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Regardless of what those inside the organization say publicly, Sunday’s 37-20 victory over the unbeaten LA Rams was an emphatic statement game for the Arizona Cardinal football franchise.
Especially for head coach Kliff Kingsbury and star quarterback Kyler Murray.
“We just wanted to get a week better,” said Kingsbury. “We liked how we had progressed throughout the season…I thought we had our best week of practice.”
“It’s not a statement.”
While Kingsbury rightfully downplayed the significance of Sunday’s outcome, there’s no question that the third year head man put together one of his finest coaching performances since joining the Cardinals.
In the process of completely dismantling friend and mentor Sean McVay’s Rams squad, Kingsbury’s Cardinals netted their fourth straight performance of over 30+ points and 400+ total yards.
The Cardinals are currently the last NFC team to remain unbeaten (4-0), with three of their four victories coming by double digits.
“Anytime you win an NFL game you’re excited, there’s no doubt,” said Kingsbury. “It’s hard to get it done.”
It may be hard to win games in this league, but most everything Cardinal QB Kyler Murray is currently doing seems to make the NFL look like child’s play.
Murray entered Sunday’s game as one of the league’s early front-runners for MVP, notably trailing Rams’ signal caller Matthew Stafford.
Following his more than efficient two touchdown performance, combined with 307 yards of total offense, and Murray is likely to leapfrog his division counterpart in the coming days.
“I was pretty confident coming into this game with the game plan we had,” said Murray.
“As far as being 4-0, we’re just trying to go 1-0 each week.”
While his stat sheet may not be as robust as prior weeks, Murray put together one of his most impressive all around performances to date. Nearly all of his passes were done with pinpoint accuracy, while his ability to extend drives with his feet was often times backbreaking for the LA defense.
Murray managed to do all this with the Cardinals missing a pair of offensive linemen in Justin Murray and Kelvin Beachum. Against perhaps the most fearsome front in the NFC, Murray was a true magician leading Arizona’s offense to 8 of 13 on third down.
“Probably the best game plan that I’ve think we’ve had since I’ve been in the league,” said Murray.
“I was just confident going out there and letting it ride.”
The confidence Murray alluded to was too often absent in so many prior matchups with McVay’s Rams. Arizona dominated nearly every facet of Sunday’s contest, from total yards (465/401) to time of possession (35:10/24:50). It was as complete of a performance against a team most assume will be in the Super Bowl picture by season’s end.
“We have to continue to prove it,” said Murray. “We’re not overly worried about what other people think.”
Although Murray is clearly not asking, the Rams probably think they were hit by a semi truck after allowing 216 yards on the ground Sunday. Arizona’s backfield, combined with Murray, put on an absolute clinic rushing the football. Newcomer Rodney Hudson was often the driving catalyst, as the All Pro coordinated protection schemes with newcomers Garcia and Jones while doubling as a people mover in the run game.
“It was tough sledding. A lot of people coming in and talking about their guys,” said Hudson.
“I love this team…everybody is working really hard and playing for each other.”
Sunday’s performance against the Rams marked the first signature win of the Kingsbury/Kyler regime in Arizona. While traveling on the road to do battle against a franchise that has dominated them for the better part of four years, both Kingsbury and Murray answered the bell for this franchise.
In doing so, they announced to the NFL’s elite that this once dormant organization needs to be taken seriously when discussing the league’s hierarchy of teams.
For at least a week, Arizona Cardinal football will be the talk of the NFL with their head coach and quarterback combination front and center.
After Sunday’s performance, these Redbirds have certainly earned it.
- There’s no way around the fact that the Cardinals need more from their front seven defensively. Once again, the run defense was brutal with first round pick LB Zaven Collins noticeably absent for most of the game. After Collins spent the entire offseason entrenched with the starters, it’s bizarre for him not to see the field when the team could absolutely benefit from his physical presence. Like the Isaiah Simmons saga from a year ago, this is something to watch moving forward.
- The Cardinal defense failed to sack Rams QB Matthew Stafford a single time on Sunday. Chandler Jones is now sackless in seven of his last nine regular season starts, which is only made worse by a Cardinal defensive line that remains M.I.A. Only reserve DT Michael Dogbe sports a single sack on the season, with notables J.J. Watt and Zach Allen disappointing to start the year. Defensive line remains the team’s biggest weakness, which may force an outside acquisition by GM Steve Keim if things don’t improve.
- It’s taken a mere four weeks into the season for the large majority of Cardinal fandom and media alike to realize what a star player Byron Murphy is. The third year man out of Washington secured his team high third interception of the season Sunday against LA. Murphy noted in the post game that he had a little spot on his rib but said “it’s good to go”.
- Josh Jones predictably struggled Sunday with the move from guard to tackle following the absence of both Justin Murray and Kelvin Beachum. To his credit, however, he was still effective enough for the Cardinals to have a marquee day running the football. Jones had been playing at a high level at guard which bodes well moving forward assuming either tackle is eligible to play against San Francisco.
- For all the flack the organization took for not prioritizing the tight end position this offseason, Maxx Williams is certainty doing all he can in redeeming the team’s belief that he can be a capable receiver. Following Sunday’s efforts, Williams has 179 receiving yards through four games which puts him on a season pace of 760. On top of that, his elite run blocking production has quickly reemerged following last season’s struggles.
- Jalen Thompson led the Cardinals with 10 total tackles Sunday, but his performance was so much more than a gaudy box score. The former supplemental pick was everywhere against the vaunted Rams’ receiving core; deflecting passes and laying big hits in the process. Thompson even temporarily moved to CB following the rib injury to Byron Murphy. The third year man out of Washington State is quickly becoming a cornerstone piece of Arizona’s secondary.
- Running back Chase Edmonds continues to show why he’s such a dangerous player with the ball in his hands. While fellow backfield mate James Conner is the obvious goal line muscle, Edmonds represents the kind of open field threat that so many NFL teams crave. The former Fordham standout is averaging a ridiculous 5.9 yards per carry to begin this season.
- Matt Prater was a casual 3/3 on field goal attempts Sunday, with his long hitting from 55 yards out. Through four games to begin his Arizona Cardinal career, the 15th year vet is putting himself in the discussion for one of the best kickers in football.
- For the first time this season, the Arizona Cardinal offense did not turn the ball over.
- Kyler Murray is on a season pace for a ludicrous 51 total touchdowns and 5874 total yards.
- The Cardinals will be back at State Farm Stadium next Sunday as they host division rival San Francisco (2-3). The Redbirds open up as a -5.5 point home favorite against the Niners.