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What we learned about the Arizona Cardinals from the loss to the Denver Broncos

DENVER — The Cardinals lost another quarterback to injury, the second one in as many games, when Colt McCoy suffered a concussion running with the ball in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos.

It was just another blow to the Cardinals in a season full of them, the team’s injury situation completely out of hand.

“The reality of this league is injuries are a part of it. So we’ve got a (expletive) of them. But you can’t use that as an excuse because everybody has injuries and everybody has to figure it out,” defensive lineman J.J. Watt said.

The Cardinals led 9-3 in the third quarter but fell apart in the second half without McCoy and with their defense unable to stop the Broncos. They lost 24-15 for their fourth straight loss and sixth in seven games.

The game was for little more than pride and something positive for one of two teams that are just playing out the regular season with no postseason at stake. Still, this was one the Cardinals (4-10) could have had given how badly the Broncos (4-10) have played this season and forced to turn to unproven Brett Rypien at quarterback.

What we learned on another afternoon of frustration for the Cardinals and their fans:

J.J. kind of day

Watt had three sacks, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and a tackle for loss, plus three quarterback hits in the first half. Watt’s dominance stood out in an otherwise dreary first 30 minutes of action in which neither team could move the ball consistently.

Watt, 33, reportedly earned a contract bonus of $900,000 for this season after reaching nine sacks . And he still has three games left in the season to do more damage.

“Obviously that’s what I’m trying to do. Trying to go out there and play good football, trying to help us win,” Watt said. “It was good, but they went in at the half and obviously they didn’t want that to happen again, so they changed it all up, and credit to them. They did a good job in the second half.”

Watt had three sacks in one game for the seventh time in his career and for the first time since Sept. 23, 2018 with the Houston Texans, according to the Cardinals.

“He feels the healthiest he’s felt in a long time obviously this late in the season, and has been on a great run. He’s been one of the great leaders in the locker room to keep this this group going and being locked in,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

Out of contention

The Cardinals were officially eliminated from playoff contention Sunday, which was bound to happen sooner than later.

“I was very honest with the guys after the game. I told them the situation is what it is. We’re out of the playoffs. We’re in a very difficult spot. You’ve got to be a professional,” Watt said. “You’ve got to hold yourself accountable as a man, as a player. You’re not only playing these last three games for this team, you’re putting film on tape for next year as well. It sucks. Trust me, I don’t like having to stand up there and say that but that’s the truth. … the reality is, you’re playing for a job for next year, you’re playing for the future.”

Watt praised his teammates for their effort despite the situation.

“We want to try and get a win next week. I think that’s it,” Kingsbury said. “We’re trying to stay weeker to week at this point. You know, see who we can get back healthy and go out there and try to execute at a high level.”


McCoy’s departure, in which a scene unfolded similar to that of when Kyler Murray suffered a knee injury last week when the entire team came out on the field, meant that the only other active quarterback on the roster was Trace McSorley, who finished the game.

David Blough was signed this past week to add quarterback depth but was inactive Sunday. Blough did some work on the field in pregame warmups, and he conceivably becomes the Cardinals backup this coming week.

McSorley, who played well in the preseason when Murray and McCoy were limited, led a scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

McSorley said he feels confident if he has to start games going forward.

“Just want to try and go in and operate and, you know, move the ball down the field, help our team out and I’ve got to be better at that,” he said.

Two-point talk

The Cardinals got a rushing touchdown from James Conner with just over six minutes to play, making the score 24-15. But instead of an extra point they opted for a two-point try that failed and left them two scores down.

That decision was debatable, given that the Cardinals could have kicked the extra point and been down by one score at that late stage in the game. They got the ball back with 1:48 to play, when the deficit could have been eight.

“We want to know what we have to do later. If we don’t get it there at least we know that we need two more scores,” Kingsbury said. We liked the play call. We thought we’d get a one-on-one with ‘Hop.’ Unfortunately, the call didn’t go our way.”

A pass to Hopkins was incomplete despite contact from his defender in the end zone.

Shorthanded on defense

The Cardinals had three cornerbacks available for Sunday’s game. The starters were rookie Christian Matthew and Jace Whittaker, who’d been on the practice squad and the active roster earlier this season.

Byron Murphy Jr., Antonio Hamilton and Marco Wilson, the team’s top three cornerbacks, were inactive for the game. Whittaker played the whole game on defense, Matthew played most of it though he left briefly after being shaken up in the third quarter.

The Broncos started finding openings downfield and ran the ball effectively in the third quarter. Down 9-3, they went ahead 10-9 with 6:02 to play in the third on Marlon Mack‘s three-yard touchdown run.

But the Cardinals stayed close thanks to Budda Baker‘s second interception of the season. That, and a fumble recovery by rookie Myjai Sanders after Watt stripped the ball from Rypien.

Defense kept the Cardinals in the game until the fourth quarter, when Denver scored two touchdowns.

Prater perfect

Matt Prater, for six seasons the Broncos’ kicker, hit all three of his field goals from 45, 50 and 55 yards. It hasn’t been a great season for Prater, who spent time injured and unable to play and has missed a couple of kicks this season. But the altitude and accuracy helped him find success Sunday, as his 16th NFL season winds down.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: What we learned about the Arizona Cardinals from the loss to the Denver Broncos



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