Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals are in desperation mode as they entertain the New England Patriots on Monday night at Glendale, Ariz.
The Cardinals (4-8) are among the NFL’s biggest underachievers this season and sit three games behind the NFC’s final playoff spot with five contests remaining.
Since only two NFC teams have fewer victories, another setback will all but eliminate Arizona and place fourth-year coach Kliff Kingsbury firmly on the hot seat.
However, standout safety Budda Baker doesn’t want to have to wave the white flag before it becomes necessary.
“At the end of the day when it’s time to work we work,” Baker, who has a team-best 90 tackles, told reporters. “We’ve got five more opportunities. We have to take the best of those opportunities because (the NFL) stands for not for long. We’ve got five more opportunities to play some good football and that’s the plan that we’re going to do.”
The Cardinals are coming off a bye. However, they have lost two straight games and six of their last eight, and they will need Murray to heat up if they are to make a dash for a playoff spot.
The fourth-year pro passed for fewer than 200 yards in each of his last two appearances — he missed two November games due to a hamstring injury — and has a career-worst 6.1 average yards per attempt.
He also has received career-most criticism due to his performance after receiving a five-year, $230.5 million extension in the offseason.
“You understand the position that you are in, what comes with it, what you have to face,” Murray said. “I’m not really new to it. Something I’ve been dealing with, not my whole life but for the most part of my life having to deal with stuff like that. It doesn’t affect me.”
The Patriots (6-6) also have lost two straight games and are experiencing issues of their own.
New England also is on the outside of the playoff chase, sitting one game behind the New York Jets for the final AFC wild-card spot.
The atmosphere is certainly tense. During a Dec. 1 home loss to the Buffalo Bills, quarterback Mac Jones got heated on the sideline over the lack of deep pass plays being called.
Jones’ play hasn’t been as solid as his 2021 rookie campaign. He passed for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns last season; he has 1,963 yards and seven scoring throws in nine games this season.
He said the Patriots are close to getting their offensive act together.
“We’ve just got to eliminate those (bad plays) at this point,” Jones said. “There are a few plays in every game — a handful of plays that just aren’t very good. Once we can fix those, then everything goes.”
Earlier this week, New England coach Bill Belichick told WEEI that it’s too difficult to make major changes to the offense at this point in the season.
That doesn’t sound too promising, considering the Patriots sit 24th in total offense at 318.9 yards per game and are tied for 19th in scoring offense (20.8 points per game).
“If we can just do, consistently, what we’re doing, I think we’ll be all right,” Belichick said. “We just haven’t been able to have enough consistency. And that’s hurt us. It’s not one thing. One time it’s one thing. Next time it’s something else. We just have to play and coach more consistently.”
The Patriots have won seven of the past eight meetings with the Cardinals.
Left tackle Trent Brown (illness) and right tackle Isaiah Wynn (foot) were among the New England players who missed practice on Thursday. Also sitting out were receiver Jakobi Meyers (concussion), running back Damien Harris (thigh) and cornerback Jalen Mills (groin).
Arizona receiver DeAndre Hopkins (illness) sat out Thursday. Other Cardinals to miss practice were cornerback Byron Murphy (back), left guard Rashaad Coward (chest) and receiver Rondale Moore (groin).