The Cardinals could not keep star receiver DeAndre Hopkins off the field … literally.
Hopkins aggravated his hamstring during a 58-yard catch in the first quarter of Thursday’s heartbreaking 24-21 loss to the Packers. And Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury could only keep his star receiver from re-entering the game for so long — despite his best efforts.
Kingsbury said in a postgame press conference that Hopkins checked himself back in “a couple times” after missing the better part of two quarters.
“We wanted him to stay off the field, but he’d just run on,” Kingsbury said. “He wants to play, super competitive and made some plays there, and we just wanted to be smart. But he was definitely hurting.”
Midway through the first quarter, Hopkins sprinted down the sideline against cornerback Eric Stokes — slowing and then re-accelerating in his route to catch Stokes off-guard — and hauled in Kyler Murray’s throw near the 20-yard line. But as he neared the goal line, Hopkins’ hand latched onto Stokes’ helmet, resulting in the facemask penalty.
After that play, ESPN reported that Hopkins didn’t return until there was 8:15 left in the third quarter, and he logged just 13 snaps overall against Green Bay. But on those plays, the Cardinals averaged 10.9 yards per play — more than six yards more than the 42 snaps he wasn’t on the field. Hopkins finished with two catches, securing both of his targets, for 66 yards.
“He wants to be out there,” Kingsbury said. “He’s competitive as anybody I’ve been around, and he ended up making some plays. But, we also have a lot of games left so we’re trying to be smart with him.”
Arizona’s loss against Green Bay was its first of the 2021 season. The Cardinals couldn’t capitalize on the Packers’ depleted wide receiver depth chart that lacked Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, both on the COVID-19 list, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring). Tight end Robert Tonyan left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury, too.
But on the Cardinals’ final offensive drive, as the game ticked down into its final seconds, Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas — who the team signed off of the Cardinals’ practice squad three weeks prior — intercepted Murray’s back-corner throw that AJ Green didn’t turn and look for. That halted a drive which started back on Arizona’s 1-yard line, after its defense made a goal-line stand to keep the deficit at three points.
Hopkins, who didn’t practice leading up to the “Thursday Night Football” game on a short week, now has until Nov. 7 — when the Cardinals travel to San Francisco — for his nagging hamstring to heal.
“That’s a big part of our offense, having that guy,” Kingsbury said.