Thirty minutes were all it took for the Arizona Cardinals to lose their season opener against Washington. To be fair, the Cardinals had their chances to get back into the game, but issues on both sides of the ball prevented that from happening. The team failed to get a victory for their new coaching staff and generated more questions than answers. Today we turn our attention to the individuals who stood out on Sunday, good or bad, and pick our winners and losers from the opening game of the season.
The dynamic running back lands on the list more for his newly signed extension and for returning from injury rather than his stellar play on Sunday. Johnson showed flashes of what makes him arguably one of the best running backs in the league. On a couple of first down runs Johnson displayed an explosive burst through the hole and was able to quickly to get to the second level. Were it not for an early three score deficit and the Washington defense dedicating two or more defenders to shadow, it is likely Johnson would have had more than just 67 yards of total offense.
Peterson was the brightest bulb on the field for the Cardinals defense. The cornerback led a secondary which often looked lost and confused with the new defensive scheme. Peterson played primarily in zone coverage but effectively closed off his side of the field. Defensive coordinator Al Holcomb used Peterson off the edge on occasion via blitzes. Peterson tallied a sack on Sunday in addition to solid coverage. The coming matchup against a talented Los Angeles wide receiving corps.
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This is an obvious selection. Bradford struggled to find a rhythm in the first half as the offense ran just 14 plays. Missed throws were the norm on Sunday. The veteran quarterback faced a constant pass rush against Washington and was unable to find open receivers downfield. Bradford finished the day with 153 yards on 20 of 34 passing. That is less than five yards per attempt. The interception near the end of the game was the last nail on the coffin. By that point the chants had begun among the fans calling on the coaching staff to send in rookie Josh Rosen. Sunday comes another test, this time on the road against the Rams.
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Losing at home to start the season happens to many teams and coaching staffs. For head coach Steve Wilks, the loss was made worse by the poor showing of his team. The Cardinals struggled on both sides of the football and it was more than the occasional penalty or missed tackle. On offense the game plan seemed to keep the ball underneath with little in terms of testing the defense over the top. When the offense is unable to tally even 20 plays in a half, the issue goes beyond just missed throws. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy struggled to take advantage of the Washington defense. Washington did not utilize anything out of the ordinary for a Greg Manusky run defense, but the Cardinals seemed unable to adjust.
The defense seemed out of its element. Whether it was leaving linebacker Deone Bucannon to cover Chris Thompson or Jordan Reed, or the front seven struggling to slow down the Washington run game, the unit spent the entire first half on its heels. Defensive coordinator Al Holcomb made some adjustments in the second half but part of the defense’s success needs to be attributed to Washington becoming conservative with the large lead.
Finding winners from the loss was a bit of a task as the team struggled in just about every aspect of the game. This is to be expected following crushing defeat. The truth of the matter is the Cardinals were disappointing on Sunday. Expectations may not have been high but no one would have predicted a dud to open the season. The next game provides a chance for redemption for Arizona, even if it comes against Super Bowl favorite Los Angeles. We’ll be back later in the week with a preview of the first divisional matchup of the season.