Glendale / Munich – “It’s just bad football.”
There is no better way to sum up the current situation of the Arizona Cardinals, especially since these words come from quarterback Kyler Murray himself.
A few weeks ago, the traditional club was still the favorite for the Super Bowl, now Arizona is no longer one of the best four teams in the NFC. How can this rapid crash be explained?
Arizona Cardinals: Despite losing streak in the playoffs
Kyler Murray’s face spoke volumes as he faced the press after the bitter 16:22 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. After a perfect start to the season with seven wins from seven games, the defeat on matchday 16 was the third in a row.
“We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and limit our mistakes because we could definitely have made this game victorious,” said Murray. Countless penalties and two missed field goals by kicker Matt Prater ultimately sealed the fifth defeat of the season.
“Good teams don’t make mistakes, but right now we just aren’t doing what needs to be done.”
The only consolation for Arizona: Due to the defeat of the Minnesota Vikings, Murray and Co. have at least the ticket for the playoffs in their pockets (click here for the current playoff picture).
Arizona Cardinals: And every year the groundhog greets you
2021 is becoming more and more of a deja vu for the battered franchise, which only had six playoff wins in the Super Bowl era (the last in January 2016) and has been waiting for a title in the NFL since 1947.
Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s team also started the season successfully last year, but after a 6-3 start the Cardinals lost five of their last seven games and missed the playoffs that were believed to be certain.
In the past eight games, Arizona has lost five times, including an unexpected and well-deserved loss to the Detroit Lions, who at the time had only one win on their credit side.
It is not just the unnecessary penalties and mental carelessness errors that have pulled the Cardinals into their current downward spiral.
Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins are haunted by injuries
Injuries have followed Arizona all year round and paved the way for the current losing streak in the middle of the season. In a three-game period, both Murray (ankle injury) and his favorite play station DeAndre Hopkins (groin problems) were sidelined.
The Cardinals ended the period with two wins and only one loss, but the aftermath can still be felt today: Murray has not been the same since his comeback on matchday 13 against Chicago, Hopkins suffered a serious knee injury a week later against Los Angeles to.
The subsequent operation will cost the star receiver, who was not able to book a single 100-yard game in 2021, for the rest of the regular season.
Arizona Cardinals: Offense is springy
Otherwise, the offense was hardly noticeable, with the receivers AJ Green, Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore and running back James Conner, Arizona has the eighth best unit in the NFL (376.5 yards on average).
Only the effectiveness left a lot to be desired in the past few weeks: Murray had six touchdowns in the past four games (four passing, two rushing), up to his injury there had been 20 endzone trips in eight games.
Against Indianapolis, Conner was also missing, who has run 14 touchdowns so far (two more caught).
Achilles heel: the kicking game
Even the defense, which for many years was known as the Cardinals’ great Achilles heel, has little debt this year: Here, too, Arizona is one of the best teams in the league, with Coordinator Vance Joseph’s unit allowing 324.3 yards per game (eighth best value).
Although star newcomer JJ Watt has had to pause with a serious shoulder injury since matchday 8, the defense does not allow much else. The 24 forced turnovers also speak for the defensive rows around Star-Safety Budda Baker.
Only the kicking game about the experienced Matt Prater is worrying: With a success rate of 76.6%, the Cardinals are currently in 26th place in a league-wide comparison. This can be decisive, especially in tight and competitive games such as against the Colts or in the playoffs.
Kingsbury and Murray: Game against Dallas should turn things around
Kliff Kingsbury claims to have identified the injuries as the main cause of the crisis. “I think some guys want to help too much with the failures at certain points,” suggested the 42-year-old head coach after the recent defeat.
“We have to play one game at a time, do our jobs properly, collect ourselves and then repeat the process.”
An important test on Sunday is the game at the Dallas Cowboys (from 10:25 p.m. live on ProSieben and ran.de). With their series of defeats, the Cardinals now occupy second place in the NFC-West and fifth place overall in the playoff picture.
“At the end of the day, you have to keep going,” says Kyler Murray. “We want to go out there, show what we can do and feel good about it. This problem can be fixed.”
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