Kliff Kingsbury probably doesn’t want to get in the habit of crumpling up a week’s worth of planning to throw it in the trash mid-game. But that’s what the Arizona Cardinals head coach and play-caller ended up doing Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.
Arizona went into a two-minute type of offense with 10 personnel groupings of no tight ends and four receivers starting with the final drive of the first half.
That look continued to begin the third quarter, and quarterback Kyler Murray at the very least found a rhythm with receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who made eight second-half catches. Arizona scored three touchdowns in the second half, a minor accomplishment in the grand scheme of things during the 38-28 loss.
On Monday, Kingsbury admitted that while he should have gone to the up-tempo look earlier, it’s not going to be the solution for finding Arizona’s offensive identity.
“It felt like when we had the two-minute drive there at the half, it was the first time we had some rhythm and spread them out and tried to play with some tempo and slow down that rush a little bit,” Kingsbury said. “So we wanted to keep that going, and I thought it did give us a chance to get back into the game there 24-21 at the start of the fourth.
“That’s not something that we’re going to major in all the time,” he added. “It just felt like at the time it gave us the best chance to win the game and get back into it.”
Cardinals tight ends Maxx Williams (18 snaps) and Dan Arnold (nine) ended up standing on the sidelines for much of the second half.
It looked like a blatant shift away from the tight end-heavy sets Arizona found success with last year, especially when it came to running the ball. But it appears that’s only temporary.
Kingsbury said that executing base concepts will be a key moving forward, and as usual, he took blame as play-caller for the offense struggling to get anyone more than Hopkins — and Arnold if you consider the one successful play — involved.
Arnold had two catches for 61 yards, and 59 of those came on the opening touchdown score.
Little-used receiver KeeSean Johnson caught all four of his targets for 27 yards, including a 4th-and-12 conversion. Beyond that, receivers Andy Isabella’s two catches for seven yards and Christian Kirk’s one reception for two yards rounded out the receiver group.
The Cardinals remain searching for their offensive identity, and that’s something Kingsbury didn’t duck the day after his team fell to 6-6.
“I’d say we’re still looking for it,” he said.
Hopkins hits 1,000
Hopkins saw two targets the in the first half without a catch, but he did draw a 25-yard defensive pass interference against Jalen Ramsey that helped set up a 48-yard field goal attempt from Zane Gonzalez that was missed.
By the end of the game, Hopkins became one of six NFL receivers who have surpassed the 1,000-yard mark with four weeks left in the season. He’s got 1,019 receiving yards on 85 catches.
Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf (1,119 receiving yards), Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (1,114), Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill (1,079), Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson (1,039) and Green Bay’s Davante Adams (1,029) sit ahead of Hopkins.
Gardeck with another sack
Backup outside linebacker and special teams captain Dennis Gardeck showed up in the sack column again. His third sack on the year moved him into second place on the Cardinals behind leader Haason Reddick’s five.
That’s ridiculous considering how few defensive possessions Gardeck has played.
The third-year pro has 61 defensive snaps with 51 pass-rush attempts, according to Pro Football Focus. He has an additional three quarterback hits and five hurries.
Add it up, and his 11 pressures are one more than Chandler Jones had in 166 pass-rushes before his season-ending biceps injury. And yes, Jones faced double-teams and all the attention to get pressure on 6% of his pass-rush opportunities. That context matters.
Gardeck though? He’s getting pressure on 22% of his limited reps.
Reddick has posted pressure on 10% of his pass-rushes (30 pressures of 303 pass-rushes), while newcomer Markus Golden is getting pressure on 14% of those plays (20 of 140). He’s second on the team in hurries despite appearing in just five games.
A fun stat for Big Dan
Arnold’s 59-yard touchdown catch to open the scoring Sunday was not only wide the heck open — NextGenStats said he had 14.3 yards of separation, good for the second-most on any deep ball this year.
It was the longest reception in quite awhile for a Cardinals tight end.
Per Cardinals senior vice president of media relations Mark Dalton, it was the longest since a 68-yard touchdown by Hall of Famer Jackie Smith on a pass thrown by quarterback Gary Cuozzo.
That happened on Nov. 12, 1972.