TEMPE, Ariz. -- Through three games, there’s not a team that has been worse in the first quarter than the Arizona Cardinals.
Their first-quarter struggles go beyond not being able to score a point in the combined 45 minutes of game time, something 31 other teams have done.
They’re last in the NFL in yards margin and first downs in the first quarter. They’re second-to-last in time of possession, yards per game and rushing yards per game in the first 15 minutes.
For a fourth consecutive week, the Cardinals will spend the week working on getting off to quicker start. Their inability to do so has led coach Kliff Kingsbury to rethink his approach to, well, everything.
“I think there’s a couple different approaches,” he said. “One is to ignore it like it didn’t happen and after you’ve over-talked it, but we’ve definitely addressed it. We’ve talked through it, and we know that to be the team we want to be, we’ve got to start faster.
“Getting behind the teams we’ve gotten behind in the first three weeks at the amount that it’s happened, it’s not sustainable to win many games in this league.”
Leading into last week’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Kingsbury took a deeper look at how Arizona operates.
“We’ve talked through as many things as you can talk through,” Kingsbury said. “I think about what we could change or do differently practice-wise, stretch, walk-throughs -- all those things. At some point it just has to click for us. I don’t think there’s any magic answers except guys showing up, being ready to go, and not regressing back to that once we get it figured out.”
After spending last week stressing the importance of starting fast and making it a priority, the Cardinals came out and did the opposite against the Rams. They went three-and-out on their first two drives, and their third drive lasted just four plays. Arizona had just 26 net yards in 10 plays -- 4 rushing (a season low in the first quarter) and 22 passing..
“I wish I had the answer right now,” quarterback Kyler Murray said. “I’m not sure, besides, ‘Let’s start winning some football.’ The rest of the game is competitive. The first quarter, you can’t make anything happen. You can’t get anything going.
“It’s just bad football.”
The Cardinals have said for two weeks they know how to fix their first-quarter problems. They just can’t seem to do it on Sundays.
A common refrain after Sunday’s 20-12 loss to the Rams, Arizona’s seventh in a row at home, was the need for better execution.
“It's all of us -- coaches, players, playcalling,” Kingsbury said. “I don't know if we're trying too hard to call the perfect play and do too much, but it's just been one thing after another, so we got to get it figured out.”
Kingsbury said he still likes Arizona’s offensive scheme, which he designed, but emphasized that he needs to maximize who’s on the field and “figure out exactly who we are.” Kingsbury hinted that the Cardinals’ first-quarter fortunes could change once they start getting some injured players, such as receivers Rondale Moore and Antoine Wesley, back in the next few weeks.
Until then, though, he’s going to continue to try to figure out Arizona’s identity.
It may be easier said than done when the offense is on the field for 4:50 in the first quarter, like they were on Sunday. Arizona couldn’t convert one third-and-short and two third-and-longs.
“As an offense, we’re not holding up our end of the bargain in my opinion of playing complementary football,” right tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “We can’t put our defense in positions where we are going three-and-out consecutively. We’ve got to find a way to keep them off the field and convert on third down since that’s an area we’re struggling on right now."