In Week 3, the 2-0 Arizona Cardinals will travel to take on the lowly 0-2 Jacksonville Jaguars on the road on September 26.
While Cardinals fans should feel happy about starting the season with two wins, it’s important to realize they can’t repeat last season. That’s when the Cardinals won the first two games of the season and proceeded to lose to the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers, two teams who would finish in the top 10 of the 2021 NFL draft.
“We kind of s*** the bed the next two (games) last year,” quarterback Kyler Murray told the local 12 News. “I don’t see trap games or that happening, we’re only focused on this one. We’re going to give our all to this one.”
The Cardinals escaped the Vikings with a 34-33 victory that left many in shock. There are certain aspects that one NFL insider believes need to be cleaned up.
The Cardinals are 2-0 and their offense ranks second in total points and total offense. So what’s not to like?
“Anytime you win a game in which you give up a pick-6, throw another interception, have a terrible roughing-the-punter penalty and run out of bounds on the final offensive drive when you’re up by one point, we can call it ‘lucky,'” Schrager wrote.
While Murray had a near-perfect first half, his pick-six in the third quarter to linebacker Nick Vegill was certainly a bad decision.
Murray’s second interception at first looked like another bad decision, but he was hit on the play and it could’ve been called for a facemask penalty.
Then at the end of the game, Murray made a terrible clock-management decision that Schrager pointed out.
“Kyler Murray’s highlights and stats have him in the WAY TOO EARLY MVP conversation, but the clock management on Arizona’s final drive — again, he ran out of bounds while up one late in the fourth quarter — was highly questionable,” Schrager wrote.
The Cardinals always want to be aggressive. Football Outsiders’ Historical Aggressiveness Index from 1983-2020 ranked the Cardinals the most aggressive team in the NFL. Coach Kliff Kingsbury could’ve easily run some clock at the end when they were up by one but chose not to.
Despite those criticisms, Murray won NFL’s Offensive Player of the Week award on September 22 and the Cards appear to be one of the most explosive offenses in football.
But there’s still so much time to go in this 2021 season.
Vance: ‘We Have to Start Better’
It’s not often a team wins when they allow a running back having six runs of 10 or more yards in the first half. That’s what Dalvin Cook exposed on the Cardinals defense, which was tied for the most in the first half of a game in the last decade.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph recognized what went wrong.
“The first half was bad. It wasn’t good but guys didn’t panic. We got to halftime and made some adjustments and kind of just got refocused basically, and it worked,” he said in a post game media conference. “Obviously a difference in the second half. The first half wasn’t good enough. They played faster and played better in the first half, and we have to start better.”
Gap integrity was awful according to Joseph in the first half. Defensive lineman J.J. Watt knows to not repeat the same performance, Joseph said.
“We don’t want to do that again.”
Schrager said he believes the Cardinals will win more than they will lose this season, but there has to be a middle ground.
“Truth is, the real Arizona Cardinals are somewhere between the two versions we’ve seen thus far,” wrote Schrager. “They’ll win plenty of games this season, but they can’t expect to win too many in which they play like they did last Sunday against Minnesota. They’ve got the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars this week and can use that game to clean things up. The NFC West opponents are on the horizon.”
The Cardinals could be right where they started if they somehow lose to the Jaguars. That’s why they can’t take their foot off the gas.