When Arizona Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks was asked about the problems for the defense in a 31-21 loss to the Panthers, he didn’t make it all that complicated.
“Simply, execution,” he said. “Defense — it doesn’t matter what defense is called. I’m a firm believer if you play your leverage and you execute and you just do your job, the defense will be successful.”
Now, should Hicks making it sound so simple be encouraging because it’s an easy fix? Or is it more concerning that the simple things can’t get done on a consistent basis four weeks in?
However you feel about those questions, it’s impossible to feel confident that Vance Joseph’s defense can do its job, looking overwhelmed for the second straight week against a mediocre offense.
The Panthers rattled off 444 yards of offense. They were 7-for-11 on third down. It was 168 yards on the ground and another 276 through the air. The yardage on the Panthers’ four touchdown drives were 66, 80, 75 and 74. The first two drives featured four critical third down conversions, and the only “hold” for the Cardinals was on 3rd-and-19 for a 17-yard completion by Bridgewater that led to a successful fourth down.
“It was frustrating,” Hicks said of the issues on third down. “Going for 12-, 15-play drives at a time is tough.
“That was obviously disappointing.”
Teddy Bridgewater had all day to throw for Carolina and Arizona did not sack him once. The three leading rushers for the Panthers all averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Mike Davis, the fill-in for All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, was the only pass-catcher outside of backup tight end Ian Thomas to average less than nine yards a catch.
“I gotta give them credit,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I thought they had a great plan. I thought Teddy (Bridgewater) played great, went to the right place with the ball, they protected well. We had a hard time getting pressure and those receivers are really talented.”
The Panthers’ Robby Anderson made quick work of Arizona’s secondary, catching eight balls, five of which went for at least 14 yards. The Cardinals receivers on the other end had only one catch go for more than 13 yards.
The Cardinals have some injuries in the secondary and were also without linebacker Devon Kennard, but Kingsbury made sure to note that it’s no excuse for the way they played.
But what about solutions?
Kingsbury took the blame for the second straight week while Hicks said it’s “super early” and was confident the team was going to be fine.
“This game isn’t difficult,” Hicks said. “As long as you do your job (and) don’t try to do anything more, things usually work out.”
If the Cardinals achieved anything in Sunday’s loss, it was showing how difficult they can actually make it seem.