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Takeaways, observations from Christmas night loss

The Arizona Cardinals lost their third game in a row Saturday night, a 22-16 defeat to the Indianapolis Colts. They fell to 10-5, failed to clinch a playoff spot on their own and now are 3-4 in their home stadium.

It was not at all what was hoped by the team and fans, as the Colts entered the game incredibly shorthanded.

But what happened, happened.

Below are some takeaways and observations from the evening.

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Colts 22, Cardinals 16: Arizona drops third straight game

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They had holder and kicker issues

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Andy Lee, who not only is the team’s punter but also holder on field goals and extra points, landed on the COVID list earlier in the week. When Ryan Winslow was signed to replace him, most figured he would hold as well, as he did for two games in 2019 when he filled in for an injured Lee.

However, backup quarterback Colt McCoy started as the holder.

On a 51-yard field goal attempt, McCoy did not get the laces out, which is what kickers want, and Prater missed the kick wide left. After the Cardinals scored their first touchdown, McCoy left the laces out to the side and Prater missed the extra point wide left.

McCoy was replaced by Winslow and Prater missed a 41-yard attempt, hitting the right upright. There was nothing wrong with the hold that time.

However, it clearly was a problem overall.

Kliff Kingsbury said after the game that McCoy got some work in practice and they were happy with how it went. It just didn’t translate well to the game.

Joe Walker played a lot in place of Isaiah Simmons

Syndication The Indianapolis Star

On defense, the Cardinals went with veteran journeyman Joe Walker on the field a lot, replacing Simmons, the second-year pro. It was a surprise, as Simmons plays almost every defensive snap most weeks. We will see the official snap counts in the next day or two, but Walker was in for most base sets and Simmons came in for nickel sets.

Kingsbury said after the game, the decision was made for two reasons. One was that Simmons was banged up early in the week with a shoulder injury, so they wanted to limit him some if they could, and Walker had a good week of practice.

They bottled up Taylor…except for the very first play

Syndication The Indianapolis Star

The focus all week was on limited Taylor, who entered the game with more than 1,500 rushing yards. The Cardinals’ run defense has been the focus of much criticism.

They allowed a 43-yard run on the Colts’ first play from scrimmage, which only made the noise louder. However, outside of that run, they really did a nice job.

He finished with 108 yards on 27 carries. After the 43-yarder, he averaged 2.5 yards per play.

However, the stat remains. The Colts are undefeated when Taylor goes for at least 100 yards.

Penalties, penalties, penalties

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals could not get out of their own way. They were flagged for 11 penalties. Too many had a negative impact.

One of guard Josh Jones’ two false starts was on fourth-and-1. They were at the Indy 33 and were going to go for it. He was penalized, pushing it to fourth-and-6. Because of the kicking issues, they chose not to kick a 56-yard field goal and went for it. The pass to Zach Ertz was incomplete.

An illegal contact penalty on Byron Murphy negated a takeaway. Chandler Jones had stripped Wentz and the Cardinals recovered. That drive did not end in points, though, but it took an opportunity for the Cardinals to score away.

Kyler Murray was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone after a bad snap, costing the Cardinals two points on the safety.

A holding call on Max Garcia negated an 11-yard run on the Cardinals’ final drive, costing them yards and time when they needed both.

Chase Edmonds was a bright spot

Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic

There weren’t many bright spots. Edmonds was fantastic. He rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He also caught eight passes for 71 yards to lead the team, giving him 126 total yards and a score.

Cardinals’ pass catchers didn’t make enough plays

Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic

With DeAndre Hopkins out, the Cardinals need other players to make plays in the passing games. They failed to do so again. Christian Kirk dropped a beautiful deep throw early in the game.

Zach Ertz couldn’t hold on to the pass on fourth-and-6, He was interfered with but no flag was thrown, but it resulted in a turnover on downs.

Antoine Wesley didn’t have strong enough hands to hold on to a pass near the end zone on the final.

A.J. Green had a 33-yard catch but that was it.

Red-zone woes again

The Cardinals had roughly 70% red-zone efficiency for much of the season. Entering this game, they had scored touchdowns on only 4-of-12 red-zone trips. They went 1-for-2 on Sunday. Part of the issue was they only had two red-zone trips.

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