
The results were far from encouraging.
In the five drives that followed Arizona’s scoring possession, Murray operated out of shotgun 15 times compared to just once from under center.
Not once did the Cardinals get close to sniffing the end zone in any of those possessions, instead booting three punts and registering a turnover on downs.
Even when it looked like the Cardinals would walk away with some kind of points on a 56-yard field goal from Matt Prater to end the half, the successful attempt was nullified due to an offensive holding penalty.
Despite completing all but one of his six passes and putting up 50 yards through the air, Murray finished the first half with just 66 yards on 8-of-17 passing.
As for any halftime adjustments back to what worked, there wasn’t much change, with Murray logging two snaps from under center to 22 out of the gun the rest of the way.
The results were much of the same, all the way down to a(nother) Prater miss and a garbage-time touchdown to show for.
“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be right now, but we got to keep going,” Murray said.
No time and little chances
The Cardinals’ offensive woes can be summed up by a few stats:
– Five three-and-outs
– 6-for-17 on third down (35%)
– 25:08 in time of possession compared to 34:52
Arizona’s most egregious stretch came after its opening-drive TD in the first half, with four of the next five possessions ending in three plays.
“We can’t allow that to happen,” Murray said on the offensive struggles after the opening drive. “Just bad football. We’ll be better because of it. We got to watch and be able to judge what went wrong.”
The only time the Cardinals were on the field any longer in the first half was a four-play drive that resulted in a turnover on downs.
No matter who you have on the roster, that’s not going to translate to wins.
“I’m sure they made some plays, but we got to get in rhythm and get some first downs so we can sustain drives and we can get plays off that are good and that accentuate our guys,” Gannon said.
“It’s hard when you’re going three-and-out and the scoreboard’s ticking on the other side. That’s deflating. We just got to find a better balance of getting in rhythm with the run and pass game and making sure we’re staying on the field a little bit to give ourselves a chance to score points.”
“Not discouraged at all”
Murray didn’t mince words after his 256-yard, one-touchdown performance on 27-of-45 passing.
“We got beat,” he said postgame.
The QB, however, isn’t letting Sunday’s tough loss cloud his vision or dampen his approach.
“I’m staying positive,” Murray said postgame. “This is my third game, seventh week of practice. There are obviously growing pains with this. It’s a new scheme, new everything for me.
“I’m not discouraged at all by it. We’ll be better because of it, but these are some of the things we’ve got to go through. It’s part of it.”
The Cardinal killer
In two games against the Rams, the Cardinals have had no answer for Kyren Williams.
Against the Cardinals in Week 6, he ripped off 158 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Six weeks later it was much of the same result, with Williams turning in 143 yards on 16 carries.
He did even more damage as a pass catcher behind six catches on six targets for 61 yards and two touchdowns.
The absence of MIKE backer and leader Kyzir White was felt hard on Sunday.
Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua may be the headliners, but it was Williams who put the Rams over the top on Sunday.
His and Stafford’s play was too much to overcome for the defense as a whole, with the Rams totaling 457 yards of offense to the Cardinals’ 292.
It was a balanced attack from L.A., which turned in 228 yards on the ground and 229 through the air on Sunday.
“(We just have to) continue to compete,” safety Budda Baker said postgame. “This game isn’t promised to us. We take it one day at a time and we just go to work, trying to be the best players we can be. It’s all about competing.
“I know our record isn’t the way we want it to be, but we have more opportunities to play football and that’s what we have to do.”