Cardinals own mistakes, but remain confident in playoff chances

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray passed for 270 yards but he also threw three interceptions in the team’s loss to the Detroit Lions Sunday. Cardinals players say they are still optimistic about the season. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Coming off their first defeat of the season, the Arizona Cardinals were disappointed in their level of execution. One thing that hasn’t changed, though? Their expectations.

A sense remains inside the locker room that this could be a special season. And while players acknowledged the mistakes that led to Sunday’s 26-23 loss to the previously winless Detroit Lions, a team leader expressed confidence in their ability to get back up off the mat.

“We know what type of team we have,” defensive lineman Corey Peters said. “We definitely have talent all across the board. We just know we didn’t play our best game today.”

Peters noted that Arizona hasn’t played its best football in the season’s first two weeks either. But the team finished in the win column both times, masking some difficulties they had experienced.

“I think the previous two weeks, we’ve been inconsistent at times but we found a way to win,” he said. “And sometimes winning can be a Band-Aid over things that we do wrong. So I feel like in this league you get what you earn, and today we earned a loss.”

The team’s quarterback also owned his mistakes. After a dynamic two-game start littered with flashes of brilliance that put him in the conversation for the next great NFL quarterback, Kyler Murray struggled to keep the ball within his team’s grasp Sunday.

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Despite more highlight plays, including a stutter-step touchdown run that froze rookie corner Jeff Okudah, it was the Lions that got the last laugh. Okudah and two others intercepted Murray, forcing the Cardinals to dig themselves out of numerous holes.

“Obviously I feel like if I don’t turn the ball over three times today, we put ourselves in a better chance to win that game, in a better spot,” Murray said.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury rewatched Sunday’s game and found himself no happier than he was immediately after Matt Prater’s winning 39-yard field goal sailed through the uprights. The Cardinals offensive wunderkind found himself frustrated with his unit’s consistency.

“I just once again felt like we didn’t get a good rhythm going, and I have to do a better job of getting us in a flow offensively,” Kingsbury said. “We had some nice plays here and there, but never really got it clicking consistently.”

Defensively, Vance Joseph’s unit failed to generate any takeaways, magnifying the effects of the offense’s string of turnovers. But Kingsbury said he still sees improvement on that side of the ball.

“I do think the defense has made big strides overall,” Kingsbury said Monday. “We’d like to take the ball away more, there’s no question. We gave three away yesterday, and we can’t do that offensively.

“But I just think we got to keep grinding away at it. As this defense continues to jell and come together I think those will show up, but just hasn’t happened yet.”

An early kick looms against the rebuilding Carolina Panthers in Week 4. Getting a win will be crucial to keep pace in the NFC West, where all four teams have a winning record.

“One thing that we always talk about with this team is we have big expectations for ourselves,” Peters said. “So our goal was not to just win a game here and there, we’re looking to compete for this division, which I believe is the toughest in football. …

“Today was a step backwards. But hopefully, it’s one of those situations where you take a step back to take a few forward.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Christian Babcock expects to graduate in spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a related area in sustainability. Babcock, who has interned with The Arizona Republic, is a digital reporter for Cronkite Sports this spring.