CARDINALS

Conner's big rushing day not enough for Cardinals to put away Chargers

The Cardinals rushed for 188 total yards and still lost to the Chargers, 25-24

Bob McManaman
Arizona Republic
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Running back James Conner has had nine 100-yard rushing games in his six NFL seasons.

On Sunday, he had his first 100-yard effort in a Cardinals uniform, rushing for 120 yards on a career-high 25 carries. It was the first time he lost when eclipsing the century mark. His teams were 8-0-1 in those situations when he played for the Steelers.

“With the workload, I wanted to get it going,” Conner said after the Cardinals’ 25-24 loss to the Chargers at State Farm Stadium. “I feel like it was overdue for me personally in the run game, just to get something going. It just sucks. We lost the game, so it wasn’t enough.”

Conner also caught a 6-yard touchdown pass in the game, giving him 23 total touchdowns in 24 career games with the Cardinals. That’s now the most by any player in their first 24 games with the franchise. In the aftermath of Sunday’s emotional loss, in which the Chargers rallied for a late-game touchdown and a deciding successful two-point conversion, Conner could take little joy in his performance.

“It’s hard to have feelings about it,” he said. “I’m trying to do the job, run hard and get something going and be a spark for the offense. All I can do personally is build on that.”

It wasn’t the first time the Cardinals lost a game this season when they’ve had a 100-yard rusher. Quarterback Kyler Murray ran for exactly 100 yards back in Week 6 during a game at Seattle and Arizona lost 19-9.

Murray called Conner’s effort a “step in the right direction” for the run game while acknowledging it wasn’t enough, just like his 100-yard game against the Seahawks.

“It was huge, but he would tell you there’s nothing to show for it,” Murray said of Conner. “He played his ass off and got beat.”

Nov 27, 2022; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) runs in a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers at State Farm Stadium.

If the Cardinals’ offense could have mounted any sort of a drive on any one of its second, third and fourth possessions of the fourth quarter, things would have been different. Instead, Arizona had three consecutive three and outs and when Los Angeles took over with 1:48 left to play, there was enough time to rally for a come-from-behind win.

“We had our opportunities there in the fourth quarter, especially with four minutes to go,” right tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “We had a chance to close the game out, offensively, and I think that’s what’s most disheartening about this.”

The loss, which dropped the Cardinals to 4-8, can’t be squarely placed on the offense. Murray accounted for three touchdowns and Arizona ran for 188 yards overall. But when the team desperately needed a stop inside the final two minutes, the defense failed to deliver.

Just Herbert (274 passing yards, three touchdowns) completed six of seven passes for 48 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown to Austin Ekeler with 18 seconds remaining. That cut the Cardinals’ lead to 24-23 and Chargers coach Brandon Staley elected to go for the two-point conversion and the win. They got it on Hebert’s easy completion in the end zone to Gerald Everett.

“They were checking down the ball and having some good yards after the catch,” Cardinals safety Budda Baker said of the Chargers’ game-winning drive. “We made some tackles here and there. We made enough plays to win that game, like the two-point conversion. One stop, that’s all we needed, and we didn’t get it.”

Nov 27, 2022; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals defenders Budda Baker (3) and Isaiah Simmons (9) celebrate a defensive stop against the Los Angeles Chargers at State Farm Stadium.

Unlike last week, when Baker said some of his teammates laid down and stopped playing hard in the fourth quarter of a 38-10 Monday night blowout loss to the 49ers in Mexico City, there was no quit by the Cardinals against the Chargers.

“I definitely felt like everyone had a hard-fought game,” he said. “Everyone had some great plays. I definitely felt like guys fought and they fought throughout all four quarters.”

Conner, who overcame a lost fumble early in the game, was asked what the emotions were like in the locker room immediately after the loss.

“It’s a bad taste in your mouth,” he said. “The guys were playing hard, so it wasn’t effort-related. It was just execution, which is just as important. It’s just a bad taste. We have to go back and try to reset and not look too far ahead.”

The Cardinals watched film from the game on Monday when the players assembled at the team’s Tempe training facility. With no game this weekend, players will get some time off to rest and recharge before a Dec. 12 home game against the Patriots on “Monday Night Football.”

If the Cardinals aren’t able to win all five of their remaining games, they will finish with their fourth losing season in the past seven years.

“It’s just all about trying to get better at this point,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I still think our best football is in front of us. That’s what we talked about, was we’ve got to find a way to maximize who we are and what we put out there the last five (games). We’ve got to rest, recover and go from there.

“That type of game, that type of loss when you play that hard and have moments where you look really good, you’ve got to build off that somehow and be better in these last five.”

Notes

  • Kingsbury said Monday that left tackle D.J. Humphries, who was placed on injured reserve Saturday with a back problem, is done for the season. Kingsbury is hopeful of possibly getting center Rodney Hudson (knee) and/or right guard Will Hernandez (pectoral) back at some point, but Humphries will remain sidelined. “It just wasn’t progressing like we thought,” Kingsbury said. “We were hopeful for a while that maybe he could come back in the last few weeks and play, but at this point, that won’t be possible.”
  • The players will participate in an NFL-mandated conference call Tuesday via Zoom, Kingsbury said, and then will have the rest of the week off. Kingsbury will huddle with his staff the next couple of days to do some self-scouting and discuss any possible personnel changes before taking some time off themselves. The Cardinals won’t return to practice until Monday.
  • The team has released wide receiver Andre Baccellia.

Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at bob.mcmanaman@arizonarepublic.com and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live on Fox Sports 910-AM every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch. 

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