Arizona Cardinals 26, Carolina Panthers 16
After playing three of the league’s toughest opponents, the Arizona Cardinals were finally able to find their stride against the Carolina Panthers. Arizona started the game by giving their fans a case of “déjà vu” before making key second half adjustments that won them the game. The Cardinals had a great game this week as they were able to get their defensive line going, get the ball spread out amongst the offense, and even get some of their rookies involved. Here are 3 key takeaways from the Cardinals week four win:
1. The Defensive line can be disruptive
One of Arizona’s biggest faults heading into week 4 was their inability to produce a pass rush. The Cardinals did a much better job at attacking the passer as Baker Mayfield was under fire all day. Mayfield was forced to make some errant throws and had multiple balls batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Zach Allen had himself a very good game along the defensive line managing to get a few key pressures, three of which resulted in deflected passes by Allen. JJ Watt was also a solid contributor as well as he got himself a pass deflection that led to a Dennis Gardeck interception. That play was what ultimately swung the momentum Arizona’s way. While the team only managed two sacks which is as much as they’ve had all year, their constant pressure forced Baker Mayfield to make some uncomfortable passes. Those passes led to deflections and interceptions, something Arizona has also struggled to get thus far.
Overall, the defensive line proved this week just how disruptive they can be, even when they can’t bring the quarterback to the ground. Arizona’s defensive line needs to start getting more sacks, but the unlimited pressures and constant batted balls is a fantastic start. This defense will have a tough battle next week against the Eagles high flying offense.
2. Arizona can adjust in the second half
Arizona’s questionable play calling continued in the first half but their second half adjustments this week were pivotal in today’s performance. For example, Arizona had a great play call inside the red-zone which resulted in a Zach Ertz touchdown to tie the game in the third quarter. Ertz ran a crossing route on the right side of the field. With the left side of the line also running crossing routes that left Ertz wide open on the left side of the field. Plays like that in short yardage situations and especially in the red zone is what Arizona has been missing this season.
The Cardinals also did a good job of getting Marquise Brown the football downfield. Arizona called a lot more crossing routes and streaks for Brown in the second half, one of which resulted in a touchdown. Brown still played well in the first half, but he was noticeably more open after the Cardinals made second half adjustments. For the first time all season it felt like the Cardinals knew how to use one of their best weapons to their advantage. It’s important that Marquise Brown’s success continues even with DeAndre Hopkins’ return looming.
Getting guys like Zach Ertz and Marquise Brown involved was just a couple of ways this offense adjusted in the second half. In the first three games this season Arizona has had a hard time making second half adjustments that end up finding success. This week showed they are able to make the right changes come halftime which will hopefully instill confidence in this coaching staff that has taken a lot of heat to start the year.
3. Time management needs to be better
Arizona did not do a good job in the second half of containing timeouts. Losing timeouts to avoid a delay of game penalty really hurts later in the game. Arizona entered the final 13 minutes of the fourth quarter with only one timeout remaining in what was at the time a tie ballgame. They were fortunate that their good play made sure the lack of timeouts wasn’t a factor, but that won’t always be the case. The Cardinals schedule is tough this season and entering the final ten minutes of regulation with only one timeout due to avoidable circumstances could become costly later down the line. They need to get plays in faster and stop using timeouts unnecessarily now before it burns them in games later this year.
Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals coaching staff have received a lot of flack to start the 2022 season and rightfully so. That being said, it’s important to give credit to the coaching staff for their key second half adjustments that ultimately helped win them the game. Those adjustments will need to be implemented earlier against the Eagles. Unlike the Panthers, the Eagles offense scores constantly. If the Arizona coaching staff and the players can keep things rolling against the Eagles, Arizona has a good chance of returning to form and being a fringe title contender once again.