The Arizona Cardinals offense disappears, ASU basketball hits triple digits and Sun Devil football refuses to give up on a lost season. These storylines top our list of the five biggest takeaways from the weekend in sports.
Things looked promising for a Cardinals offensive breakout after a turnover and a touchdown in the first two minutes of Sunday’s game, followed by a field goal later in the first quarter. Arizona led New England 10-0, but only managed seven more points the rest of the way. The Patriots defense seemed dedicated to taking away Kyler Murray’s running game, limiting him to 31 yards on five carries. Murray was also largely ineffective in the passing game, with 170 yards through the air and an interception.
Big Takeaway: The offense that was once ranked tops in the NFL (in yards gained) is going backwards the past two weeks. The loss at New England should cement the suspicion among many Cardinals fans that this team is simply not good, but average at best. With a 6-5 record, they still have a slippery grip on the final NFC Wild Card spot with five games remaining, but the San Francisco 49ers are creeping up at 5-6 after a win over the L.A. Rams on Sunday. The Cardinals and 49ers will meet in Glendale in Week 16 as part of a newly announced Saturday tripleheader on December 26. The game will be on Amazon Prime and Twitch for the national audience, Fox10 here locally in Phoenix.
Give credit to the Cardinals defensive unit. They’re banged up and have lost several key starters such as Chandler Jones, Corey Peters and Robert Alford to season-ending injuries, but they are the unexpected strength of this football team right now. The defense held New England to 179 total yards and forced quarterback Cam Newton into the worst game of his career – 84 yards passing and two interceptions.
Big Takeaway: The defensive effort should’ve won the football game alone, but dreadful offense and terrible special teams mistakes allowed the Patriots just enough room to eke out a win with a field goal as time expired. General Manager Steve Keim did everything right in the off-season to improve the defense, so he gets none of the blame here. The offense, on the other hand, is in year two of the same playbook with the same personnel and added the best wide receiver in the NFL, Deandre Hopkins. One has to wonder if Murray Magic is running out because this team is a Hail Mary away from a four-game losing streak. It won’t get any easier this Sunday when they host the Rams.
Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez missed wide right on a 45-yard go-ahead field goal attempt with 1:47 left in the game. It’s the second clutch kick he’s missed in the past four weeks (along with a 49-yard miss against Miami) and at least the third he’s missed this season, including an overtime miss against Seattle in Week 7.
Big Takeaway: Cardinals fans are screaming from the mountaintops to cut Gonzalez off the roster, but NFL kickers aren’t just laying around. Instead, I’d like head coach Kliff Kingsbury to stop trusting the kicker with important game-changing plays. That final drive stalled when the Cardinals got into field goal range, and instead of being aggressive and calling on your star quarterback to make a play in crunch time, Kingsbury continues to make cautious decisions with runs that get stuffed. Put the ball in the hands of Kyler Murray until you’re left with no other choice but to kick a field goal. Zane Gonzalez should only be a last ditch emergency option. Sunday’s game was entirely winnable if you use that mentality.
Arizona State hopes to host its lone home game of the season Saturday night against UCLA. Kickoff time was announced for 8:30 p.m., so prepare for a long night of Pac-12 After Dark.
Big Takeaway: After three straight weeks of cancelled games due to a COVID outbreak on the ASU roster, the Sun Devils hope to play in just their second game of the season. While many in the media have called on ASU to fold on the remainder of this lost season, head coach Herm Edwards said last week the team has to finish what it started and it will not quit. We’re keeping our fingers crossed this game can be played and we’re taking a nap on Saturday to stay up late for the game.
ASU got off to a huge 31-3 run to open the game Sunday against Houston Baptist and never looked back for a 100-77 win in the home opener. Freshman forward Marcus Bagley led the way with 21 points. Josh Christopher, Remy Martin, Kimani Lawrence and Jaelen House all scored in double figures and the 18th-ranked Devils improved to 2-1 on the young season.
Big Takeaway: The 31-3 run to open the game showed off how explosive and exciting this team can be. It may finally be the one good team that stands out among the graveyard of bad Valley sports teams we’ve seen over the past few years. Next up for ASU is a road game Thursday night at Cal.