Make no mistake – I absolutely hate to drone on about officiating. It does no good, and every team can do it. But at the end of Sunday’s loss to the Bucs, when rookie Jalen Thompson was called for pass interference not on the field but because of a booth review and subsequent overturn, is hard to ignore.
It isn’t because it wasn’t interference. Thompson did interfere. It caused a problem on the play, although it was clearly inadvertent. My issue is that, in this day and age where PI can be challenged by coaches, it is almost never overturned and on plays much more blatant than Thompson’s. That’s where my issue is. The moving goalposts on what they will call and what they won’t is not good – and if it was overturned because of the situation, that in my mind, makes it worse.
(There were even some wondering why the last Hail Mary try to Pharoah Cooper wasn’t at least reviewed – because if that had been overturned, the Cards would’ve tried a game-tying field goal. But again, it’s a rabbit hole. UPDATE: Apparently they did think about a review, and decided it wasn't worth it.)
All that said, the Cardinals could have put the game away a bunch of times prior. Dropped passes, bad penalties. A Kyler Murray interception that was, frankly, a rookie mistake. Those are going to happen. You just don’t want it to have happened then.
-- Christian Kirk has a chance to be a Pro Bowl receiver in this offense. I’ve thought that for a while, but you see games like Sunday and you can just see it as he and Murray grow together.
-- The Murray pick ended his NFL rookie record of 211 straight passes without an interception.
-- Overall, Murray was good. But he did miss a couple early -- Cooper was wide-open for a touchdown on the first field-goal drive, and Murray just overthrew him.
-- I know there are a lot of mixed feelings on Patrick Peterson out there these days, but if his calf injury is serious, that would be a very bad thing.
-- David Johnson’s return was not one to remember. He was going against the best rush defense in the league, but he had just 2 yards on five carries, one catch for 8 yards and he fumbled the ball away on that catch. I don’t know if he was 100 percent like he declared last week. But it was a rough outing. Kingsbury acknowledged after the game on his radio interview it was his call to bench Johnson. Johnson didn't play again after his fumble.
-- Not that Kenyan Drake was able to do much more, with 35 yards on 10 carries. But Drake looks much more explosive.
-- Kingsbury did use Drake and Johnson together a bunch of times, including a cool play early in which Murray was in shotgun, Johnson to his left and Drake to Johnson’s left. At the snap, both ran past Murray, who handed it to Drake while Johnson was the lead blocker.
-- Larry Fitzgerald’s one-handed catch on fourth-and-5 was just amazing. It was good to see them go back to Fitz more – although I would’ve liked to see what would’ve happened had Murray looked at Fitz in the red zone before the interception.
-- Kingsbury emphasized Maxx Williams had no chance to catch his drop because of the sun, and noted Williams has some of the best hands on the team. It was a tough play. But it happens. The sun clearly was a problem there. Doesn't make it any less painful.
-- Andy Lee, stud punter (49.7 net), stud passer (118.8 passer rating.)
-- On that fake punt, Kingsbury said “Pharoh saved me,” with Cooper coming back to make the 26-yard catch on what would’ve been disaster had it failed. Then again, the Bucs were also called for pass interference on the play, so the Cards were converting regardless.
-- It sure feels like kicker Zane Gonzalez is having a Pro Bowl season. That 54-yard field goal would've been good from at least 60.
-- If Jameis Winston hadn’t averaged 13.3 yards on three rushing attempts, I truly think the Cards would’ve won. Those were some big first downs he picked up.
-- Winston and the B.A. offense was made for Chandler Jones. Two more sacks for Jones.
-- Kingsbury talked about the need to have more urgency on the final drive. The Cards burned up way too much time -- more than 30 seconds -- before a fourth-down play. They converted, but they got stuck in a hole they couldn't climb out of with the clock fading.
-- It was good to say hello to so many former players and coaches who were on the other side, who I had the chance to work with for so long. One former assistant noted, "You guys are much better." The Cardinals are going in the right direction. There are definitely growing pains.
Time to go home.