It seemed like no matter what, the Arizona Cardinals were a step behind the Los Angeles Rams.
The game of catch-up is always dreadful for the team “catching up.” After Kyler Murray’s tipped interception in the first quarter, the Cardinals seemed to be flustered by the Rams on both sides of the ball.
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Coach Kliff Kingsbury spoke after the game about the mistakes throughout the game.
“I thought the effort was as good as we’ve had as far as start to finish,” Kingsbury said. “Guys continued to battle and continued to stay in the game. But just not clean enough in any phase.”
The Cardinals are still 10-3, but all three losses are at home. It’s unexplainable, but Kingsbury had to laugh about the unforeseen problem.
“As of now, I’d probably want to lose every game and play on the road every week, so [getting home field advantage] is not that important I don’t think,” said a jokingly Kliff Kingsbury when asked about securing the first-round bye.
There’s a lot of blame to go around after the Cardinals’ loss on Monday Night Football. One writer specifically had a revealing take on the Cardinals head coach.
Writer Blasts Kingsbury
Respected ESPN NFL writer Bill Barnwell was watching the fourth quarter and disagreed with the Cardinals’ decision-making from Kingsbury.
“Final seven minutes or so of that game would be the argument against giving Kliff Coach of the Year,” Barnwell tweeted.
Barnwell also spoke on ESPN’s live stream “Debatable” on December 14 discussing the offense’s miscues.
“It felt like a very 2020 Cardinals loss to me,” Barnwell said. “It felt like they were competitive, their stars played really well. It felt like Kyler had to make magic happen to hit 20-yard competitions over and over again. With Kliff Kingsbury, this guy who we treat as an offensive genius, it feels like so often against good football teams they don’t have the easy solutions.”
While being down 30-20 in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals on first down ran with James Conner for one yard with 6 minutes left. Then, Kyler Murray questionably targeted Christian Kirk deep on 3rd and one with a corner draped on him.
Kingsbury could’ve elected to kick a field goal to bring the Cards within a touchdown, but he elected to go for it on the 37-yard-line. That’s where Conner was stuffed on a run play by Von Miller.
While talking heads including ESPN commentator Brian Griese wanted Kingsbury to bring out kicker Matt Prater, Kingsbury’s known for being aggressive. The field goal would’ve been 56 yards and hard for any kicker, including Prater.
The analytics agreed with Kingsbury’s decision.
As far as the play call goes, that’s a different story. Despite Conner’s brilliant two-touchdown day, he still averaged 2.7 yards per carry and was stuffed seven times during the day for one yard or less.
After the Rams three-and-out, the Cardinals next possession had a miraculous Christian Kirk catch on fourth-down. Ultimately, Arizona had no timeouts and was up against the clock. In this case, the Cardinals could’ve kicked a field goal a tad earlier and took too much time.
Surprisingly, the Cardinals still had a chance to tie the game with 34 seconds left after a successful onside kick. Unfortunately, back-to-back penalties by Sean Harlow and Kelvin Beachum hurt their chances.
Who Deserves Blame?
No matter what, Kingsbury should still easily be in the conversation for Coach of the Year.
Even Bill Belichick vouched for Kingsbury on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” on December 13.
“That’s very nice of Kliff to toss that bouquet,” said Belichick. “I’ll toss it right back. Kliff has done a great job and should be the Coach of the Year.”
There’s plenty of blame to go around. Kingsbury and the rest of the coaching staff didn’t have their best day.
The battle of the trenches on both sides of the ball is where the Cardinals lacked. There were plenty of times where Matthew Stafford dealt with no pressure while having two backup offensive linemen. Three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald wreaked havoc on the Cards’ offensive line.
Murray finished with 444 passing and rush yards, two interceptions and zero touchdowns. The 24-year-old didn’t hold back on what went wrong.
“A lot of penalties, the two turnovers, conversions on fourth down,” Murray said. “If we do a lot of things differently, it would have ended differently.”
Of course, awards don’t matter for the Cardinals. But with Kingsbury, a coach of the year award would work swimmingly for someone looking for an extension.
The blame shouldn’t go all on the head coach. There’s still time for third-year Kingsbury to figure this out.