Arizona Cardinals handle Washington to move to 2-0 in good health
Their star quarterback lit it up again with both his arm and his feet. Their new star wide receiver made another huge impact. The defense made more strides and clearly is becoming a strength. And there were big plays to be celebrated all around, including once again on special teams.
Beyond all that and the fact the Cardinals cruised past Washington 30-15 in their home opener on Sunday to start the season 2-0 for the first time in five years and just the sixth time overall in 30 years, there was something else worth noting.
And it might have been more important than any of the above.
On what was an absolute bloody Sunday across the NFL with so many devastating injuries taking out so many star players earlier in the day, the Cardinals left State Farm Stadium with their top performers and their entire team intact. They completely avoided what felt like the worst injury-filled day in recent league history.
Cardinals guard Justin Pugh always likes to say there’s a “100 percent chance” of an injury in the NFL and Sunday proved it as dozens upon dozens of big-name starters were knocked out of games, including Giants running back Saquon Barkley and 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa, who are both feared to have suffered season-ending knee injuries.
The 49ers, already reeling from a string of injuries to tight end George Kittle, cornerback Richard Sherman and receiver Deebo Samuel, also lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle), running back Raheem Mostert (knee) and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (knee). They were just one of several teams who had key players go down and not return.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) avoids Washington Football Team free safety Troy Apke (30) during a touchdown run during the fourth quarter at State Farm Stadium Sept. 20, 2020. (Photo: Michael Chow, Michael Chow/The Republic)
“I hate to hear that guys in this league got injured,” said Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who followed up his 14-catch, 151-yard debut last week in a victory at the 49ers with eight catches for 68 yards and a touchdown against Washington. “It’s a tough sport and you go out there and put your all on the line for a game you love and sometimes that happens. Hopefully, those guys heal up.
“But to be 2-0, it feels great. We put in the work and we get the results. There was never a doubt in our mind that we would start like this with the team and the locker room we have with a lot of veterans, a lot of good young guys. To be 2-0, it’s what we expected.”
The Cardinals were a trendy pick this summer by multiple NFL analysts to possibly do some damage in 2020 and so far, they’re living up to the hype at 2-0. Considering their upcoming schedule that includes a home game against the 0-2 Lions and road dates at the 0-2 Panthers and 0-2 Jets, a 5-0 start doesn’t seem far-fetched.
Granted, the 49ers were already hurting last Sunday, and Washington’s roster isn’t exactly filled with very many household names. But the Cardinals took care of business in both games and they did it while still not operating at their best in either case.
Though they gained more than 400 yards on offense for the second straight week and got big contributions across the board in all three phases of the game, coach Kliff Kingsbury harped on a series of flaws that he says need to be corrected.
“It shows the weapons we have if we’re clicking,” he said, “but I really felt once again offensively, we hurt ourselves with those penalties, putting us in second-and-long and third-and-long situations against a very good defense and a good front. We never got in a rhythm offensively.
“We had some big plays here and there, but I just feel like we have not hit our stride yet. We’ve got to keep working, we’ve got to play cleaner and keep those drives going. … Moving forward, we have to be better.”
They were good enough to score three touchdowns, two of which came on long scrambles by Kyler Murray, as well as kick three field goals and keep Washington out of the end zone until the fourth quarter. Last year, that would have been good enough to make everyone happy.
This year, the Cardinals apparently want more. If you’ve watched them play, you can sense it’s coming, too. Despite the mistakes, there was plenty more to get excited about.
Murray passed for 300 yards, completing 26 of 38 throws for 286 yards, including his 4-yard strike to a wide-open Hopkins to cap Arizona’s first possession. The Cardinals also forced two turnovers, turning the second one, when long snapper Aaron Brewer recovered a fumble on a Washington punt return, into a 14-0 lead.
That’s when Murray darted 14 yards for his first rushing touchdown and picking up an excellent block from running back Chase Edmonds along the way. A 54-yard strike from Murray to Andy Isabella helped set up the first of Zane Gonzalez’s three field goals, a 49-yarder. Later, Murray would connect with Christian Kirk on a 49-yard pass play that set up a 33-yard field goal and a 20-0 halftime lead.
Following a pair of risky, but successful fourth-down conversions, including one from their own 27-yard line, the Cardinals added an important insurance touchdown when Murray took off to his left, did a little fake to elude one defender, and then darted to his right and back up-field for a 21-yard scoring run.
“As soon as I leave the pocket, I’m obviously surveying the field and seeing how the blocks are set up and they were set up pretty perfectly,” Murray said. “The guys did a great job and once I get a guy one-on-one, I like my chances.”
Murray becomes the first Cardinals quarterback since Hall of Famer Charley Trippi in 1951 to rush for two touchdowns from 14 or more yards in a single game. That last quarterback in the NFL to do that? Russell Wilson of the Seahawks in 2012.
“Kyler’s definitely a special guy with the ball in his hands,” Hopkins said.
He wasn’t the only one in Week 2. Running back Kenyan Drake provided 86 yards on 20 carries. Larry Fitzgerald added seven receptions for 50 yards. Chandler Jones recovered a fumble. On the fourth-down conversion from their own 27, Kirk took a handoff from backup quarterback Chris Streveler and ran an end-around for a 3-yard pickup and a clutch first down.
The defense did its job as well, limiting Washington quarter Dwayne Haskins Jr. to just 66 yards passing in the first and just one touchdown throw overall. The Cardinals loosened up on things in the second half, playing with such a big lead, and although linebacker Devon Kennard said the defense can get better, he added, “I like where we’re at.”
They really enjoyed coming out with a win and especially, not losing anyone to a serious injury. That doesn’t mean that Kingsbury didn’t hold his breath every time Murray took off on one of his mad scrambles, including the two long touchdown runs.
“I’m always just saying ‘Get down, get down, get down, get down, get down,’ so I can’t even enjoy it, honestly,” he said. “The next day, though, I enjoy the run.”
Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at [email protected] 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 and every Wednesday night from 7-9 on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.
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