After failing to score in the first quarter of their first two matchups of the season, the Arizona Cardinals were dead-set on arriving in Buffalo and executing from the opening whistle moving forward.
Instead, head coach Bruce Arians' squad floundered, failing to record a first down on each of the team's first five series which put the team in an early 17-0 hole.
"We talked all week about getting off to a fast start and it's the slowest one we've had in four years offensively," Arians said. "But defensively we set out and set a nice tempo, offensively we could not convert third down. Just did a poor job of running routes, finding guys, getting open and protecting the quarterback."
After starting the team's first series of the game at the Buffalo 38-yard line, Arizona's offense went nowhere, and Arians elected to pass up a 54-yard field goal opportunity for placekicker Chandler Catanzaro. The decision to punt provided an ominous start for the Cardinals, who struggled to hold up against Buffalo's rushing attack.
In the first quarter, the Bills ran a zone read play with quarterback Tyrod Taylor that netted 49 yards and set up a Buffalo score when outside linebacker Chandler Jones failed to hold his contain responsibilities.
"Just continue to make mistakes in all three phases. Gave up the 50-yard run to Tyrod (Taylor), let him get out on a scramble, things that we have emphasized all week that we could not do."
Even though the Cardinals fell behind by three scores, Arizona put itself in position to make a comeback following a 17-play, 84-yard drive that ate up nine minutes of the game clock. The drive was Arizona's longest since 2002, and cut the deficit to 17-7 right before halftime.
But when the Cardinals received the ball out of the locker room, quarterback Carson Palmer missed on two throws and Arizona went three-and-out to strip the team of momentum.
"Found a little rhythm, fought to get back, proud that they worked their ass off to get back, then we gave it back away," Arians said.
After putting a handful of balls in jeopardy in the first half, Palmer's erratic tendencies caught up to him in the second half. Arizona was able to stay in the game until the final minutes of play, but Palmer tossed four second half interceptions including two at or near the goal line that deflated the Cardinals' comeback hopes.
Palmer's mistakes were costly, but perhaps the play that best encapsulated the way the Cardinals played Sunday came late in the third quarter when Arizona was driving to cut Buffalo's lead down to two scores.
After the Cardinals settled for a field goal try, rookie long snapper Kameron Canaday delivered a high snap that sailed out of the reach of holder Drew Butler. Aaron Williams recovered the ball for Buffalo and sprinted 53 yards to the end zone on a gift of a touchdown that forced the Cardinals to reconsider Canaday's future with the organization.
"It's not easy, it's not easy but you preach it, you hope it shows up in the game," Arians said. "Obviously we gave them a touchdown on the snap, we'll have to evaluate that a little bit further. Drew Butler sprained his ankle severely so Cat (Cantanzaro) had to do the punting."
Just about everything that could have went wrong for the Cardinals did go wrong on their first east coast trip of the season, and now the team finds itself with a 1-2 record entering its first divisional contest of the season.
Arizona will return to Glendale for its third home date in four games Sunday against a Los Angeles Rams team tied atop the NFC west with a 2-1 mark that includes a victory over Seattle through its first three games.null