Thu, 22 Oct 2020

O'HARA'S SCOUTING REPORT: Arizona Cardinals

Detroit Lions
25 Sep 2020, 20:25 GMT+10

Mike OHara

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury wasn't happy with his team's performance in Sunday's game with the Washington Football Team. Neither was Kyler Murray, the Cardinals' star quarterback.

There was nothing wrong with the result - a 30-15 victory that made the Cardinals one of 11 teams in the NFL with 2-0 records.

How they accomplished the win over Washington was the problem. There were too many negative plays to suit Kingsbury, and too many potentially positive plays left on the field to satisfy Murray.

Kingsbury said in his Monday press conference that he could tell immediately after the game that his players were not happy with their performance.

"You could tell coming into that locker room," Kingsbury said. "Nobody was satisfied with the way we played."

Despite having another game with spectacular big plays, Murray felt the offense put too much pressure on the defense by not cashing in on scoring opportunities.

"I thought we could have helped them (the defense) out a little bit better," Murray said in his postgame interview. "It's unfortunate when you go out there, you don't put up any points.

"They (the defense) are on the sideline, expecting us to put up points and you don't. It's our job to play complementary football."

The Cardinals are at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Detroit Lions, their next opponent. They upset the defending NFC champion 49ers in the opener before beating Washington to get to 2-0.

The Lions are 0-2 and have been unable to hold leads in losses to the Bears and Packers.

The Lions and Cardinals are meeting for the eighth time in the last nine seasons, and for the third straight year on Arizona's home turf.

NOTEBOOK: Golladay returns to practice Week 3 opponent: What the Cardinals are saying Lions at Cardinals practice report: Sept. 23

Last year's game ended in a 27-27 tie that provided a glimpse of what was to come from Murray.

In his pro debut on opening day of the 2019 season, Murray led the Cardinals in a rally from an 18-point deficit (24-6) in the first minute of the fourth quarter to a 24-24 tie that sent the game into overtime.

An exchange of field goals in overtime resulted in a tie that felt like a loss for the Lions.

While Murray has emerged in his second season as the leader and focal point of Arizona's rise to respectability, the Cardinals have built a solid, balanced roster with a series of moves.

Two of them were hiring Kingsbury as head coach last year and then drafting Murray first overall.

But there were other significant personnel moves, including the trade in 2016 that brought Chandler Jones to Arizona from New England. Jones has been All-Pro twice with Arizona and has had double digit sacks all four seasons. He had a career-high 19 sacks in 2019.

The Cardinals are fourth in the league in points allowed with 35 and tied for third with seven sacks. Seven different players have gotten a sack.

Acquiring DeAndre Hopkins in mid-March in a trade with the Houston Texans gave the Cardinals one of the league's most productive wide receivers. Hopkins leads the league with 22 receptions.

Future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald is not a deep threat in his 17th season, but he is as sure handed as ever. Fitzgerald has 11 catches on 12 targets, with six catches gaining first downs.

Murray gets running support from Kenyan Drake, who was acquired last year in a midseason trade with the Dolphins. Drake rushed for 643 yards in eight games with Arizona last year and has 146 in two games this year.

Murray has put up respectable numbers throwing the ball - 516 yards, a 66.7 completion rate, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Most of his highlight plays have been as a runner. He ran for 91 yards and a touchdown in the opening-game road win over the 49ers and followed that with 67 yards and two TDs against Washington.

He was untouched, weaving his way through Washington's defense, on a 21-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

The ability to run was there as a rookie, and Murray uses it more often this year because of a higher comfort level.

With 21 runs for 158 yards in the first two games, Murray is averaging 10.5 runs per game. He started all 16 games as a rookie and ran 93 times, an average of 5.8 runs per game.

"Understanding field awareness, understanding where guys are, I feel more comfortable out there obviously," he said after the Washington game.

"When I'm able to break the pocket, it's more comfortable to make something happen. If I have to slide, I slide. If I know I can get more yards, that's what I'm going to try to do."

More San Antonio News

Access More

Sign up for The San Antonio News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!