8:20 p.m ET
Key Coaching Decision #1: (ARI ball, tied 0-0 / second-and-10, ARI 17 / 14:10 Q1)
• After the Cardinals’ first play from scrimmage (David Johnson run for no gain over the right side), the Cardinals used their first timeout — there appears to be significant confusion. Most teams have their first set of plays – often the first 15-20 plays — scripted. The failure to be able to get a play in or get the right personnel into the game is simply inexcusable here. This is something that might be understandable during the preseason but not during Game 7 of the regular season. (We bring up the preseason because the Cardinals went through the motions as if it were the preseason. This is what the Cardinals’ effort levels looked like.)
• After the timeout, QB Josh Rosen’s pass was tipped by Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe and the ball ends up in the hands of linebacker Todd Davis, who returned the interception for a touchdown. This was the first of two Broncos pick sixes in the first quarter.
Key Coaching Decision #2: (DEN ball, leading 7-0 / first-and-5, ARI 28 / 8:38 Q1)
• The Broncos force the Cardinals to punt on Arizona’s second offensive possession. Denver starts their first possession of the game from their own 23-yard line. The Broncos move the ball down the field and after six plays and an offsides penalty, the Broncos find themselves near the red zone.
• Broncos quarterback Case Keenum flips the ball to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders who starts off on the left side of the formation and throws a pass to a diving Courtland Sutton, who lands in the end zone for a touchdown and, after the PAT, a 14-0 Broncos lead.
• This showed offensive creativity that resulted in a score. This had been lacking in the Broncos’ four consecutive losses.
Key Coaching Decision #3: (ARI ball, trailing 21-3 / second-and-7, ARI 24 / 1:12 Q1)
• After a 3-yard run by David Johnson, the Cardinals have to call their second timeout of the half. It was unlikely that they would be coming back in the game as they were showing no signs of competency on offense. This second timeout taken was presumably because of an inability to get the proper play/ personnel in. This solidified the belief that the Cardinals were not ready to take part in this Thursday night contest. After the timeout, Josh Rosen was sacked for a 7-yard loss.
• Arizona fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Friday morning, replacing him with quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich. The Cardinals ugly performance sealed the end of McCoy’s seven-game tenure as offensive coordinator.
• The Cardinals offensive line was without both of its starting guards, Justin Pugh and Mike Iupati.
• Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen did not look ready to play, as he threw three interceptions, including two in the first quarter. He also fumbled three times and lost two of those fumbles.
• We think the team’s obvious lack of readiness and game preparedness was the result of playing the game on a short week. Arizona had just lost a road game to the Vikings on the previous Sunday. The short turnaround certainly didn’t help the rookie quarterback.
• There’s a balance in getting a young quarterback meaningful game experience as well as saving him from unnecessary damage. Former Raiders CEO Amy Trask articulated this well here. Trask captures our sentiments exactly. Paraphrased, it is: “Rosen is a valuable asset. You have resources invested in him. Why is the rookie quarterback in the game taking meaningless shots when the game is out of reach?“
• The only bright side of the contest: The Cardinals scored in the third quarter for the first time this year.
• It was a dominant performance by Denver. The Broncos scored a touchdown on the second offensive play of the game. It was 35-3 at halftime in favor of the Broncos.
• The Broncos stopped a four-game skid. This was a much-needed win and confidence boost as they prepare to head to Kansas City and face the AFC West-leading Chiefs.
• It was only the second road win of the two-year Vance Joseph regime.
• Broncos linebacker Von Miller took advantage of an inexperienced Cardinals offensive line and notched two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He led the way for the defense that finished with six sacks, three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
• Emmanuel Sanders had a fantastic game with six catches (including one for a touchdown) for 102 yards — and he added a touchdown pass. Fellow SMU Mustang Courtland Sutton is developing nicely. His role in the offense grows each week.
• Similar to the reaction above regarding Rosen, we were concerned with the Broncos use of running back Phillip Lindsay late in the game, well after the outcome was well decided.