The Arizona Cardinals recovered from two tough defeats in a row by defeating the New Orleans Saints at home on Thursday Night Football 42-34. The team found itself during the match, despite the less than ideal start.
The Cardinals are currently 3-4 and are still last in the NFC West. For them to have any chance of making the playoffs, Thursday’s victory was crucial. Arizona needs all the inspiration it can get because three out of its next four games are against opponents from its division.
For the time being, players and head coach Kliff Kingsbury may rejoice that they are back in the winning column. Despite the outcome, the competition revealed some areas that still require improvement. Here are three lessons learned from the Week 7 Cardinals-Saints game in light of that.
3. The Cardinals found their temporary kicker
The Cardinals ended up having a greater issue than they had thought when seasoned Matt Prater was injured. The team’s last three games were played without the two-time Pro Bowl kicker, which necessitated some temporary substitutions.
Unfortunately, things did not go well for the first two. Both field goals and extra points by Matt Ammendola were made on a 2-for-3 basis. His lone field goal attempt was unsuccessful, which was incredibly expensive because it would have knotted the game against the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles and maybe forced overtime. He is only 18 for 26 in his career, going 2-for-9 on field goals of at least 40 yards.
Due to this, Arizona was ultimately forced to go for it on fourth downs against the Seattle Seahawks since they could not take the risk of kicking.
The Cardinals signed Rodrigo Blankenship after waiving Ammendola. The former Colt made a good impression at first. He finished 2-for-3 on extra point attempts and made both of his field goals, including a 50-yarder. The fact that Blankenship can deliver long kicks should be enough to keep him around despite the failed PAT.
In contrast, Prater, with 66, has made the most field goals of at least 50 yards in NFL history. The Cardinals should be in fine condition with Blankenship handling the kicking responsibilities until the veteran returns.
2. Offense cannot start slow again
The Cardinals offence scored a touchdown in each of the first halves of their defeats to the Eagles and Seahawks, totaling one. Thursday brought about little change.
In their opening two possessions, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals had to make do with two field goals. Fans booed the squad as a result because they wanted to see touchdowns. With slightly more than two minutes left in the half, Arizona’s Keaontay Ingram scored an offensive touchdown, but things could have gone very differently.
As they scored a touchdown after just four plays on their first possession of the game, the Saints could have taken a commanding lead.
It will be challenging for the Cardinals to catch up with their opponents every week unless something changes going forward. Early scoring of touchdowns usually establishes the tone of the game. So, Murray and the offence come first for the Cardinals if they want to build more comfortable leads.
Later in the season, the Buccaneers and the Rams will present the team with challenging offences. Arizona’s offence must get off to a strong start otherwise those opponents could quickly create double-digit leads.
1. Defense won this game, but it can’t always be the case
The Cardinals’ defence secured victory in the contest.
The game was scheduled to tie at 14-14 at the half, but Arizona’s defence had other ideas. Cornerback Marco Wilson picked off New Orleans quarterback Andy Dalton with less than two minutes to go for a pick-six of 38 yards. The Cardinals now have the lead for the first time in the game.
Linebacker Isaiah Simmons had the team’s second pick-six of the game on the very next possession, this one going for 56 yards. The Cardinals held a two-touchdown advantage after it, making the final score 28-14.
Another Pick-6?! @isaiahsimmons25‘s turn.#NOvsAZ on Prime Video
Also available on NFL+ https://t.co/aKjbRcE0ca pic.twitter.com/30dM6zxh3N
— NFL (@NFL) October 21, 2022
Additionally, earlier that evening, Dalton was intercepted by cornerback Antonio Hamilton. The Cardinals’ defence recorded nine pass deflections, three quarterback hits, and four tackles for loss as a unit. Even though Dalton passed for four touchdowns, Arizona’s defensive play was the deciding factor in the game’s outcome.
Because of the offense’s persistently sluggish start, it is the Cardinals’ defense’s big plays that keep them in these games. Large tackles for loss and interceptions prevent their opponents from taking commanding leads, which would put Murray and the offence under more more pressure.
For the season, Arizona has lost three of the four games in which it has given up 20 points or fewer. The Cardinals’ postseason hopes are now being maintained by their defence. However, the team cannot put the majority of the burden on the defence unless it truly wants to compete.
On the plus side, DeAndre Hopkins, a former All-Pro wide receiver, has returned, and it seems to have given the offence a slight boost.
The article 3 Cardinals takeaways following Week 7 victory against the Saints first published on ClutchPoints.