About Those Cardinals Big Plays in Week 2…

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) makes a catch against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander (24) during the fourth quarter in Glendale, Ariz. Sept. 19, 2021. Cardinals Vs Vikings

It was an amazing game in Arizona’s desert. Sadly, we end up on the wrong side of it. I don’t think we need to push the panic button because this week showed that the games against Seattle and Cleveland are winnable. We still have a good team, and there’s still time to right the ship. However, what we need to be better at is preventing big plays. The defense played OK against the Cardinals, but there were too many big plays on Sunday. And, even worse, some happened on 3rd and 4th downs.

Cardinals 1st TD – 15-yard Pass to DeAndre Hopkins

It was a 3&10, so obvious passing situation. Murray managed to run around and he got Hopkins on the left side of the end zone. Peterson was the closest to him, so technically this was on him. But first of all, it’s hard to cover someone for 5+ seconds, and even harder when it’s one of the best in the league. Watching the play, Hopkins first was crossing the end zone and then cut back to catch the ball. If Peterson passed Hopkins to Woods (who was covering the middle), he would be in position to cover DHop when he turned left.

2&10 – 35-yard Pass to Maxx Williams

This play was almost a copycat of one that happened against the Bengals. In that game, the ball hit Mac Alexander on the chest and got caught by a Bengals player. Now, it hit Kendricks and fell to Williams’ lap. After it, he managed to break a couple of tackles before Vigil had a touchdown-saving tackle.

3&16 – 19-yard Pass to Christian Kirk

This one happened four plays after the Williams’ one and Hunter’s first sack. The Vikings were on a prevent defense and Kendricks was covering Kirk. Even though he is one of the best covering linebackers, it’s a matchup that favors the offense. Kirk stopped just after the sticks and Murray threw a perfect pass. Kendricks still was all over him, but couldn’t make the play.

Cardinals 3rd TD – 77-yard Pass to Rondale Moore

This here is the big one. It took me a lot of replays and a discussion with a friend to try to understand what happened. The first thought is that Peterson should be covering deep (he was credited with allowing the catch by PFF). But, as he himself told on his podcast, this wasn’t his responsibility. It was a blitz play with Cover 3 behind. Peterson, Woods, and Breeland had deep third assignments, with Alexander, Vigil, and Smith covering underneath. This is where the discussion I had with my friend enters (thanks again Matheus). The Vikings probably were on a pattern-matching coverage, meaning that if the outside receiver ran a deep route, it became man-to-man with Woods helping one of the two.

Both outside receivers ran a go route – you can see Peterson’s hips shifting when he goes from zone to man. This means that Mac Alexander should’ve stayed with Rondale Moore, instead of passing him to Peterson/Woods. Weatherly was unblocked and had a clean shot to sack Murray, but didn’t make the play and broke contain.

4&5 – 35-yard Pass to Christian Kirk

We were way better in the second half preventing big plays. But we chose the worst time possible to give another one. Down by two with 6:12 to go, the Cardinals had a 4&5 on our 41-yard line. If we got the stop, the offense would be in a good field position to drain the clock and try to score. As we know, it didn’t happen. Zimmer called a zero blitz – everyone who’s not blitzing is in man with no safety help. Because Mac was in off-coverage, Kirk got a free release off the line, and Mac almost bumped into Woods. So the WR easily was a couple of steps ahead and wide open. Smith was unblocked on the blitz but froze just a little bit, which gave Murray the tenth of a second he needed.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible defensive game. We still managed two interceptions, three sacks, pressures, and some clutch stops. But it’s hard to win when you give up that many plays.