TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals insisted all was well with the franchise even after last year's late-season collapse and a lackluster offseason.
That has become harder to believe after a demoralizing Week 1.
There's no shame in losing to the Kansas City Chiefs, who are among the NFL's best teams after making the AFC title game four seasons in a row. But the Cardinals are a franchise that views itself on the upswing and a 44-21 loss to the Chiefs — which felt even more lopsided — was not a step in the right direction.
“We’ve got to get better in a hurry," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Have a sense of urgency in everything you do. The biggest jump is from Week 1 to Week 2.”
The Chiefs jumped ahead so quickly Sunday — 14-0 by the end of the first quarter and 23-7 by halftime — that it was hard to judge Arizona's offense. Kyler Murray was 22 of 34 passing for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
There's also a bit of a curve for the defense considering Patrick Mahomes is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
“You know Pat's going to get out and do his deal, but there were too many times we just made it really easy for him to do what he does,” Kingsbury said.
The Cardinals started last season with a 10-2 record before losing four of their next five games. They also got whipped by the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC wild-card round. So after the loss to the Chiefs, the Cardinals have dropped six of their last seven.
Some players — including receiver Marquise Brown — felt the team could have been better in practice last week. Kingsbury agreed.
“There's nowhere to go but up with that performance,” Kingsbury said. “Our guys understood that. It starts with practice. I'm glad they recognized it — now it's time to do something about it.”
At least the Cardinals took care of the ball. They had no turnovers against the Chiefs, which didn't matter Sunday, but would be a nice trend to continue as they go through their schedule. Some of the team's key playmakers — including Brown, RB James Conner and TE Zach Ertz — scored touchdowns, even if a few of those were well after the game was decided.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
It's a long list. But right at the top is the defense, which couldn't get any pressure on Mahomes, gave up big holes in the running game and allowed Chiefs receivers plenty of room to maneuver in the passing game.
WR Greg Dortch had easily the best game of his career with seven catches for 63 yards. Dortch has bounced around the league for four seasons, but appears to have found a home in Arizona. He was good during training camp and should have a fairly extensive roll for the next few weeks until Hopkins and Antoine Wesley return. ... LB Dennis Gardeck also had some good moments, forcing a fumble in the second quarter.
The Cardinals really need LB Isaiah Simmons to live up to his potential after the team spent the No. 8 overall pick on him in 2020. The first game of his third season was not encouraging. Simmons — who is theoretically valuable because he has the size of a linebacker but the speed of a safety — had trouble protecting the middle of the field. Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce had eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.
“Not my best," Simmons said. “It’s Week 1, I’ve got a long way to go. I’m a lot better than what I put out there.”
The Cardinals managed to come out of Week 1 in good shape. Now they need to get some guys who have had preseason injuries back on the field. WR Rondale Moore (hamstring), CB Trayvon Mullen (toe), OL Justin Pugh (neck) and DE J.J. Watt (calf) were all inactive against the Chiefs.
0 — The Cardinals didn't sack Mahomes, who looked comfortable in the pocket and rarely faced heavy pressure. The pass rush looked like a problem after Chandler Jones left for Las Vegas during free agency and it still appears that way after Week 1.
“At times, guys got home and got some wins, but (Mahomes) did a tremendous job getting out, like he does against everybody,” Kingsbury said. “We'll continue to work on that. Gotta find a way to get more pressure on a guy like that.”
The Cardinals are a franchise that could use some good news. They had last season's collapse, a bunch of less-than-stellar headlines during the offseason and now a Week 1 debacle. An important road game against the Raiders — who also lost in Week 1 — looms this Sunday.
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