The pieces are the same. The play-caller. The quarterback. The receivers. The running backs. The offensive line. (Yes, Fitz is sidelined, but it shouldn't mean that much.) How is the offense so much different right now, over this last three-game stretch – all losses – than it had been for most of the season?
This is what the Cardinals have to figure out. And fast. That first half was horrific; to think they were only down seven was amazing (and if Zane Gonzalez makes his field goal, only four.) But you break it down and they still only had two plays longer than 13 yards. The bomb to Dan Arnold was pretty. It ultimately was a mirage.
If the Cardinals win out – at Giants, Eagles, 49ers, at Rams, so far from any certainty, especially with the way things have gone the last month – I still think they'll be in the playoffs. But they have no chance of winning out without an offense to carry them. That was always going to be the key of the 2020 Cardinals. The offense was going to have to drive. Feels like they've left the car in park for some reason.
-- DeAndre Hopkins finally got to 1,000 yards for the season, although I'm sure he thought he'd get there sooner than he did. Only 52 yards on Sunday (on eight catches) and the Cards are going to struggle to get their offense going if they can't find a way to get Hopkins loose.
-- Hopkins was frustrated, not surprisingly, but late in the game, right before Arnold's second touchdown, he felt he was all but tackled before the ball arrived in the end zone by Jalen Ramsey (and I can't disagree with Nuk's reaction tbh.) He waited until the Cards called timeout, but he took off his helmet and pleaded his case. It fell on deaf ears.
-- The Arnold 59-yard score was the longest against the Rams all season. It is kind of crazy too that the Cards struggled so much on offense and still scored four touchdowns and were the missed field goal away from cracking 30 points.
-- I don't know what happens with Gonzalez, but his spot has to at least be under serious discussion this week. GM Steve Keim just said Friday "we have expectations of Zane" and making that kick Sunday was part of those.
-- The defense got worn down and really struggled against the many play-action bootlegs the Rams ran – so often it looked like the rusher got sucked inside giving Jared Goff easy lanes from which to throw – but the first half fourth down stand at the 1-yard line was excellent. Unfortunately, that was also when the offense was going through their three-and-outs and the Rams scored after the ensuing punt. But the stop meant something at the time.
-- Dennis Gardeck got his third sack of the season, and the Cardinals' top two sack guys this year are Haason Reddick (5) and Gardeck. No one would've guessed that in training camp.
-- Kliff Kingsbury has made it clear he's going for it on fourth down, but when he went for it on fourth-and-12 from the LA 40 early in the second half, it at the same time felt crazy yet needed. I mean, the Cards were already down 10 and it didn't look like the Rams would be stopped much. Murray made a great throw to KeeSean Johnson for exactly 12 yards, and it kept alive a TD drive on which Hopkins later scored.
-- Special teams matter, and Trent Sherfield being back to play mattered. He recovered the fumble Charles Washington – another important if unknown guy who shines in the transition game – forced a fumble on a punt return. It gave the Cards life, however briefly.
-- Seven games for Sean McVay against the Cards, and his teams have scored between 31 and now 38 each time.
-- The play that stuck out, much like the Cam Newton third-and-13 conversion last week: Rams, now ahead only 24-21 after a Kenyan Drake TD following Sherfield's recovery, face a third-and-11. Tight end Gerald Everett somehow ends up uncovered for a 22-yard gain. Patrick Peterson said on a couple of those plays, blitzes didn't get to Goff in time, but that was a chance to get off the field and maybe even take a lead. Which would have been nuts given how that game had gone.
That's good enough for tonight. Time to take off as they hang up the 49ers branding along the sidelines as the "Monday Night Football" game between "home" team San Francisco and Buffalo takes place tomorrow. So 2020.