Kyler Murray felt like, had his pass to Larry Fitzgerald connected on the first drive, or his bomb to Andy Isabella on the second drive, had just connected, things would've been different. Or if he hadn't fumbled with the Cardinals driving in the second half, then too (although the Cards would've been faced with a fourth down in that instance.) Maybe he's right. But that's the league – in the pros, you're going to be able to parse a few plays and wonder what might have been.
But the Cardinals are fighting some things now. The 10 a.m. bodyclock start time – even with the team flying out Friday, even with them practicing since the beginning of training camp around 8 a.m. in Arizona – seemed to mean something Sunday. There was a lot of ugliness against a team that may be proving to be better than people expected but certainly not one that should've held a 28-7 lead in the second half.
Defensively, the game wasn't good, and it needs to be better, obviously (although the missing safeties matter. More on that in a bit.) But this was always a team that was going to be led by its offense, and that's why the way things unfolded Sunday was disappointing.
The Jets game next week was going to be a big deal. It's monumental now.
-- With Curtis Riley struggling the Cardinals subbed in Charles Washington in the second half Sunday, and then Riley came in for Deionte Thompson at one point too. Bottom line: When you are going to safeties 4, 5 and 6 on the depth chart, it's probably going to show up. It did, especially in the first half. All it does is underscore how important Budda Baker is, and why it'll be crucial to get Jalen Thompson – who is eligible to come off IR this coming week – back.
-- The Isaiah Simmons watch for Sunday. He played sparingly. By my count (and to be honest, I could've missed one) Simmons was in for 12 snaps, 10 at linebacker. He did go to line up at deep centerfield safety twice, backpedaling as the defense spread out – and both times the Panthers ended up false starting. I don't know if it was because Simmons was looming on the back end, but it was interesting.
-- Two weeks in a row, the Cardinals have been flagged for having too many men on defense out of the huddle. What made it worse was on the next play – a Panthers' touchdown – the Cardinals only had 10 men on the field.
-- There was little to celebrate defensively but Patrick Peterson's pick was one. It looked like Peterson was playing safety on the play, and perhaps that's a wrinkle the Cards can use at times.
-- Murray's 48-yard scramble was the longest run by a Cardinals' quarterback since M.C. Reynolds had a 50-yard run against the Eagles back in 1950.
-- Two straight games for Fitz with less than five yards receiving. I never ever thought I'd see that.
-- It would've been an excellent catch, and it would've been on the highlight reels for degree of difficulty. But I'm guessing Andy Isabella thought he should've come down with that bomb.
-- Murray's 4.3 yards per attempt – even with three touchdown passes – is not a sustainable stat for a team looking for wins. He was smart with the ball (the fumble wasn't his fault, with backside pressure), but as Christian Kirk said a couple of times, this offense is about explosive plays and then using tempo off that.
-- DeAndre Hopkins did not look like a guy who had a bad ankle.
-- The Cardinals worked Max Garcia into a possession at left guard in place of Justin Pugh, much like they did with Justin Murray the week before. With Pugh leaving the game later (there was no status report) we will have to see if that's something that has to continue into New York.
-- Speaking of injuries, Kenyan Drake took a shot near the end of the game and had to go to the locker room. Chase Edmonds – whose wonderful one-on-one move on a short pass in the red zone kept a touchdown drive alive – would be up. The last thing the Cards need is for Drake to be down.
Time to fly home.