TEMPE – The Arizona Cardinals have begun their search for answers following a puzzling 34-7 loss Sunday to the Los Angeles Rams. The defeat, Arizona’s fifth straight, was especially painful because the 28-point margin is the largest defeat the team has experienced in what is fast becoming a lost season.
“The product, in all three phases, was not acceptable yesterday,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday at his weekly news conference. “Our focus – it starts with me – is to get better, and that’s on me to make sure all three phases improve dramatically this week.”
The Cardinals, who didn’t score until the 8:35 mark of the fourth quarter against the Rams, lacked many of the qualities in the loss that Kingsbury said he had come to expect from his team.
While he was quick to accept blame for the schematic issues Arizona suffered from Sunday, he also harped on the importance of playing at the level of emotion he had come to expect.
“I didn’t think we responded with passion, intensity, effort, all these things that we’ve kind of become known for,” Kingsbury said. “They didn’t show up, and that’s what happens.”
Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray was not exempt from the team’s struggles Sunday, turning in perhaps his worst showing of the year. Murray completed 19 of 34 attempts for 163-yard and no touchdowns. He was intercepted once but rushed for 28 yards and a touchdown. It was for from satisfactory for Kingsbury, who said he expects Murray to play “a lot better” going forward.
“From the jump, we just kind of were flat,” Murray said. “They obviously came out with more energy than us. They wanted it more, played harder than us. Can’t do that against a good team.”
Despite his lackluster play against the Rams, Murray still has the confidence of his coach and teammates. While Murray often looked overmatched and overwhelmed Sunday, one Cardinals legend recognizes that the rest of the team can do more to elevate their play and Murray’s for the rest of the season.
“Kyler’s a winner, he’s won at every single level,” Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after the game. “There was never a point in that game where he put his head down. We’ve got to do a better job of supporting him and making plays for him. There’s nothing that gets a quarterback in a rhythm, in a groove, as guys making plays and we didn’t do enough of that for him.”
The Cardinals offensive struggles were especially disappointing coming off a bye week with two weeks to prepare for the Rams. While Kingsbury had hoped to see a well-rested and reinvigorated offense following the bye, he felt instead as if the extra preparation did more harm than good for a unit that had scored at least 25 points in three straight games.
“If anything, it felt like we were out of rhythm,” Kingsbury said. “I know offensively, we just couldn’t get a flow of the game. I didn’t call a very good game and we didn’t execute a very good game.”
Arizona looks to snap back next week when a Pittsburgh Steelers team going in the opposite direction visits State Farm Stadium. The Steelers, who started the season 1-4, have won six of their last seven. Kingsbury promised an improved performance from his team after the worst loss of his young NFL head coaching career.
“We’re all embarrassed by that performance, in all three phases, and we expect to play a lot better this week,” Kingsbury said.