Panthers Pound Cards: Five Things We Learned

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Arizona Cardinals returned home Sunday, losing to the Carolina Panthers 38-20 before an announced crowd of 60,104 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. With the loss, the Cards drop to 0-2-1. The Panthers earn their first win of the season, they’re now 1-2.

Here are five things we learned.

1. Allen(‘s) Town…Much was made this week of Kyle Allen’s return to the Valley and the former Desert Mountain High star didn’t disappoint playing in front of family and friends for the first time at State Farm Stadium. After his fumble stalled the opening drive near the Arizona red zone, Allen responded with a 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by a five-yard scoring strike to Curtis Samuel. Then, with no timeouts and less than two minutes to play before the halftime, he marched Carolina 75 yards on just three plays, hitting D.J. Moore on a deep crossing route for a 52-yard touchdown. He finished the first half an efficient 13-18 for 173 yards and two touchdowns. The second half brought even more success as the second-year pro, making his second NFL regular season start, ended 19-26 for 261 yards and four touchdowns. “He stood in there and made some great throws,” Kliff Kingsbury said after the game. “You have to tip your hat at how well he played.” Allen didn’t throw an interception and his QB rating was a sparkling was 144.4. Pretty impressive showing for the Scottsdale native.

2. First and Foremost…Through the first two games, the Cardinals were certainly hampered by slow starts against the Lions and Ravens. Sunday Arizona flipped the script. Following a Chandler Jones sack/fumble on Carolina’s opening possession, Kyler Murray marched the Cards down on a 14-play, 74-yard drive which culminated in a Murray one-yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald. Kingsbury varied looks, included a couple called runs for his rookie quarterback. “When we can run the football and mix things up, we can do some good things,” Kingsbury said about the early game success. It marked the first time Arizona led in regulation in 2019–spanning eight quarters (excluding overtime against Detroit in Week One).

3. Reoccurring Problem…Another week, another tight end wrecking defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s 3-4 defense. First it was Detroit rookie T.J. Hockenson (six catches, 131 yards, touchdown), then Allen’s high school teammate Mark Andrews (eight catches, 112 yards, touchdown) and Sunday steady and reliable Greg Olsen shredded the Big Red defense to the tune of six receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns. “We have to get that cleaned up,” Kingsbury directly explained. “That’s three weeks in a row…we need to do a better job with that. We have to have an answer and we didn’t have one today.”

4. Sack Master…Chandler Jones once again is a shining light on the Cards’ defense. The outside linebacker set the tempo early Sunday ripping through the Panthers’ offensive line deep in Cards’ territory and stripping Allen. The sack/fumble switched momentum as Murray led Arizona on a long scoring drive. Then in the fourth quarter Jones had another sack/fumble stalling out a drive. He tallied five total tackles, as well as two quarterback hurries.

5. Protecting Your Investment…Arizona’s offensive line continues to struggle with Sunday being no different. Murray was sacked eight times. If not for his escapability, said number could have likely reached double-digits. The biggest nemesis for Arizona was Panthers’ combo linebacker/defensive end Mario Addison who dropped Murray three times and was a frequent visitor in the Cards’ backfield. “They outplayed us,” Murray said in his brief post-game press conference. “They were better than us today.”

The Cards host NFC West rival Seattle 1:05 next Sunday.