Game Review: Ground game elevates Arizona to first win

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We have lift-off! It may not have been convincing, nor a blowout. But finally – Kliff Kingsbury, Kyler Murray and our 2019 Arizona Cardinals have lift-off. OK – it may have come in the form of a victory at a tanking Cincinnati Bengals (not disrespect, Cincy), but this is the belated start that the Cardinals desperately needed to give the youth the confidence booster of a victory in the NFL. They found a way to win. That one is for you, Mr B.

The Cardinals put up 514 yards of total offense with nearly half of that coming from the rush – stats that could begin to justify how explosive Kingsbury has predicted this offense could be. And while that may be true, there are still obvious flaws for this offense to work on.

The first one is the end product. This Cardinals offense have had no issue moving the ball – whether it be through the air or on the ground. We finished last in pretty much every category last year but offensively we have seen a drastic improvement, with the team sitting 17th overall in the league on total offense and moving up with every week. But in terms of red-zone efficiency, the Cards are among the worst – 30% in that area through 2019 so far (30th overall). Murray scrambled for a second successive touchdown in two games in the first quarter – a new and exciting weapon that the Red Sea have been dying to see.

It’s blindingly clear that Arizona have a trifecta in the rushing department. Murray led by example on the ground, accumulating 93 yards, one touchdown and a huge 9.3 average yards per gain. Running back David Johnson followed suit with two yards shy of that figure (91) but it was another convincing performance by Chase Edmonds that caught the eye. He notched eight carries for 68 yards but it was the cut-away 37-yard touchdown and another solid average of 8.4 yards per carry that makes the second-year running back an intriguing prospect in the Cardinals offense.

Credit: Joe Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports

But where adolescence is flourishing in our offense, a return from veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson couldn’t come soon enough on defense. The Cardinals just about survived a fourth-quarter capitulation when Cincy QB Andy Dalton threw two touchdowns on two consecutive drives to tie the game up. The follow-up drive to Chase Edmond’s touchdown play was a solid display of veteran understanding in pressure situations from Dalton – driving his offense on 10 plays right down to the AZ 2-yard line with Auden Tate capping it off with six. The second came in no time. Two big plays to Tyler Boyd, a 29-yard pass on the first play and then a 42-yard bomb downfield, sliced through a defense that lack the experience to hold out a lead when the opposition are making a comeback of their own. Peterson’s re-emergence is just 12 days away, and good Lord, is it needed.

One huge positive for our defense to take away is that the threat of tight ends was well and truly extinguished on Sunday. CJ Uzomah and Tyler Eifert had little success against a team that have struggled to contain opposition tight ends in the previous five games, with the Bengals TEs gaining 16 and 14 yards respectively and no touchdowns. That was a huge stop and a psychological victory taken away by the defense.

Credit: Gary Landers/AP Photo

One player that has kept the Cardinals within a competitive environment is kicker Zane Gonzalez. He’s been a shining light in 2019 and currently second in the league overall, only bested by LA Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein. It was almost fitting that a Gonzalez field goal would be the play that would give the Cardinals their first win of the season, let alone it being a walk-off kick. Gonzalez’s and Arizona’s fortunes have changed drastically in the kicking department – both finished outside the top 32 in kicking stats last year.

The Cardinals move to 1-3-1 on the year while Zac Taylor and his Bengals move to 0-5 and will be looking for a more positive outcome at Baltimore on Sunday.

Next up for the Cardinals is a home match-up against the Falcons on Sunday night. Team President Michael Bidwill called for the team to go on a streak during the post-match huddle on Sunday, and where better to start than at State Farm against a 1-4 Falcons team that allowed 52 points against the Houston Texans on Sunday and, for three consecutive games, have allowed 20+ fantasy points to a QB.

Murray will fancy that. He’s currently in the company of two other quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes and Gardner Minshew) who’ve achieved 16+ fantasy points in all five of their opening matches this season.

Feature Picture – Credit: Joe Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports

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