Mistakes were made, but the cards are good enough to overcome them
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) – The Arizona Cardinals didn’t play particularly well in the three quarters, gave up a stunning 109-yard touchdown just before halftime on a missed field goal and still rallied to win an NFL game on the road nearly two touchdowns.
“It was ugly, but we got it,” Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray said.
For a franchise that is trying to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2015, this is a big step forward.
Arizona beat Jacksonville 31-19 Sunday despite having a good part of the afternoon. The Cardinals fell 13-7 just before halftime when Matt Prater’s 68-yard field goal attempt narrowly failed and was sent back 109 yards for a touchdown.
It was quite the metaphorical kick to the stomach.
Arizona recovered quickly.
“It’s about the biggest moment of adversity you can face in an NFL football game, to have something like that right before half-time, and the guys haven’t blinked.” Kingsbury said. “Even when we lost two scores, the guys didn’t bat an eyelid. I was really proud of this effort.
Murray completed 28 of 34 passes for 316 yards, James Conner ran for two touchdowns and Byron Murphy Jr. had a crucial interception return for a touchdown to put the Cardinals ahead at the end of the third quarter. Arizona’s defense allowed just 13 points and intensified in the second half.
Could the Cardinals play better? Sure.
But that’s also what makes this unbeaten start so encouraging.
“We are 3-0. That’s all that matters, man, ”said wide receiver AJ Green. “We can clean up these things. Whatever we do, as long as we keep winning, keep putting this thing together, man, the sky’s the limit for us.
The depth of Arizona. The Cardinals have two strong running backs, four productive receivers, plugged two holes on the offensive line after injuries Sunday and continue to receive contributions from all over the defense. The stars are still Murray, WR DeAndre Hopkins, DE JJ Watt and LB Chandler Jones, but it has become clear that this team is far from the heaviest.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The racing game. It wasn’t great against Jacksonville, but it wasn’t great either, gaining 91 yards on 30 carries. The Cardinals managed to make some big short runs in the red zone: Conner had two short touchdowns and Murray added another.
Murphy. His 29-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter gave the Cardinals a 24-19 lead they wouldn’t give up. The Cardinals played by letting three-time All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson leave for Minnesota in free agency, but Murphy, veteran Robert Alford and rookie Marco Wilson helped fill the void.
Prater. He’s still one of the best kickers in the league and no one is giving him a hard time for missing a 68-yard attempt that would have been an NFL record. But Kingsbury might think twice before trotting Prater onto the field for another one of those long bombs after the Jaguars returned Sunday for the 109-yard touchdown.
The Cardinals are hit on the offensive line. Both guards – Justin Pugh and Justin Murray – left with back problems and their return is questionable for Week 4 against the Rams. Special teams ace Charles Washington suffered a hamstring injury and Kingsbury has said he will be out for at least one game.
82.4%. – Murray’s completion percentage against Jacksonville after making 28 of 34 assists, which was a career high. Murray had a bad interception in the third quarter, but continues to do a lot well. He completed 80.6% of his assists in Week 2 against Minnesota and became the first QB in franchise history to complete at least 80% of his passes in two straight games.
The Cardinals are 3-0 despite their poor performance in the last two games. Arizona likely won’t have as much leeway next Sunday against the LA Rams, who are also undefeated and just picked up a win over defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL