Wed, 30 Nov 2022

Know Your Foe: Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers
29 Sep 2022, 21:47 GMT+10

Augusta Stone

CHARLOTTE - The Cardinals and Panthers have a few similar goals heading into the Week 4 matchup at Bank of America Stadium.

Arizona (1-2) and Carolina are looking to end the first four weeks at .500, and they're also waiting their offenses to show more gusto.

Recent history has favored the Panthers against head coach Kliff Kingsbury's Cardinals, as Carolina has claimed all three games against them since he was hired in 2019. The Panthers lead the all-time series 14-5 and have won the last six matchups. Arizona has not beaten Carolina since Oct. 6, 2013.

The Cardinals come to Charlotte seeking to put together a complete performance for the first time this season, with the offense hoping to generate early production against the Panthers.

Here's what to know about the Cardinals:

SLOW STARTS IMPEDE THE CARDINALS' OFFENSE

The Cardinals' offense has gotten off to some slow starts this season.

They've been outscored 56-13 first halves of their first three games, a trend that has spelled trouble in their 1-2 start. They're also the only team in the NFL that hasn't scored any points in the first quarter, have converted a league-low five first downs in the first quarter, and tie with the Panthers for the fewest total yards in the first quarter (95).

Playing from behind has forced Arizona to commit to its passing game, which has yet to reach a consistent production level.

Quarterback Kyler Murray has completed 63.8 percent of his passes thus far (90-of-141) for 784 yards and three touchdowns against one interception. He has yet to connect deep, as this season's most explosive pass play has gone just 30 yards.

The Cardinals' offense has struggled in their two losses: a 44-21 blowout against the Chiefs and a 20-12 loss to the Rams, during which Arizona settled for four field goals.

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But Arizona sealed a victory over the winless Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2. It took Murray's late-game heroics and an overtime period to get there.

The Cardinals stared down their last 12 minutes in Las Vegas down 23-7 before Murray lit up the Raiders' defense. He led back-to-back fourth-quarter touchdown drives, taking the Cardinals 54 yards in nine plays on one series and 73 yards in 18 plays on the next.

Arizona scored all its points in the second half after being shut out at halftime, accumulating 413 yards of total offense on the day.

The Cardinals won in overtime thanks to a 59-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. finished the win after linebacker Isaiah Simmons (Arizona's first-round pick from Clemson in 2020), knocked the ball loose.

The Cardinals are toward the middle of the league in total offense, standing 15th with 1,060 yards through the first three games. They earn the bulk of their yardage in the passing game, ranked 12th with 744 yards, and stand at 17th in rush offense with 316 yards.

However, they can struggle to punch it in the end zone and scored no touchdowns against the Rams in Week 3.

Murray has yet to establish himself as a run-game threat this season and has totaled 65 rush yards on 12 attempts through the first three games. Lead running back James Conner has tallied just 90 yards on 30 carries, averaging 3.0 yards per attempt.

Wide receiver Marquise Brown has emerged as the Cardinals' most valuable threat in the passing game (in the absence of suspended wideout DeAndre Hopkins), bringing in 251 yards on 24 receptions this season.

Brown flashed in the Week 3 loss to the Rams, finishing the day with 140 yards on 14 catches, serving as a bright spot on an occasionally lackluster offense. Second-year wide receiver Greg Dortch is also breaking through, tallying 198 yards on 20 catches this season.

ARIZONA'S DEFENSE CAN KEEP IT CLOSE - IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS

The Cardinals' defense hasn't been an overly staunch group, 23rd in total defense through the season's first three games, allowing 383.7 yards per game.

Still, the defense did clinch Arizona's lone win and kept the Rams close in last week's eight-point loss.

Arizona's defense is best against the run (and they still have that J.J. Watt guy), holding their first three opponents to 308 rush yards, good for 11th in the NFL. They have the same number of takeaways as the Panthers (three) and struggle in the passing game, allowing opponents to total 843 pass yards, 29th in the league.

The lopsided Week 1 loss to Kansas City didn't help the Cardinals' defense statistically. Arizona stands 31st in the league in points allowed behind only Detroit, allowing 87 points on the season.

Safeties Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson pace the Cardinals with 27 and 26 tackles respectively. Baker, a four-time Pro Bowler, also came up with a forced fumble last week against the Rams.

Linebacker Zaven Collins is third on the team with 19 stops, a forced fumble and two tackles for loss. Collins sustained a shoulder injury in Week 3, but Kingsbury said he expected Collins to be OK for the week ahead.

The Cardinals will miss a key piece of their interior defensive line as nose tackle Rashard Lawrence recently underwent hand surgery, which Kingsbury said will keep him out of their upcoming game against Carolina.

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