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Penalties Continually Setting Cardinals Back

Flags in Seattle a microcosm of season-long issue

A key intentional ground penalty on Kyler Murray in the second half led to a safety one play later.
A key intentional ground penalty on Kyler Murray in the second half led to a safety one play later.

It has been a familiar lament from Kliff Kingsbury after games this year.

Win or lose, the Cardinals coach feels like his team could be so much more efficient if it kept penalties down to a reasonable amount.

It has yet to happen in 2020, as the Cardinals lead the NFL in both total penalties (94) and accepted penalties per game (7.9).

The yellow flags were a big factor in the 28-21 loss to the Seahawks on Thursday, as Cardinals were penalized 10 times for 115 yards, halting some of their drives and extending others for Seattle.

"It's unacceptable to have that many," Kingsbury said.

The Cardinals are being penalized an average of 63.4 yards per game, which is third-most in the NFL behind the Saints and Bills. Last season, their penalties per game (7.6) and penalty yards per game (59.8) were both in the top-10.

Kingsbury said some penalties are more acceptable than others, but he knows the total number needs to decrease as the Cardinals take aim at making the playoffs down the stretch.

"It's something we have to be better at, there's no question," Kingsbury said. "You look at some, our effort, and sometimes there is a hold or a facemask when a guy is trying to make a tackle. Things like that come up in the course of a game. But the pre-snap penalties, the personal foul penalty, you can't have those and expect to win week in and week out.

"We have way too many of that variety, and we have to get it cleaned up as coaches and players. We have to all take it upon ourselves. That's the only way it's going to get fixed, to practice it the right way and then have it translate to the games."

The Cardinals were called for four false start penalties in Seattle. In normal years, some of that can be blamed on the deafening crowd noise, but there were no fans in the stands this time.

There were also a pair of killer back-to-back penalties on offense, when the Cardinals had the ball trailing by two points early in the fourth quarter. On the first, tight end Dan Arnold didn't turn around for a pass and Kyler Murray chucked it into the turf for intentional grounding. And then, guard J.R. Sweezy was called for holding in the end zone for a safety.

There was also the penalty that was most easily preventable: cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick's taunting flag after the Cardinals were on the precipice of either forcing a field goal attempt or a Seattle fourth-down conversion try on fourth-and-2 in the third quarter.

Safety Budda Baker acknowledged that both Kirkpatrick and Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf were jawing at each other, but wished there was better situational awareness.

"It was going to be fourth down and we got a penalty and put them in first down," Baker said. "Definitely need to be more composed in those situations."

Seattle gained 15 yards of field position down to the Arizona 17 and scored a touchdown two plays later.

"That one's disappointing, to put the team in that situation," Kingsbury said. "It just can't happen. We've got to control our emotions better in that situation."

The Cardinals have 24 drives that have been stalled in part due to penalties this season.

No team is going to play a completely clean game, but on Thursday, it was often one step forward and two back for the Cardinals' offense. Kingsbury said the unit had 13 negative plays between penalties, runs for loss and sacks.

 "We were off-schedule, in second-and-long or third-and-long the entire evening," Kingsbury said. "That's not how we play. We couldn't really get the run game established being backed up in those situations, and because of that we were really disjointed the entire night."

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