Putting Josh Rosen in with the game on the line might’ve cost Arizona their first win of the season.

This matchup was definitely not the game many analysts talked about this week. It was between two teams that really struggle moving the ball. Throughout the first 3 games of the season, Chicago is 7th worst in total yards per game, and Arizona is in dead last. But personally, I kind of like low scoring games. I feel like it really makes the strategic decisions from the coaches that much more important. And a low scoring game is certainly what we had on Sunday, so let’s get into it.

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While it was a defensive battle, the Cardinals certainly got off to a fast start. Arizona scored an opening drive touchdown. This was set up by a nice play call, Arizona came out in a 3 tight end set, but ran a play action pass. Chicago was expecting a run, and they failed to successfully guard Ricky Seals-Jones, who was wide open for a 35 yard touchdown. Another thing worth noting from that drive, Arizona had a 30 yard pass play out of a 4 wide set. This was largely set up by Arizona’s offensive line successfully giving Bradford time to throw, which allowed their play to develop. But what’s more notable about that play, was that it was the only real time it worked. Arizona’s line didn’t get that kind of protection for the rest of the game, and they only picked up a total of 8 yards the other 15 times they passed the ball out of that set. As a whole, it seemed like the more blockers Arizona had in the game, the better off they were when passing the ball. Arizona gained 6.73 yards per passing play out of a standard set, but they did their most damage passing out of a set with multiple tight ends. They only threw the ball with multiple tight ends 4 times, but they gained 65 yards (16.25 yards per play for you math fans out there). They also scored their 2nd touchdown on an interesting play design, so I decided to break it down below.

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Okay, so this is the initial set. It’s important to note that Chicago’s in zone coverage on this play, which really allowed everything to work for Arizona.
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So these are the routes Arizona ran. David Johnson’s was the most important, so I put his in black. The whole goal of this play is to get every bear away from Johnson. As you see 2 Arizona receivers stay at around the 20 yard line, which forces Chicago’s linebackers to keep an eye on them. Another Cardinal receiver ran¬†relatively deep, and then cut in, which forced a Bear away from Johnson’s route. The blue arrows are where each Chicago defender is focusing on.
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At this point, there’s only one Bear who can cover Johnson without leaving someone wide open (the one who’s circled). However he was thinking that he had help behind him, because he was unaware that Arizona’s receiver who had just ran past him was about to cut in.
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Even if he were to cover Johnson, it would’ve been a mismatch, and as you can see he did realize that Johnson was open right after he went past him, but at that point it was too late, as Johnson had plenty of space to score a touchdown.

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Chicago’s offense was also ready to come storming out of the gate. They love to run the ball, no matter what set it’s from, and they proved that on the first play of the game. Chicago came out in a 4 wide set, but rushed the ball and gained 17 yards. two plays later they came out in a standard set, and ran the ball for 21 yards. However that drive stalled when Mitchell Trubisky inexplicably sprinted backwards when under pressure and got sacked for a loss of 15 yards. It was really a poor play by him, Chicago would’ve been facing a 31 yard field goal attempt, but instead had to face a 46 yard try, which they missed. As a whole, it seemed like no matter which set Chicago ran, they had about the same amount of success running and throwing the ball. Out of 4 wide sets, Chicago averaged 5.93 yards per passing play, and 5.4 yards per rushing play. And out of standard sets, they averaged 3.7 yards per passing attempt, and 3.21 yards per rushing attempt. However the one set where there was a disparity was out of multiple tight end sets. They gained 5.4 yards per passing play from those sets, but just 2.8 yards per carry. As a whole, neither star running back had a great game on Sunday. David Johnson averaged just 2.6 yards per carry, and Jordan Howard averaged just 2.5. I think both teams made a considerable effort to stop the run, and for the most part it worked out. However I think Arizona for the would expect a passing play when they saw Tarik Cohen in the game, and he took advantage, as he was able to gain 53 yards on just 5 carries. Cohen also had a pivotal run midway through the third quarter. It set things up for Chicago to score their only touchdown, so I decided to break it down below.

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Chicago’s in a bit of in unusual set here, with 3 receivers and 2 backs. Arizona also has a lot of men near the ball, so they’re ready for a run.
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Typically in a set like this, the first back to move is the one who gets the ball. The Cardinals expected that to happen on this play, and Arizona’s defensive linemen moved quickly to plug up holes that they expected him to run to, Also, Arizona’s right offensive linemen ran even farther to his left, to stop a potential Trubisky run. However since it was a delayed handoff, it gave a huge hole for Cohen who actually got the ball. Also worth mentioning, Cody Whitehair (the guy who’s circled) moved forward to block linebackers, which brings us to the next photo.
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Basically everyone’s getting blocked except for 2 guys. Arizona’s safety is unblocked, but he’s way back at the 5 yard line. The other unblocked man is an Arizona linebacker. However this is where the delayed handoff really came into play, if there was no delay, Arizona’s linebackers would’ve taken a couple of steps to their right instead of their left, and Whitehair probably would’ve only been able to block the Cardinals right outside linebacker. And the reason that’s so important is because of what you see in the next photo.
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Whitehair was able to just shift a little bit over, and block two Cardinals. This gave Cohen all the room he needed, and he was able to take the ball to the 1 yard line, which set up an eventual touchdown.

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I can talk about X’s and O’s all I want, but really, the biggest decision was Arizona taking out Sam Bradford and putting rookie Josh Rosen in the game. In my opinion this move made no sense. Just to be clear, I don’t think this will affect Rosen’s development in any way, I just think this made things a lot more difficult for the Cardinals to win. Bradford had his best game in a Cardinals uniform, he was moving the ball as he averaged 8.3 yards per carry. Obviously turning the ball over 3 times hurt him, however for 1 drive I’d rather have someone who can move the ball well over someone who can’t, but doesn’t turn the ball over. At this point, a turnover is as bad as not getting a first down. Putting a rookie in the most nerve wracking point of the game for his first NFL appearance was a recipe for disaster, I think Arizona should’ve put Rosen in earlier in the game, or not at all. But that’s just my opinion, I’d love to here from someone who feels that it was the correct call, and it just didn’t work out. After all, I’m not an expert, just a moron who likes to talk about sports.

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