No-Fly Zone: Cardinals 34-31 loss vs. Dolphins

As I predicted last week, the matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and the Miami Dolphins was going to be a battle of the young quarterbacks and a strong offensive performance by both teams⎯ and it was just that. 

The now 5-3 Cardinals could not put it together at State Farm Stadium, trailing by three points in the final minutes of the game. The now 5-3 Dolphins took the win back to Miami with the final score, 34-31. The Dolphins currently hold a four-game win streak. 

Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez missed a 49-yard field goal attempt, which would have tied the game at 34-34. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury decided to send Gonzalez in to kick the long field goal after the offense got stuffed at the line of scrimmage on a 3rd and 1.

Kyler Murray finished the game completing 21/26, throwing for 283 yards with three touchdowns through the air and one on the ground. Murray rushed 11 times for 106 yards. Murray is undoubtedly the crowned ‘No-Fly Zone’ MVP of the Week.

Tua Tagovailoa completed 20/28, throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns. Tagovailoa rushed 7 times for 35 yards.

The first possession from the Dolphins ended in a three-and-out with the help of safety Isaiah Simmons and linebacker Jordan Hicks. When the Cardinals got the ball for the first time in the game, Murray had all day in the pocket. He was utilizing his feet and the offense was marching up the field. 

Next play, the Dolphins brought a blitz putting Murray in a bind forcing him to try and escape but during the scramble, he lost the ball. Shaq Lawson, outside linebacker for the Dolphins, recovered the fumble and took it to the house, putting the first points on the board and taking the lead 7-0.

The Cardinals got the ball back and started driving upfield, setting the pace of the game with their no-huddle offense. Murray connected with wide receivers Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald, bringing the offense to the red zone.

The first touchdown for the Cardinals was a pass from Murray to tight end Maxx Williams, his first touch of the season after coming off of the injured reserve list. The score was tied at seven with the made extra point from Gonzalez.

Tagovailoa was trying to throw the ball away scrambling to the outside and free safety Jalen Thompson was there on the sideline and looked to pick off the thrown away pass. There was a flag on the play too, which resulted in a holding call from the Dolphins front line.

The call on the field of an interception was reversed because Thompson had a foot out of bounds and did not re-establish himself inbounds. Tagovailoa and the Dolphins got the ball back with a 2nd and 20.

Tagovailoa ran some bootleg pass plays and with being left-handed, he drops to the right, which is not something the Cardinals, or anyone in the league, are used to.

Dolphins running back Jordan Howard had a rushing TD to take the lead back and advance the score, 14-7. This ended up being the score as the first quarter concluded.

Murray responded 40 seconds into the second quarter by connecting with Kirk, wide-open, for a 56-yard TD.

After a strong drive from the Dolphins, Preston Williams was wide open at the two-yard line and a pass from Tagovailoa resulted in a TD with the lead advancing to 21-14.

The Cardinals made it up field and got to the red zone but could not get it into the endzone and settled for a 37-yard field goal completion. 21-17.

The Cardinals defense began to expose the weaknesses from Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense. The Cardinals kept pressuring Tagovailoa and he threw the ball at his right guard’s feet and committed an intentional grounding penalty. He was sacked on the very next play. The drive resulted in a punt.

Murray and the offense got the ball back with under two minutes remaining in the first half. The momentum was not there and a mistake by Andy Isabella running his route but coming back before the sticks did not convert the down. Kingsbury thinking the third down was converted called a time out to stop the clock with just under 1 minute of the first half, but the Cardinals ended the drive with a punt giving the Dolphins offense the ball for a chance to score before the half finished.

With only seconds remaining in the first half and a determined Dolphins offense, they gained enough yards to send in their kicker Jason Sanders in to put three more points on the board before halftime. Sanders completed the 56-yard field goal and tied the franchise longest kick bringing the score to 24-17.

Isabella was set to receive the kickoff of the second half. He was hit hard and lost the ball but was able to recover it and bring the offense on the field at the 13-yard line. Murray and the offense came blazing out of the half and connected for a 17-yard reception to DeAndre Hopkins, his first in the game and giving Murray some breathing room.

Murray was sending some shorter passes to his wide receiver core and after completing a couple of passes upfield, a throw to Hopkins resulted in a defensive pass interference advancing the offense to the Dolphins 25-yard line. A quick 4-yard run from Edmonds kept the momentum going and then, Murray dropped a dime for 21 yards to Darrell Daniels resulting in a TD and tying the score at 24-24.

The Dolphins offense got the ball back but were sent back to the benches after six plays ending the drive in a punt.

Cardinals got the ball on their own 16-yard line and Murray went to work completing a pass to Fitzgerald for 11 yards. The offense continued to chip away at the field making short gains. 

There was a huge play on 4th and 1. There was a designated QB draw and with Murray scrambling, he threw the ball to Hopkins, which was incomplete. There were two offsetting penalties, a DPI and an ineligible man downfield which kept the play at 4th and one giving Murray another attempt.

Murray faked a hand-off to Edmonds, threw everyone in the stadium off, and rushed for 28 yards, easily getting the first down and was tackled on the Dolphins 26-yard line. A completed 12-yard pass to Edmonds next play and then Murray snuck in the endzone for his only rushing TD with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The Dolphins offense went back to work but couldn’t get in the endzone before the third quarter came to a close and the third quarter concluded with a score of 31-24, with the Cardinals holding on to the lead.

It was TD after TD in the game. With an 11-yard TD completion from Tagovailoa with only a few minutes into the fourth quarter, the game was back to being tied, 31-31.

Kingsbury kept on his track this game and was not calling a conservative game having converted two fourth downs previously. It didn’t work out as well on this drive and the Cardinals could not convert the fourth down and turned the ball over on the Dolphins 40-yard line.

Five plays later, Sanders kicked a 50-yard field goal taking the lead 34-31, for the final time in the game.

The Cardinals offense came back on the field with 3:30 remaining in the game. A bomb from Murray to Kirk 35 yards downfield brought the offense to the Dolphins 40-yard line. After this play, the offense started falling apart and were brought to another 4th and one. With a decision from Kingsbury to not go for it on another 4th and one, rather attempt a 49-yard field goal looking to tie the game.

Gonzalez muffed the kick and did not get enough force behind it. The kick was right on the money but short of the uprights. With the Dolphins getting the ball back with 1:53 on the game clock, the offense needed to convert one first down. They did. Game over.

Offense:

By mere stats alone, it was obvious who should have won the game. Murray is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to score eight TD’s in the first eight games of a season.  Murray put together an almost phenomenal performance and although the fumble put them in the hole after their first possession, it didn’t matter in the long run.

He does have to work on protecting the ball more. These defenses are brutal and with his stature, it is just something he is going to have to work on. I am so nervous when he takes off in traffic and has one hand secured on the ball. I know how disappointed he gets when he makes mistakes or turns the ball over, but it is all about the learning process.

I, of course, like everyone else, want to see Hopkins get the ball more. He is a playmaker and although the offense has many threats, he has to be utilized more. He wasn’t even targeted one time in the first half. Hopkins was being guarded by cornerback, Xavier Howard and he really could not guard him without drawing a DPI, so I understand how it was hard to get him the ball. But it is just something the offense could have capitalized on, earlier in the game. 

With the ankle injury Kenyan Drake suffered, Chase Edmonds is now the number one running back and I believe rightfully so. He is fast, can catch passes and finished the game with 25 rushes for 70 yards and caught three receptions for 18 yards. He makes plays when is needed to and is a huge threat when he is moving north to south.

Going back and forth with Murray rushing, Edmonds rushing, pass plays and with averaging the most yards on offense out of every team in the league, there is no reason they shouldn’t come away with these wins.

Defense:

With the Cardinals defensive core missing some vital pieces from positive COVID-19 tests and injuries it was very evident in the game. Vance Joseph was having to put fourth and fifth string guys in the cornerback position. Tagovailoa was so elusive, he had great vision, great legs, great throws and was downright dangerous.

Isaiah Simmons is becoming more prominent on defense, which is great to see, and Budda Baker is as dominant as ever. Baker got his thumb cast off a few days before the game and now has all ten fingers. With a healthy and COVID rid Cardinals defense, offenses should be scared.

The defense wasn’t as strong as it usually is, but I am not going to pick apart the defense and I am going to wait and see what they bring against the Bills in their match up next week.

The blitzes called by Joseph make O-lines and quarterbacks force bad plays or end the play with sacks. This is going to be extremely necessary in the match up against running QB Josh Allen and the Bills O-line. They just beat the Seattle Seahawks 44-34.

Kingsbury’s Decisions:

Aw man, poor Kliff Kingsbury. When I watch his post-game interviews after a loss, I can just see the disappointment in himself and how upset he is with letting the team down.

With the loss earlier on Sunday the Seahawks saw, if the Cardinals won, they would be seeded first in the NFC West.

He consistently says he gets out coached and that was the reason for the loss. That is fine, but in these need-to-win games and several opportunities to do so, he needs to figure it out. 

Kingsbury has a great connection with the offense, especially Murray and he needs to make smarter in game decisions. The one thing Kingsbury said in the post-game interview, after the win against the Seahawks, was how Murray told him to never play conservative again and he said he would never do it again. He played conservative against the Dolphins and it cost the team the game.

The worst part is as the season is progressing, with only 16 games in the regular season, these close games need to result in wins, not heartbreaking losses. 

The Cardinals have two tough matchups in the next two weeks playing the Bills and then the Seahawks again. I’m looking forward to an improvement from Kingsbury and stepping up to the plate for the team and the fans.

Leave a Reply