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The Arizona Cardinals made a statement in their season opener, throttling the Titans in Tennessee 38-13.
The tone for the game was set early by defensive staples Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt, both of whom were constants in the Titan backfield.
Jones, following a 2020 year lost to injury, reaffirmed himself as the league’s most prolific pass rusher netting a career high five sacks on the day. Jones, who is currently playing on what equates to a one year deal, put together one of the best single game performances in team history.
Meanwhile, the Cardinal offense produced all 38 points in the first three quarters of play. DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk each hauled in a pair of touchdown catches, as the Cardinal receiving core showed why it’s one of the deepest on the team. Newcomer A.J. Green was also active with six targets, yet only hauled in two catches for 25 yards.
Third year quarterback Kyler Murray tossed a career high four touchdown passes, while also netting one TD on the ground. The Pro Bowl QB finished with over 300 yards of total offense, showing significant growth as a pocket passer.
With the win, Kliff Kingsbury moves to 2-0-1 in week one games as Cardinal head coach.
Speaking of Kingsbury, Sunday’s performance might have been the most complete under the third year Cardinal coach. Unlike a season ago, this Arizona team can beat you in a multitude of ways which is further highlighted by Kyler Murray having a mere 20 yards rushing.
Kingsbury’s offense generated four pass catchers each eclipsing at least 40 yards receiving with 4+ receptions. That kind of balance was severely lacking throughout 2020 and should further aid in Murray’s development as a thrower.
It’s early but the 2021 version of Kliff Kingsbury’s offensive vision for this team is a good one.
Player of the Game: Chandler Jones
Following a rocky offseason with the club, Jones made a different kind statement Sunday afternoon. The former Syracuse standout abused the Tennessee offensive line, specifically LT Taylor Lewan, who would later leave the game due to injury. The Pro Bowl tackle took to twitter following the game to further reflect on Chandler’s performance.
Looking ahead to week two, Jones gets to lick his chops against a Viking offensive line that allowed three sacks and eight QB hits against Cincinnati.
Rookie Watch: Rondale Moore
The second round pick was a key difference maker Sunday against Tennessee, netting four catches for 68 yards while also serving as the primary return man.
The former Purdue Boilermaker showed a keen ability to break tackles, especially on horizontal screens at the LOS. Moore’s presence in the intermediate passing game should continue to open things up deep for the likes of Hopkins and Kirk.
You get the sense that Kingsbury and company are only scratching the surface of possibilities with Moore in this offense.
- On Sunday, LB Isaiah Simmons secured his second career interception while also netting a team high nine total tackles. The second year player out of Clemson was all over the field Sunday, silencing doubters who questioned his ability to play downfield against the run.
- RB Chase Edmonds had a very methodical 106 total yards Sunday (63 rushing, 43 receiving) while newcomer James Conner showed a physical presence that was sorely needed a year ago. This tandem may not appease fantasy enthusiasts, but it’s hard not to be bullish with the balance provided by this unit.
- Second year right tackle Kelvin Beachum left the game roughly midway through thanks to a rib injury. Beachum, who did walk off under his own power, was replaced by Justin Murray.
- Corey Peters, who was signed as insurance in place of Jordan Phillips, was incredibly effective against the Titans. The 11-year NFL veteran nearly scored on a fumble recovery following a Chandler Jones sack. The addition of Peters in late August could be one of Steve Keim’s shrewdest offseason moves.
- For all the noise surrounding Arizona’s secondary, cornerbacks Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson put together an incredibly impressive week one performance. Murphy, in particular, had a banner day against perhaps the league’s most fearsome receiving duo. The third year player out of Washington tallied a team high three passes defended, while displaying his continued willingness to aid in run support.
- It will be interesting to see the difference in total snaps, but it sure felt like Jordan Hicks netted more time on the field compared to rookie LB Zaven Collins. Regardless, both players were effective in neutralizing Titan RB Derrick Henry who finished with a modest 58 rushing yards (3.4 ypc). The trio of Hicks, Collins and Simmons gives DC Vance Joseph so many possibilities when putting together a defensive game plan.
- The Cardinal defense held Tennessee’s offense to less than 250 yards, which is an unbelievable feat considering their weaponry and experience. This was perhaps the best defensive performance seen by a Cardinal unit since Todd Bowles roamed the sidelines. Kudos to Vance Joseph on a defense that has only improved since his arrival back in 2019
- The 38 points scored by the Cardinals are tied for the most in the Kliff Kingsbury era. The team was a late missed Matt Prater field goal away from earning their first 40-point effort this coaching regime.
- The Cardinals will host the now 0-1 Minnesota Vikings next Sunday at State Farm Stadium. Arizona opens up as a -4.5 home favorite.