Starting the season 7-0, it felt like the Arizona Cardinals had finally smashed through whatever was holding them back. After back-to-back years of good, but not great, play, the 2021 version of the Cardinals looked elite. Surrounded by new veteran additions A.J. Green, J.J. Watt, and Zach Ertz, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals appeared poised to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
However, as the weeks progressed, the Cardinals started looking more and more vulnerable. They are now 10-4 — 3-4 over their last seven games following their latest loss to the lowly Detroit Lions.
The Cardinals looked horrible against the Lions
One could argue the Lions were due for a big upset at some point this season. However, the truth of the matter is the Cardinals did not show up ready to play. Murray and the offense scored a measly 12 points, and the defense allowed Jared Goff to torch them for 30 points and 338 total yards of offense.
No matter how you slice it, it was an embarrassing afternoon of football for Arizona. Kliff Kingsbury was outcoached and outmaneuvered at every turn, failing to adjust to what Dan Campbell was throwing at him as the game progressed.
While the surprising loss doesn’t knock the Cardinals out of the mix for the No. 1 seed quite yet, it does add significant doubt on Arizona’s ability to finish strong during the closing weeks of the season. After all, this is a team and a coaching staff that has struggled winning games late in the schedule in recent years.
Kyler Murray was asked about a potential second-half collapse
After the loss, Kyler Murray was asked — rather abruptly — if he felt the Cardinals’ 2021 campaign was starting to spiral out of control. Arizona finished 2020 with a 3-6 record in their final nine games, knocking them out of the postseason picture and creating doubts about Kingsbury’s ability to coach.
Despite an ugly afternoon of football, Murray offered a sense of optimism. He doesn’t believe the Cardinals are collapsing, per se.
“Not at all. Not at all,” Murray said. We’re still 10-4, still in first place. This is nowhere near where we were last year, and we’re not going to allow it to be.”
The Cardinals need to prove they can finish strong
Heading into the 2021 season, there were genuine questions about Murray, Kingsbury, and the overall state of the Cardinals. Many felt they weren’t set up for success this season and that most of their veteran additions weren’t good ones. There were even people questioning Kingsbury’s job status.
While the 7-0 start was undoubtedly impressive, the Cardinals’ play over the past few weeks is more comparable to what people expected from Arizona this season. Watt getting injured plays a significant role in their recent struggles. However, his injury history was a big reason people were skeptical of the initial signing in the first place.
Moving forward, the Cardinals have some massive games left in their schedule. They play the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, and Seattle Seahawks. They likely have to win at least two of these if they want to remain a serious threat in the NFC.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.