GLENDALE, Ariz. - Arizona’s once-rolling offense has hit the skids the past couple of weeks. As is often the case in the NFL, opposing defenses have adjusted to the Cardinals and are making life difficult for second-year quarterback Kyler Murray.
Your move, Kliff Kingsbury.
“We’ve got to figure out some things this week,” Arizona’s coach said on Monday.
The Cardinals (6-6) have lost three straight games and four of their last five after Sunday’s 38-28 setback against the Los Angeles Rams. They’re now two games behind the Rams and Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West and likely have to win their final four to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
They travel Sunday to face the New York Giants, who are coming off a surprise 17-12 win over the Seahawks.
Kingsbury said the lack of offensive execution started to show in the team’s 28-21 loss to the Seahawks on Nov. 19. The Cardinals were averaging more than 400 yards per game through their first nine games, but had just 314, 298 and 232 in each of the past three.
Murray was 21 of 39 for 173 yards and three touchdowns against the Rams but only ran for 15 yards. He also had two big mistakes in the fourth quarter: a pick-6 that Troy Hill ran back 35 yards, a fumble on a sack.
“The first half of the season was kind of effortless, we were moving the ball, having fun, playing fast,” Murray said. “Now we’ve faced a little adversity and it’s how we react, how we adjust. We’ve lost the last three, but we’ve been in those games and we just have to find a way to execute.”
DL Domata Peko has been a nice pickup for the Cardinals after they signed the veteran last month. The 36-year-old had seven tackles against the Rams for a defense that looked good early but wore down late. Kingsbury said the group did a good job of competing and the offense needs to avoid so many three-and-outs to give the defense a little rest.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Cardinals’ offensive success in the first half of the season was largely due to the running game. The trio of Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds and Murray had at least 100 yards rushing in the first nine games of the season. During the team’s three-game losing streak, they’ve been held under 100 yards twice.
TE Dan Arnold is turning into a consistent option in the passing game. He had two touchdown catches against the Rams, including a 59-yarder in the first quarter when Los Angeles was paying too much attention to DeAndre Hopkins. Arnold’s three TD catches this season have been during the past three weeks.
Kicker Zane Gonzalez continues to struggle. He missed a 48-yard field goal just before halftime that would have pulled the Cardinals within 14-10. He’s missed one field goal attempt in four of the past six games. Kingsbury said he still has confidence in Gonzalez but acknowledges he’s missing kicks he needs to make.
WR Larry Fitzgerald missed his second straight game on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Kingsbury said the team has missed his leadership and presence on the field. The coach wasn’t sure if the receiver would return for Sunday’s game against the Giants.
“From what I’m hearing, he’s doing better,” Kingsbury said. “I’m not exactly sure where we’re at with that, but we’re hoping to have him back soon.”
61 — Murray’s run for just 61 yards combined over the past three games. Halfway through the season, he was on pace for a 1,000-yard rushing season but teams are figuring out ways to slow him down.
The Cardinals don’t have much margin for error if they want to make the playoffs. There are a few winnable games against the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles coming up, but Arizona isn’t in much position to take any game for granted these days.
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