The Arizona Cardinals opened the 2018 season not with a loud bang, but rather a disappointing whimper. The team featured a new coaching staff, new quarterback, and a retooled roster. However, the results were all too familiar as the Cardinals fell to Washington by a score of 24-6
The issues began on the defensive end. From the first drive of the game, Washington was able to find success moving the football. While the unit eventually stiffened and forced a punt, the drive displayed an area of attack that Washington took advantage of throughout the first half.
Arizona’s defense struggled to contain the run game. Adrian Peterson returned to Arizona and gashed the defense for 96 yards on 26 carries. Peterson scored on a first half run from one yard out, going untouched up the middle. The bulk of Washington’s offense came in the second quarter as they scored 21 points to close the first half.
The Cardinals struggled to stay on the field and build a rhythm on offense. David Johnson showed his explosiveness on a couple of runs for first downs in the first half. However, the rest of the offense seemed stuck in park as Washington effectively put constant pressure in the face of quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford overall struggled, completing 20 out of 34 passes for just 153 yards and an interception.
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By comparison, Alex Smith led Washington by completing 21 of 30 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. The veteran quarterback played his 13th game against the Cardinals on Sunday and won his seventh contest. Smith was accurate and extended plays enough to find open receivers. The Washington passing game primarily consisted of chunk plays from both Peterson and fellow running back Chris Thompson. Thompson’s 13 yard scoring reception came on an underneath route against linebacker Deone Bucannon. Overall, Peterson finished with over 150 yards of total offense and Thompson added another 128 all-purpose yards.
The Arizona defense rebounded in the second half. The unit forced a turnover and held Washington to just a field goal after halftime. Robert Nkemdiche flashed at portions of the game. However, in the end it was too little and too late as the early deficit was too much for the offense to overcome. Eventually the Cardinals put points on the scoreboard on a two yard run by Johnson. The score came midway through the final quarter and would be the only points scored by Arizona.
In the end it was a disappointing start to the Steve Wilks era. It remains to be seen if the performance on Sunday was an aberration or if the team just isn’t very good. The team has a week of practice to fix mistakes and prepare for the long season ahead. We’ll be back on Wednesday to break down what happened and what are the three biggest takeaways from the loss.