The Arizona Cardinals surprised many as they battled the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. A road game at Arrowhead Stadium led many to believe the Cardinals would be blown out of the water against the Chiefs. Kansas City’s first drive looked to be the opening salvo but Arizona fought back and kept it close until the game’s final minutes. It was an impressive feat for one of the league’s weakest teams. Today we take a look at the winners and losers for the Cardinals from Sunday’s tough loss to the Chiefs.
Rosen came into the game facing another young signal caller in Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is an MVP contender this season in just his first year as starter and second year in the league. Rosen kept the Cardinals in the game as he helped the offense to a 50% third down conversion rate. The rookie quarterback was sacked five times on the day but battled to get the Cardinals within a touchdown of taking the lead early in the fourth quarter. Rosen finished with 208 yards passing on 22 of 39 passing including a touchdown and two interceptions. The numbers do not tell the entire story as Rosen was not helped by a porous offensive line and lack of receiving threats down the field. Regardless, Rosen showed he could maintain his composure in the toughest of road environments.
Johnson had his best game of the season against the Chiefs, finishing with 98 yards rushing on 21 attempts, while also adding seven receptions for 85 yards receiving. Johnson also accounted for both Arizona touchdowns with a one-yard rushing score and a nine-yard catch and run to open the scoring for the Cardinals. The offensive game plan focused on getting Johnson his touches early and often. It allowed the offense to settle in and control the clock. Both his receiving and rushing yards were season highs for Johnson, who also received the most touches of his 2018 season with 28. The output showed just how valuable of a weapon Johnson can be for the Arizona offense and should get the running back on track for the last half of the season.
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Cardinals Pass Rush
Heading into Sunday’s game, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had been sacked just 12 times through nine games. The Cardinals brought down the gunslinger five times on Sunday, the most sacks given up by the Chiefs in a game all season. Arizona did a good job of getting pressure from all angles, often collapsing the pocket from the outside while getting a solid push up the middle. Defensive end Chandler Jones continued his impressive play with two sacks in addition to two additional hits on the quarterback. Four different Arizona defenders registered a sack. The pass rush also added another seven hits on Mahomes which helped keep the quarterback under 300 yards for just the second time in 2018. Mahomes passed for less than 300 yards for the first time since the season opener.
Cardinals Pass Protection
The Cardinals offensive line struggled against a fierce Kansas City pass rush. Kansas City registered five sacks on Sunday in addition to 13 quarterback hits. The Chiefs were able to get pressure with or without the blitz. Defensive end Dee Ford and defensive tackle Chris Jones combined for three sacks and seven quarterback hits. Jones overwhelmed center Mason Cole through most of the game. Ford was able to get around tackles D.J. Humphries and Andre Smith on numerous occasions and create pressure. The constant pressure made it difficult for Rosen and the offense to find a rhythm and move the ball downfield consistently. Throw in an injury to guard Justin Pugh and the Cardinals were playing with their back-up rookie center and a back-up right guard protecting their franchise quarterback. It was another poor performance for what has been a porous pass protection group.
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Bucannon saw his playing time drop drastically against the Chiefs. The hybrid linebacker was on the field for just 10 defensive plays on Sunday. Bucannon was a transcendent player under James Bettcher and his attacking 3-4 defense, but has become the odd man out in the more traditional 4-3 zone scheme favored by defensive coordinator Al Holcomb and head coach Steve Wilks. On Sunday Bucannon tallied one tackle on the game. Bucannon is an undersized linebacker and doesn’t quite possess the cover skills of a typical safety. Unfortunately it leaves Bucannon needing a favorable matchup or injuries to get quality playing time.
Since Keim took over, the Cardinals have gone 51-37, making the playoffs twice. After the departure of Bruce Arians, Keim needed to hit on the offseason. Through nine games it looks as though Keim missed. Sunday the offensive line struggled to protect the quarterback. This line is built by Keim through the draft and free agency. The right side of the line was brought in during this past offseason. Keim drafted Mason Cole at center, free agent signings Justin Pugh at guard and Andre Smith at tackle. Smith was a turnstile for Kansas City pass rushers while Cole was overwhelmed inside. Pugh was injured midway through the game and is now out for the year with a torn MCL. Keim likely gets another chance to fix the roster, but Sunday showed the many misses of the former Executive of the Year.