It felt like the offense broke.
Kyler Murray and his guys were fine. They had scored a couple of touchdowns, they were moving the ball, albeit in smaller chunks as the Panthers played back and in a zone and made the Cardinals patient. But 20 points in less than three quarters isn't a bad total -- unless the defense can't get a stop, and it starts to feel like there's no room for offensive error. When Christian McCaffery busted right through the middle of the line for the 76-yard TD with 10 men in the box, it seemed like a mental hurdle the Cardinals couldn't overcome.
It's early in the season and, as Murray noted, still a process. But playing a backup QB for an 0-2 team at home and having it come out like it did Sunday was not how the Cards expected it to go. It's a big weekend next week, with Fantennial stuff going on and Carson Palmer's induction into the Ring of Honor and the Seahawks coming to town. The Cards need to steady the ship quickly.
-- As bad as the McCaffery run was, the 52-yard TD pass from Kyle Allen to D.J. Moore allowed with 49 seconds left in the first half was also a killer. The Cardinals were trying to prevent a late field goal, and the Panthers get a TD instead.
-- At one point in the second half, the Panthers were averaging 9.5 yards per play. That's an astonishing number at any point in a game.
-- The tight end thing is a problem. Greg Olsen dominated again with a couple of TD catches and other body blows, following what T.J. Hockensen and Mark Andrews did previous; Kingsbury wasn't avoiding that. "We have to get that cleaned up," he said. "That's three weeks in a row."
Could that mean swapping Budda Baker and D.J. Swearinger at free and strong safety? Maybe. But this is the cascade effect on the back end that comes with missing your top two cornerbacks. If Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford are around, Byron Murphy is playing slot and he's a prime candidate to cover a tight end. Obviously, you knew P2 and Alford would be out. You have to figure out another way. But that doesn't make it any less true.
-- Not much to talk about defensively that was good, obviously. But Chandler Jones had a good game, not only notching two sacks but also making a play or two in space.
-- Larry Fitzgerald now needs five catches next week to surpass Tony Gonzalez for second place in NFL history. Fitz wasn't getting deep Sunday against the Panthers, but no one was -- and Fitz still had the Cardinals' longest play of the game, a 23-yard catch in which he was drilled by safety Eric Reid and bounced up after immediately with one of his Fitz primal screams.
-- Fitz took the blame on Murray's first interception, saying he should've gotten his head turned around faster. "I have to be more alert of the coverages and be able to make that play for him," Fitzgerald said.
-- For all the short stuff in the passing game, two deep shots that didn't connect were painful. Christian Kirk couldn't haul in what would've been a 50-some yard gain late in the first half -- he said he wasn't expecting former teammate Tre Boston to be there, and Boston's hit jarred the ball loose -- and Trent Sherfield was left uncovered down the sideline in the second half that in the very least would've been a completion inside the 10. Sherfield couldn't hold on.
"That doesn't define me as a player," Sherfield said. "That's a catch I have to make. Next week, we'll get back to the drawing board and get another opportunity and I'll make the catch."
-- There were times when it seemed like Murray was looking to scramble too much instead of maybe just throwing the ball away, but the running by Murray early -- especially the designed runs -- looked very good. He had 69 yards rushing, and that's the total package everyone had been waiting to see.
-- Props to Zane Gonzalez, who actually looked good in his two punts (a 42.0 average) after Andy Lee got dinged up.
That's enough for tonight. Seahawks week awaits.