Cardinals start slow, can’t complete comeback vs. Eagles

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The Arizona Cardinals offense couldn’t muster enough to pull off the comeback on Sunday in the 20-17 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium.

While the Arizona offense failed to score in the first quarter and faced a 14-0 deficit early on in the half,, some late second and third quarter firepower produced 17 points.

Philadelphia QB Jalen Hurts dropped two first half rushing touchdowns and 300 total yards. Kyler Murray finished with 292 total yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The loss drops Arizona to 2-3 on the season with the Seattle Seahawks on the horizon on the road next week.

Arizona Sports reporters, editors and hosts reacted to the loss:

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo:

Let’s play the blame game on this one. The Cardinals should have at the very least forced overtime and had a chance to knock off the undefeated Eagles. But a myriad of key mistakes cost them this game and a chance to end this awful home losing streak that is now at 8 games dating back to almost a full calendar year.

Let’s go in chronicle order. First and foremost another slow start for Kliff and the offense. No points in the first quarter again – they have now been shutout in the first quarter of all 5 of their games this season. They got behind 14-0 and had to play from behind again.

These slow starts are killing them and the inability to figure out why this keeps happening is mind-boggling. But the defense balled out again and held Jalen Hurts without a touchdown pass, limited Miles Sanders to 58 yards rushing and completely took A.J. Brown out of the game limiting him to 3 catches for 32 yards to allow the team to get back into the game. And they did climb their way out of another hole only to have two more huge errors haunt them.

Kyler Murray sliding a yard short of the first down and spiking the ball to stop the clock on third down was a colossal mistake. If he just gets the first down, they can spike it on first and have 2-3 more plays for a chance to win the game or get closer for the field goal attempt. But he didn’t, so the kicker, who shall rename nameless, comes out for a simple 43-yard field goal to send the game into overtime and looks as nervous as wildebeest crossing a crocodile-infested river and misses badly.

Tough loss. Not the end of the world if they win next week. But had a chance at a statement win and blew it.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta:

When I watch the Arizona Cardinals on Sundays, I have the same song pounding through my head — “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher.

Yeah, that’s the song that Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors woke up to start every do-over day in the existential comedy Groundhog Day. The same thing, over and over and over again.

The Cardinals are basically Phil Connors at this point — the same thing for the Cardinals is starting slowly on the offensive side. Sunday, in a 20-17 loss to the Eagles, it happened again. Although the Cardinals did get a first down on their first possession (only the second time they’ve accomplished that in their last seven games dating back to last year), they got no points. Couple that with the Eagles’ early offensive production, and once again Arizona found themselves digging out of a hole; this one a 14-point crevasse.

Against the Las Vegas Raiders and Carolina Panthers of the world, you can do that, as the Cardinals have proven. You can’t do it against arguably the best team in the NFL.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury seemed exasperated by another slow start, saying the team is trying everything routine-wise. Kyler Murray disagreed with that statement, saying that the team just needs to practice harder.

Kingsbury’s scripted plays to begin games haven’t worked. The first 15 on Sunday produced 47 yards, zero points and a turnover. There would not be a Hollywood bidding war on any script written by Kingsbury right now. The first-quarter offense has yet to produce a point in 75 minutes of football.

Many Cardinals fans will blame Murray for sliding short of the sticks on the final drive of the game, when he thought he had a first down. Yes, you can question his awareness or his desire to gain a hard, physical yard in a crunch-time situation if you really want to. Then, thinking he had a first down (everyone on the Cardinals’ sideline did too), he clocked the ball on 3rd down, necessitating a 42-yard field goal attempt by Matt Ammendola, who was in for the injured Matt Prater. But had Murray gained the first down, the game still likely would have come down to a makeable kick to send it to overtime. NFL kickers have to hit those.

The Cardinals are heading into Week 6 of the season still trying to concoct a way to start faster and still trying to find a way to win at home. It’s not an enviable position to be in.

Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com Cardinals reporter and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast:

It didn’t take long into Arizona’s Week 5 matchup for the same ole Cardinals to show up. You know, the ones that for some reason can’t figure it out at home. An early 14-0 deficit said all you needed to know.

Instead of watching another first half slip away, though, Arizona responded with 10 unanswered points before halftime. Things were looking up for a team that has made it a habit of showing up in the latter halves of games, especially at home.

And that it did, with Arizona eventually knotting things up in the fourth quarter against the last unbeaten team in the NFL.

But just as the Cardinals looked poised for pay dirt and their first home win since last season over the course of their final drive, a Kyler Murray slide short of the first down and ensuing spike cursed Arizona’s comeback effort. Make no mistake, this was the Cardinals’ game to win. They clearly looked like they had the Eagles on the ropes. They just had to finish.

The loss is certainly not sitting well with the team or its fans, and rightfully so. That’s not to say there wasn’t some good to come out of this one.

For a second straight game, the defense looked decent, holding the high-powered Eagles offense to just six second-half points. That’s the type of performance to build off of.

It was also good to see Rondale Moore get involved away from the line of scrimmage, although it took about a half to figure that out. Kingsbury mentioned the wide receiver’s confidence improved in the second half. They need more of that from the shifty Moore.

Philadelphia represents the cream of the crop in the NFL right now. Arizona could have gotten its doors blown off on both sides of the football and instead took the away team down to the wire. It’s beyond frustrating but it is a move in the right direction.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo:

You gotta make the kick. Understand this, this loss starts there but it doesn’t end there. There are so many things you can ultimately point to in a game like that but let’s start with the obvious; you gotta make the kick. And I will probably draw the wrath of Justin Pugh, who passionately stood up for Matt Ammendola in the postgame locker room.

With a loss like that, you can point to another slow start, a long drive at the end of the first half that yielded only a short field goal, a huge drop by Hollywood Brown, an overthrow by Kyler and a false start on Kelvin Beachum on the final drive. And to Pugh’s point, those are just the ones we saw. I’m sure the tape will reveal all kinds of flaws.

Even if Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray had realized he was short of the sticks on second down, how many more yards would you have gained if you ran another play on third down? And would you dare run a play after picking up the first down? If Kyler does everything right in those last two plays before the kick, how many more yards do they ultimately gain? Three? Four? I don’t think they would have tried anything deep down the field; they were out of timeouts. Even if he dives and doesn’t slide, I don’t think you’re talking about a field goal that is now infinitely more makeable than it was otherwise.

The shame of all of it was twofold; a chance to make a statement vs. the team considered to be the best in the league and a chance to win in a building where you haven’t won in nearly a full calendar year. In front of a bunch of traveling Eagles fans whose hearts you could have broken. 3-3 with DeAndre Hopkins back is still attainable. At that point you can hit the reset button and find out what you can truly become this year. It just would have been so much more fun to do it here and now.

Luke Lapinksi, co-host of Wolf & Luke:

I’d always rather start with the bad news and finish with the good. And the bad news today is another loss at home. That’s ultimately the biggest thing to come out of this game, so I don’t want anything else I say to come off as minimizing that. They’re 2-3, and they can’t buy a win at State Farm Stadium. It’s been almost a full calendar year now, and today’s loss was especially brutal.

The way this one ended seems almost unfair for the Cardinals fans in the building that had to endure Philly fans all day. And for the defense who held the only undefeated team in the league to 20 points. Yes, they struggled on that final drive. But they still held the only undefeated team in the league to 20 points and a season-low 357 yards. That should be enough for a win.

The final two minutes felt like a series of events conspiring against the Cardinals. They would’ve had another timeout if Jalen Thompson hadn’t gotten injured on the third down stop. And they wouldn’t have had to kick the field goal yet if they had that timeout, or if Kyler Murray had just taken an extra yard that he surely could’ve got before sliding. Or if he hadn’t missed Zach Ertz a few seconds earlier. And on top of all of that, that wasn’t even that long of a field goal. It’s a kick Matt Prater makes but he – like half the kickers in the NFL this season – is hurt.

Like I said, there’s no point in spinning the result into anything good. But it’s worth remembering that we all said this team needed to find a way to go at least 3-3 to survive until DeAndre Hopkins gets back and that’s still in play with a trip to Seattle next week. They did just nearly do what no one else in this league has done this season and beat the Eagles. Eno Benjamin and Zach Allen are rapidly becoming impact players and, as a team, they’re finally showing some fight and resiliency that just wasn’t there at the end of last season.

That’s the good news, and it’s substantive. They’re showing legitimate signs of turning this around. But we’re well past the point of moral victories. This isn’t college football, and this isn’t a rebuild. They need to actually string some wins together right now, and they need to start doing it at home too.

That, and they should probably start scoring some points in the first quarter. It hasn’t happened since Jan. 9. So I guess I ended this with some bad news after all.

Erik Ruby, Arizona Sports contributor and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast:

The Philadelphia Eagles did not beat the Arizona Cardinals today. The Arizona Cardinals beat the Arizona Cardinals.

I understand the Eagles have a legit chance at being the last team standing in the NFC, and the Cardinals played them better than most had expected them to. However, a series of mistakes on the final drive by your franchise quarterback and Matt Amendola’s inability to hit a routine kick meant Arizona’s home losing streak was extended one more week.

To Kyler Murray’s defense, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said both he and Murray believed K1 got the first down when he slid. Understanding where you are exactly while running full speed is not an easy task, but you need to be better at understanding your situation before spiking and wasting a down, especially without your starting kicker.

I’ll try not to get too distracted by the fact this game will go on their record as a loss, or that they started slow again. Instead, I’ll focus on the defense stepping up yet again and refusing to break after getting punched in the mouth off the bat.

DE Zach Allen (pay the man), CB Byron Murphy Jr. and S Jalen Thompson all have a chance to join S Budda Baker as long-term staples on the Cardinals’ defense who make game-changing plays.

WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown continued to impress and show his value as a No. 1 while we eagerly await the rapidly approaching return of WR DeAndre Hopkins. The offense looked BETTER than before and as long as improvements continue to be made I can’t be too angry.

I want to hold them to the standard of a Super Bowl contender, and in some aspects I do, but right now they aren’t playing at that level.

It would be wise to appreciate the little improvements they make each week while still demanding greater execution and results going forward.

The Cardinals have a slim chance to get to their peak eventually because they’ve proven the ability to to adapt and fight with their backs against the wall.

This team faced a lot of adversity this season in various forms, from injuries to suspensions it felt never ending. While 2-3 after five weeks isn’t ideal, it’s not the worst.

Arizona has A LOT to fix going forward, WR Rondale Moore’s route tree needs to be stretched past the line of scrimmage, Murray needs to tune in his accuracy on deep passes as this offense desperately needs this and, of course, they need to score in the first quarter.

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