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The Loser Papers – 2018 Edition I

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What’s this? An edition of TLP after week one? For the first time in Jay Gruden’s coaching career, the Redskins won their opener, so necessity dictates we check in with newspapers local to the Phoenix area to find out just what happened. From the pages of The Arizona Republic we get this offering:

Cardinals get pushed around on defense, can’t find any flow on offense in opener loss

Bob McManaman, Arizona Republic

Redskins Vs Cardinals 2018
(Photo: Rob Schumacher/The Republic)

Of all of the things that were said by the Cardinals following their season-opening 24-6 disaster of a loss to the Washington Redskins, one comment seemed to stand out above all others. It came from quarterback Sam Bradford, who said, “We can’t let this game beat us twice.”

There is a lot of weight in those eight little words, and the Cardinals would be wise to reflect on them before they suit up for next week’s game in Los Angeles against the Rams. But first, they have to throw Sunday’s game in the dumpster like a three-legged couch, Bradford says.

“Obviously, no one wants to start the season like this,” he said. “We felt like we were in a much better position. We felt like we were going to come out here and play much better than we did. But it’s one game. We’ve got to figure out a way to bounce back. We’ve got to figure out a way to watch the film (on Monday), figure out what needs to be corrected, correct it, and we can’t let this game beat us twice.”

  • There was Arizona’s 13-percent efficiency on third-down conversions (1 of 8).
  • There were the nine penalties for 67 yards, some of which came at the absolute worst moments.
  • There was the lack of any real run defense, as the Redskins gashed the Cardinals’ front seven for 182 rushing yards. Adrian Peterson led the way (96 yards on 26 carries), surpassing Jim Brown for 10th on the NFL’s all-time rushing list and scoring his 100th career rushing touchdown.
  • And no offense, but the Cardinals showed next-to-nothing on offense, as Washington (429 yards) more than doubled Arizona’s yardage output (213). Bradford only threw for 153 yards and David Johnson finished with just 37 rushing yards, although he did account for the team’s only touchdown – a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter.

“There’s some things that we definitely have got to go back and correct and that’s going to start with me,” Wilks said. “As I told the guys, this one game doesn’t define our season.”

Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and quarterback Sam Bradford talk about their season-opening 24-6 loss to the Washington Redskins. Arizona Republic

If you’ve ever been to a bad movie, just be thankful you won’t be in the Cardinals’ team film-study session Monday morning. There are going to be a lot of people squirming in their seats. Especially when they have to re-watch Alex Smith carving them up for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“I thought he was sensational,” said Jay Gruden, who had lost each of his previous four season openers as Washington’s head coach.

There is plenty the Cardinals can learn about this loss, but it’s important that nobody starts reaching for the panic button prematurely.

“We had a ton of missed tackles, (poor defensive) fits and stuff like that, but those are all correctable,” linebacker Josh Bynes said. “It’s not like we’re sitting here going, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s the last game of the season and this is doom.’ This is the first game of 2018.

“I don’t know if you knew this, but I started off 0-7 when I was in Detroit. I’m not saying we’re at that level, but we also finished the season 7-2, so all I’m saying is, it’s not defining who we are right now in the first game of the season. It’s just the first game, we’ve got to correct our mistakes and not let it happen next week.”

azcentral sports’ Kent Somers, Greg Moore and Bob McManaman talk about the Cardinals’ season-opening 24-6 defeat against the Washington Redskins. Arizona Republic

What defined the Cardinals on Sunday was rather obvious. They had trouble finding any rhythm or flow on offense in the first half because the Redskins completely dominated time of possession. Washington used it to its advantage, soaking up 18 minutes and 10 seconds off the clock on three long touchdown drives to take a 21-0 halftime lead.

The Redskins went about getting into the end zone in different ways, showing plenty of diversity in coordinator Matt Cavanaugh’s offense.

On their first foray, the Redskins leaned on their running game behind Peterson and Chris Thompson. On six occasions, the two combined for eight runs of at least eight yards. The Cardinals’ defensive line got pushed around and abused and Smith capped the 11-play, 80-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Thompson.

After that drive of nearly six minutes, Washington went 73 yards on 15 plays, consuming just over nine minutes until Peterson ran for a 1-yard touchdown. The key play in the series was a 22-yard pass from Smith to tight end Jordan Reed. Smith was under heavy pressure, but he spun out of trouble and threw on the run, hitting Reed in stride.

“I’ve sat back and watched this offensive line the last two years and dreamed about playing behind an offensive line that’s aggressive and plays with the technique that they do,” said Peterson, who appeared in six games last season for the Cardinals. “They did a great job of allowing me to slow my game down and take advantage of what they created for me.”

Before the Cardinals knew what happened, they were down 14-0 and it was about to get even worse. After a second straight three-and-out by Arizona, Washington took over with 3:17 left in the second quarter and this time went 92 yards for yet another score – a 4-yard strike from Smith to Reed in the right corner of the end zone.

“Smith threw it on a stop route to make a play on the ball and get it in the end zone,” Reed said. “He slowed me down with the throw and kept me in bounds with it.”

Key plays included a 23-yard pass play from Smith to Thompson, an 18-yard catch and run by Peterson and then three consecutive penalties by the Cardinals to further help the Washington cause. There was a neutral-zone infraction, illegal contact and a personal foul on defensive end Chandler Jones for unnecessary roughness upon diving onto Smith after a strip sack.

Add all that up and the Cardinals clearly thought they would be better than this.

“Obviously, we’re all disappointed in our performance, but you can’t hang your head,” Bradford said. “You’ve got to understand that this season is 16 games. A win or a loss, it counts just as one. We’ve got to make sure that next week we put this in the past, we corrected all the mistakes and we’re ready to go out there and play LA.”

https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nfl/cardinals/2018/09/09/arizona-cardinals-washington-redskins-nfl-week-one-game-recap/1249574002/

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