| Arizona Republic
NFL Week 7 overreactions: Kyler Murray and Cardinals have arrived
SportsPulse: The Kliff and Klyer experiment got their first signature victory against Seattle in an instant classic. Mackenzie Salmon overreact to the biggest storylines from Week 7 in the NFL.
The Arizona Cardinals weren’t searching for an identity Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Instead, they needed to prove the ID they were carrying — one belonging to a contender for the playoffs and NFC West title — was authentic.
As running back Chase Edmonds said after the game, you know Seattle is going to be playing in the offense, so “this is one of those games where you find out how real are we?”
The answer is fairly real, I think. Maybe.
No, the defense hasn’t put together a complete game against a good opponent. Yes, a young quarterback tends to make bad throws at the worst possible time.
Both those things can happen, and can be overcome as the Cardinals proved by Sunday night.
Nothing about the Cardinals’ 37-34 overtime victory was textbook, unless you are studying chaos theory.
WEEK 7 WINNERS, LOSERS: Seahawks squander opportunities in first loss
The Cardinals spent the last few minutes of the game snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, then shoving it back into those jaws, apparently just to see what would happen.
One of the great mysteries of life, sporting life anyway, is how football coaches can work 70-plus hours a week and still make so many bad decisions.
How else do you explain Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury deciding to kick a 41-yard field goal in overtime Sunday night against Seattle on second down? After his team had rushed for 47 yards on three plays against a tired defense? With nearly three minutes left? Then calling a timeout and making the same decision all over again?
This is why you arrive at the office at 5 a.m. and stay until most of the rest of us are in bed?
Zane Gonzalez missed, of course, giving the Seahawks a chance to win. But in keeping with a bizarre night at State Farm Stadium, the unexpected happened.
Rookie linebacker Isaiah Simmons, the first-round pick who plays only a handful more snaps on defense than a landscaper, intercepted a pass from Russell Wilson, who was having an MVP season before Sunday night.
So, just like Kingsbury drew it up, the Cardinals moved into field goal position again. Gonzalez made this one, a 48-yarder with 15 seconds left, giving the Cardinals a 37-34 victory.
“A complete debacle” is how Kingsbury described the penultimate field goal attempt. “It was as bad a coaching job as possible.”
Not many would argue. It was a head-scratching moment from Kingsbury, but it shouldn’t overshadow how far he’s led the Cardinals in less than two years on the job.
They already have one of the best offenses in the NFL, and after a disappointing first half, the defense limited Seattle to a touchdown in the second half. “Pretty impressive,” Kingsbury said of that performance.
So what does the victory mean for the Cardinals? A more pleasant week off, for sure. More importantly, it’s validation that the preseason love shown them by prognosticators and pundits might be deserved.
The Cardinals came back from a 10-point deficit at halftime to tie the game with a field goal by Gonzalez on the last play of regulation.
The victory keeps the Cardinals (5-2) in touch with Seattle (5-1) in the NFC West. And it broke a seven-year streak of failing to beat the Seahawks in Glendale.
Nothing about that game was easy. In the first half, the Cardinals defense provided no more than an occasional speed bump for the Seahawks to navigate.
And by the time that group found themselves in the second half, it was second-year quarterback Kyler Murray who couldn’t seem deliver.
The Cardinals shut out the Seahawks in the third quarter, and a long touchdown drive pulled them to within 27-24 as the fourth began.
When cornerback Patrick Peterson intercepted a pass from Russell Wilson in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals were in business.
But on the next play, the doors of that business were shuttered. Murray lobbed a pass in the general direction of receiver Andy Isabella, and the Seahawks intercepted.
It was a critical mistake, and the Seahawks pounced. The Cardinals made them work for it, but Seattle turned it into a touchdown to take a 10-point lead with 6:43 left.
It’s the kind of mistake Murray will grow out of. He already has. He did it Sunday night by moving the Cardinals into scoring position time and again in tight situations.
Kingsbury’s decision in overtime wasn’t the only controversial decision he made Sunday night, just the worst.
Had not the shenanigans late in the game occurred, much would have been made about Kingsbury’s decision to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the Seattle 3 in the second quarter. A field goal would have closed the gap to 13-10.
It was a worthwhile risk because the Cardinals have been successful in the red zone and on fourth down all year. Seattle entered the game ranked last in the NFL in yardage allowed but was scoring an average of almost 34 points a game.
“You’re not going to beat that team with field goals,” Kingsbury said.
The play selections, three runs and an incomplete pass, can be criticized, as can the lack of creativity. But everything looks worse when it doesn’t work.
The real damage was done after Murray’s incomplete pass on fourth down.
It took just six plays for the Seahawks to “drive” 97 yards and score a touchdown to go ahead 20-7.
Drive is a strong very because it hints that struggle was involved. It was not. The Seahawks had gains of 34, 28 and 24 yards in the possession.
It was the theme of the first half. Seattle gained at least 10 yards on 14 plays, including three of more than 30. The last was an exquisite 47-yard throw from Wilson to Tyler Lockett, who caught the ball in the end zone beyond cornerback Patrick Peterson and Baker.
The Cardinals started slowly, which has become a weekly habit. The Seahawks went 75 yards in six plays for a touchdown on their first possession. And the Cardinals countered with a dropped pass, a false start, a completion for no gain, and a missed block that resulted in a two yard loss.
They found firm ground for a bit, and when Murray hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 35-yard touchdown, the Cardinals trailed only 10-7.
The game flipped on a trade of turnovers in the second quarter. Hopkins lost a fumble at the Cardinals 31-yard line, but five plays later safety Budda Baker intercepted at the 2 and had nothing but immaculate lawn ahead of him.
But behind him was Seattle receiver D.K. Metcalf, who tracked Baker down and tackled him at the Seahawks 8.
That’s when Kingsbury’s decision-making became key. The Cardinals entered the game ranked second in the NFL in scoring touchdowns in the red zone. They had not been stopped inside the opponent’s 10-yard, nor on fourth down.
Both things happened on the next series.
Three runs netted just 5 yards. On the second one, Murray handed off on a read option, and it appeared he had a touchdown had he kept it.
Kingsbury, as he had successfully done all season, went for it on fourth down. But Murray never had a receiver open and threw the ball away after exhausting all other options.
To their credit, the Cardinals played better in the second half than the first. It was enough to stay close to a good team. It was enough to beat them in overtime.
But it didn’t have to be that hard. Maybe this off-week, Kingsbury should focus on getting some much-needed sleep.