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Here's why Thursday's loss to the Packers is on much more than A.J. Green for the Cardinals

Johnny Venerable Avatar
October 29, 2021

Seven weeks into the NFL season and the Arizona Cardinals have finally lost a football game.

It had been so long since the Redbirds had tasted defeated that many of us, including myself, had semi-forgotten what it felt like not to see this Cardinal team come out victorious. We’ve been conditioned to expect not only quality football but flat our dominant performances from a team on a historic start to the season.

Yet if we’re being honest with ourselves, the Cardinals fully deserved their 24-21 home loss to the visiting Green Bay Packers. They were dominated in time possession by nearly 15 minutes, while losing the turnover battle (0-3) in the process. The Cardinal offense, for the second consecutive week, looked completely dejected to begin the game. On the flip side, All-Pro Aaron Rodgers was down right surgical in carving up the league’s top scoring defense without the large majority of his receiving targets.

In their first nationally televised game of the season, the Cardinals made a slew of mistakes that inevitably added up to a 3-point loss.

This of course culminated on the game’s final play in which Kyler Murray targeted A.J. Green for what he hoped would be the go ahead score. In reality, with roughly 15 seconds remaining and the Cardinals down three, Green never turned around to look for the football. As a result, former Cardinal now Packer defensive back Rasual Douglas intercepted Murray to ice the game.

The play was baffling on so many levels considering the Cardinals positioning on the field in conjunction with the time remaining. In what was so clearly a passing situation, Green positioned himself as if he was going to block in the run game. As a result, the Arizona Cardinals were noticeably shocked as the Packers celebrated their triumphant road win.

“We’re not gonna put this on one guy,” said running back James Conner.

The play itself has become a large point of contention with media and fans alike, as it looked like Green was completely unprepared for the scenario. Both Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury labeled the play as a “miscommunication” while failing to lay blame on any one singular factor.

“We feel like the back shoulder is the safe throw,” said Kingsbury with regards to the play selection in the games final seconds.

The reality is, while it’s likely Green did screw up, the Cardinals rightfully aren’t going to point figures when you consider they were outplayed for most of the evening. Up until that point, Green was one of the primary reasons the Cardinal passing game had any life at all. That’s in part because DeAndre Hopkins was severely comprised with a lingering hamstring injury that had plagued him all week.

Before Green’s eventual miscue, he helped bail out the Cardinal offense with 23-yard third down reception when the unit was backed up on the 1-yard line. While he certainly could have played better, this was a top-to-bottom team loss for the previously unbeaten Birds.

“It’s hard to lose period. It’s an “L”,”said D.J. Humphries during a visibly frustrating post game presser.

“We’re all competitors…we don’t’ want to lose.”

For the first time in weeks, Kyler Murray was fairly average for most of the game while securing his sixth and seventh interceptions of the season. It appeared that Murray was affected early by interior pressure thanks to the continued struggles of guard Josh Jones.

On the flip side, the Arizona defense was clearly not the same unit just 24 hours after the announcement that J.J. Watt would likely miss the remainder of the season. Compound that with rookie LB Zaven Collins leaving the game early in the first quarter with an shoulder injury, and it was a recipe for disaster against the Packers’ ground attack. What had been one of the more physical fronts in football was carved up from start to finish by an undermanned Packer offense led by their Hall of Fame QB.

A.J. Dillon, in particular, seemingly did what he wanted against the Arizona Cardinals front seven. It’s a wonder why Packer head coach Matt LaFleur opted to throw the ball as much as he did considering his lack of quality receiving options available. There was numerous instances, especially toward the game of the game, in which the Packers could have widened their lead had they just leaned on Dillon.

Alas, the end result was a State Farm Stadium that unfortunately housed way too many Packer fans to celebrate the win. The Cardinals have the personnel to rebound from this loss especially when you consider they may see the return of several injured players over the next 10 days. Regardless, even with all their blemishes Thursday night, Arizona had opportunities to win which is a testament to their talent level and eventual ceiling as a contender.

“We aren’t going to let one play define us and what we’re building,” said running back James Conner.

“We love competing, we love going to work each and every day.”

For the Arizona Cardinals, the work starts now and it’s on to San Francisco.

Quick Hits

  • Kyler Murray was seen noticeably limping following the game’s final play as he embraced players at midfield. In addition, Murray was seen wearing a walking boot while exiting the stadium Thursday night. The third year signal caller predictably downplayed the injury but will likely benefit from extended time off prior to next Sunday’s game at San Francisco.
  • Whatever is going on with Chandler Jones has to be alarming for the Arizona Cardinals. After returning for the first time in two weeks following his stint battling COVID-19, Jones was essentially a ghost against Green Bay. Netting a mere one tackle on the evening, Chandler Jones is now sackless since securing five in week one.
  • After a strong start to the evening, Bryon Murphy struggled in the red zone containing Packer receiver Randall Cobb. Murphy has been such a standout this season that it becomes that much more alarming to see him struggle in moments like this. It should be noted that both touchdown passes were thrown in places in which only Cobb could nab.
  • Rondale Moore finally had his “welcome to the NFL” moment Thursday after blundering a punt return that eventually led to a Packer field goal. With how great Moore has been so quickly, we forget that he’s not only a rookie but hasn’t played consistent football since 2018.
  • With the absence of J.J. Watt, the defensive line for the Cardinals was relatively average against the Packers. Jordan Phillips did manage to secure some pressures on Rodgers, but the unit as a whole needs to be better. Kingsbury alluded to the pending return of DTs Corey Peters and Rashard Lawrence as key additions that should help.
  • After his two score performance Thursday night, James Conner now has an unprecedented eight touchdowns in his last six games. He has been a consistent bright spot for this offense and is also one of the most vocal leaders on the team.
  • Third string center Sean Harlow fared relatively average against the Packers save for a sack allowed and an errant snap late. Thankfully, Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson is officially eligible to return from injured reserve next week against San Francisco.
  • Tight end Zach Ertz managed to haul in all four targets that were thrown his way, one of which was a critical snag in traffic on fourth down. In only two weeks span, it’s clear he and Murray are already building chemistry in the passing game.
  • The Arizona Cardinal offensive line has allowed eight sacks in their last two games. That has to improve or Kyler Murray won’t last all season.

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