CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Arizona Cardinals' defence appears to have sprung a leak.
After holding San Francisco and Washington to a combined 35 points to start the season 2-0, the Cardinals are suddenly having trouble stopping anyone.
Arizona allowed Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to put together four scoring drives of 75 yards or longer in a 31-21 road loss Sunday. That dropped the Cardinals to 2-2, raising questions about what’s gone wrong. Carolina piled up 444 yards, was a combined 8 of 12 on third- and fourth-down conversions and controlled the ball for more than 37 minutes, making it difficult for Kyler Murray and the offence to ever get in a rhythm.
It also left second-year coach Kliff Kingsbury struggling to find answers.
“They had a great plan,” Kingsbury said. “Teddy played great and went to the right place with the ball, and they protected well. We had a hard time getting pressure, and their receivers are really talented. I’ve got to give them credit. We have to get off the field on those third-and-long situations.”
That was never more evident than after the Cardinals got to 28-14 late in the third quarter on a Murray touchdown pass. With a chance to seize the momentum, they saw Carolina put together a 15-play, 73-yard drive that took more than 8 1/2 minutes and resulted in a field goal, making it a three-possession game.
“I’m a firm believer that if you play your leverage and you execute and you just do your job, simple as that, the defence will be successful,” said Arizona linebacker Jordan Hicks. “It should work or at least compete. (But) there were guys wide open. They ran the ball. They were able to keep us on our heels. At the end of the day it’s all execution, it’s basics and give them credit, they played well.”
Carolina ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns despite playing without 2019 All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey. It was Mike Davis and Reggie Bonnafon who tormented the Cardinals, not the 2017 first-round draft pick.
Robby Anderson had more yards receiving than DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk combined.
The Cardinals managed just three quarterback pressures on Bridgewater and didn't sack him all day. They came up with one interception, but that was on a pass Bridgewater overthrew his receiver.
“We knew Teddy was getting the ball out quick and he liked getting the ball out fast, especially with the pass rush our guys have,” Hicks said.
While the loss drops the Cardinals two games behind the first-place Seahawks in the NFC West, Hicks said he's not concerned.
The good news, perhaps, for the Cardinals is they face the winless New York Jets next week, which should give the defence a chance to turn things around.
“I don’t believe there is any reason to panic,” Hicks said. “I believe there’s reason to get back in the lab, detail our work, to work on our execution. We have a whole season ahead of us. I’ve seen crazier things happen than a team losing two games in a row. That’s my mindset. That’s the mindset I’m going to share. It’s detail, execution, the basics. We have to go out there and play together, play detailed football.”
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Steve Reed, The Associated Press