Arizona Cardinals waste a gutsy effort out of an undermanned defense

The Arizona Cardinals defensive unit handed the offense several opportunities to secure the game-winning score versus the Houston Texans.

Arizona Cardinals v Houston Texans
Arizona Cardinals v Houston Texans / Logan Riely/GettyImages
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The Arizona Cardinals defense made one heck of a turnaround on Sunday during the second half of a 21-16 loss to the Houston Texans. After an uninspiring performance during the contest's opening 30 minutes, coordinator Nick Rallis concocted a scheme that put the clamps on the Texans scoring attack. After yielding 21 points before the halftime break, the Cards defensive unit pitched a shutout from there on out.

Unfortunately, Arizona's offense failed to take advantage of the opportunities the other side of the ball handed it late in the matchup. Starting quarterback Kyler Murray, in his second game back from a torn ACL, finally showed the rust we all expected to see last weekend. The Redbirds needed one more touchdown out of the two-time Pro Bowler to emerge victorious, but the 5 foot 10, 207 pounder failed to deliver.

Rallis' group provided Murray with an outstanding chance to lead the Cardinals to a potential victory with just under 10 minutes left in regulation. After forcing Houston into two consecutive three-and-outs, the "Big Red" defense goaded Texans signal-caller C.J. Stroud into his second mistake of the day. And boy, it had the potential to be a whopper.

On a second down and 10 from the Cards 13-yard line, Stroud unleashed a bullet that clanged off of the hands of veteran wideout Robert Woods. The football found it's way into the waiting hands of Krys Barnes, the backup who was filling in for injured linebacker Kyzir White. It was a fabulous time for an interception, and the 46-yard return by Barnes that followed set Arizona up near midfield.

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Much to the chagrin of Cardinals fans everywhere, the offense turned the ball over on downs just four plays later. Coordinator Drew Petzing dialed up an excellent play on a fourth down and five, but Murray missed a wide-open Trey McBride to end the possession. It was an egregious misfire by the polarizing signal-caller, especially when you consider the fact that some fantastic field position had been completely wasted.

Arizona's defensive unit handed the offense yet another opportunity on the ensuing possession by the Texans. On a second down and 11 at the Cards 26-yard line, veteran cornerback Antonio Hamilton Sr. made a diving interception of another errant Stroud pass. The theft came with 5:03 remaining, more than enough time for Murray and company to drive downfield for the winning score.

As we all know by now, the Cardinals scoring attack failed to get it done. A 10-play, 54-yard march towards paydirt came to an end at the Houston 27-yard line with 35 seconds to play. Facing a fourth down and eight, Murray lofted a prayer in the direction of wideout Marquise Brown that had almost zero chance of being completed.

And that was that. In the end, Petzing's offensive crew simply didn't do what was needed to exit NRG Stadium with a hard-earned win. Kudos to an Arizona defense that, for their part, did more than enough.

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(Game information provided by ESPN.com)