Good vibes gone after Cardinals’ fifth-straight loss
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Even with the outcome long decided, first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury left Kyler Murray in the game, letting his rookie quarterback take all the snaps until the frustrating, miserable end.
There isn’t much positive the Arizona Cardinals can take from their 34-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
Kingsbury says he hopes the game can still be useful as the franchise tries to get back to winning ways.
“Even the negative experiences, you have to learn from, you have to get better from, and this was certainly one of those,” Kingsbury said on Sunday.
Arizona (3-8-1) had been building momentum through much of the season until the Rams came to town. Even though there were more losses than wins, there was a general feeling that Murray was improving, Kingsbury was quickly learning how to call an NFL game, and the Cardinals were heading in the right direction.
The lopsided loss brought a halt to those good vibes in a hurry.
“We had the week off and felt like we were in good shape health-wise,” Kingsbury said. “But we didn’t coach well, didn’t play well and have to get it right this week.”
The Cardinals wasted little time shaking up the roster Monday, releasing veteran cornerback Tramaine Brock Sr. and running back Zach Zenner. Brock started on Sunday, had played in 10 games this season and was sixth on the team with 37 tackles.
But the secondary had another rough day against the Rams, giving up 424 yards passing and two touchdowns. The Cardinals rank last in the NFL in passing defense, allowing more than 300 yards per game.
Not much. Murray ran for a 15-yard touchdown late in the game, giving hope that a hamstring issue that bothered him last week won’t be lingering. Veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald continues to be productive and led the team with six catches for 56 yards.
What needs help
There are plenty of choices, but fixing the defense is the top priority.
It’s easy to blame the secondary — and it’s certainly had issues — but it’s not helping that the Cardinals aren’t able to generate a consistent pass rush. Players have said that communication on the field continues to be a problem.
“We’ve practiced 95 percent of the plays where guys were running wide open,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “It’s absolutely unacceptable.”
Punter Andy Lee. The fact that the punter was arguably the Cardinals’ best player on Sunday says a lot about the game. Lee at least made the Rams earn most of their points, with four of his seven punts falling inside the 20.
The offensive line. The Cardinals’ line of D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh, A.Q. Shipley, J.R. Sweezy and Justin Murray has stayed relatively healthy and played better than most expected for much of the year. But the group struggled to contain the Rams’ pass rush, with Murray absorbing several big hits he’s managed to avoid most of the season.
Kingsbury said Monday that defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard is likely out for a few weeks with a hamstring injury. He also said safety Jalen Thompson was hit in the head and would be evaluated this week.
107 — Rams tight end Tyler Higbee caught seven passes for a career-high 107 yards and a touchdown. All of the production came in the first half as Los Angeles built a 20-0 halftime lead. The Cardinals have struggled to contain opposing tight ends all season and Sunday was no exception.
The Cardinals’ main problems were confined to the defense for most of the past month, but now the offense needs some attention, too.
Mainly, Arizona is fighting against apathy over the next four weeks.
“We have four more opportunities to be better and win those games,” Murray said. “We’re not just here to go through the motions and lose. I think everybody understands that and we just have to go back to work and get better.”