The Cardinals were outscored 56-13 in the first halves of their first three games and their trend of slow starts continued in Carolina on Sunday, but the second half turned out much better for the NFC West team.
Kyler Murray threw two touchdowns and ran for another as the Cardinals scored 23 straight points after trailing the Panthers 10-3 at halftime. The 26-16 win moves the Cardinals to 2-2 on the season and they’ll try to be the first team to beat the Eagles when Philly pays them a visit next weekend.
Murray’s first touchdown pass tied the game in the third quarter and the Cardinals finally moved in front on a Matt Prater field goal early in the fourth quarter. Baker Mayfield had a batted ball intercepted on the Panthers’ next offensive play and Murray’s rushing touchdown helped push things firmly in Arizona’s favor.
It was a rough day all around for Mayfield, who was 22-of-36 for 197 yards. He threw an interception in the first half as well and 82 of his passing yards came on a fourth quarter touchdown drive that kicked off after the Cardinals had stretched their lead to 26-10.
Christian McCaffrey caught that touchdown and had a 34-yard catch to help set it up, but managed just eight carries for 27 yards as the Panthers offense failed to ignite in any aspect of the game. They will be at home to face the 49ers next weekend and another loss there feels like it will make head coach Matt Rhule’s job security a weekly topic of conversation.
Murray was 13-of-20 for 90 yards and an intereption in the first half, but went 10-of-12 for 117 yards in the second half as the Cardinals found better offensive footing. James Conner and Eno Benjamin combined to run for 91 yards with Conner getting heavy use as the team ran out the clock in the final five minutes.
That ending was a good one, but the Cardinals still need to figure out how to start faster if they want to consistently win games this season.