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ARI 38 CLE 24: Victory Sunday

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The last time RB Kenyan Drake won an NFL football game, it took this play against the eventual 2018 Super Bowl Champion Patriots to make it happen:

In the Dolphins’ spectacular 34-33 win in Week 15 of the 2018 season, Kenyan Drake played sparingly behind starting RB Frank Gore.His line on the day was: 6 rushes for 24 yards (4.0 ypc) and 1 reception for this 55 yard TD.

Funny how fates can be tied to football games. The Patriots would go on to win the 2018 Super Bowl over the NFC and NFC West Champion Los Angeles Rams. The Dolphins would fire head coach Adam Gase—-and replace him with Patriots’ DC Brian Flores. Gase would land on his feet with the New York Jets—-the same Jets who had first interviewed Kliff Kingsbury for the job. Kingsbury signed with the Cardinals a day after his interview with the Jets and would wind up hand picking his QB by taking Kyler Murray with the #1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft—-and then trade QB Josh Rosen to the Dolphins for their 2019 2nd round pick and their 2020 5th round pick.

Talk about fate. After 7 games in 2019, at 3-3-1, the Cardinals suddenly were missing their top two RBs, David Johnson and Chase Edmonds, due to injuries. Yesterday in explaining why the Cardinals went out and made the trade with the Dolphins to acquire RB Kenyan Drake, Kingsbury said he closely followed Drake’s college career at Alabama and then consulted with some friends in Miami who raved about Drake. Thus the choice to trade for Drake was clear: “I liked his skill set, the quick twitch, being able to catch the ball out of the backfield, making people miss in space,” Kingsbury said. “I liked all those things for our offense.”

Now that Drake has become the feature RB in Arizona, the Josh Rosen trade with the Dolphins is now in the books: QB Josh Rosen for WR Andy Isabella (2019 2nd Round) and RB Kenyan Drake (2020 5th Round).

If the blazing fast Isabella becomes the receiver that had Kliff Kingsbury jumping for joy on Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft and if the Cardinals sign Drake to be the feature RB for the next few seasons, then to twist around an old adage, “two birds in the hand are better than one in the everglades.”

Interesting parallel in Drake’s last two wins—-his TD in the Miracle in Miami was the Dolphins’ 5th TD of that game—-and yesterday the Cardinals’ 5th TD of the game came on an impressive 17 yard run by Drake, his 4th TD of the game. It was the first time that a Cardinals’ RB has scored 4 rushing TDs in a game since Ronald Moore did it in 1993.

You want to know why Drake gave the ball on his 3rd TD to D.J. Humphries to spike?

Do yourself a favor and watch these 4 TDs—-and on each play—-watch the effort and technique the Cardinals employ on ALL of their blocks, inside and downfield:

https://www.espn.com/watch/player?id=28308767

On the 1st TD—-what a great play call by Kingsbury. Notice how the OL down-blocks and seals off the backside of the play to perfection. Murray sees the DE is sucked in toward him and then runs the option straight at the DB to draw him and pitches the ball to Drake at the precise moment while WR Christian Kirk is sustaining a perfect block on CB Greedy Williams.

On the 4th TD—-it’s a misdirection counter—-where Drake starts running what looks like a power off-tackle to the left, then plants his foot and counter steps to the right where RT Justin Murray has sealed off the DE, G J.R. Sweezy has sealed off the 2nd level defender and C A.Q. Shipley has leveraged the DT, riding him wide and sealeing him off, to create a clear path for Drake to the end zone.

In addition, the Cardinals got a big boost from Kyler Murray in the running game. Check out Murray’s wheels on this play—-but as you do, notice these effective blocks—-”hats on hats,” in coach speak:

LT D.J. Humphries—-on #51 LB Mack Wilson

TE Maxx Williams—-on #31 DB Justin Burris

WR Christian Kirk—-on #53 LB Joe Schubert

WR Larry Fitzgerald—-on #26 CB Greedy Williams

LG Justin Pugh—-on #65 DT Larry Ogunjobi

On this Victory Sunday, the Cardinals rushed 35 times for 226 yards at 6.5 yards per carry. if you took the time to watch the blocking, you might agree with me that this was as fine and display of blocking in unison as we have seen in years from the Cardinals—-with every player on the field involved and engaged.

Yet, when I went to read the comments on the ROTB post-game articles last night, one of the first comments I read was from a ROTB poster who said something to the effect of “the Cardinals’ OL still sucks, no matter what anyone says.”

Well, if a blocking clinic in this game versus a talented defense that has been playing very well lately, isn’t enough to persuade you otherwise, then in all likelihood, you will never be satisfied.

The poise and precision that Kyler Murray demonstrated in this game was outstanding. As Kliff Kingsbury said after the game the goal was to “stay on schedule” (in other words, not to avoid setback plays via penalties and sacks and turnovers). Murray took advantage of a passing mismatch he liked best in focusing on WR Damiere Byrd—-and Byrd was a high flyer in this game, catching 6 passes on 6 targets for 86 yards (14.3 ypc) .

Murray’s interception was the anomaly—-and it’s likely that Murray never saw LB Mack Wilson in the flat. It’s a throw that in retrospect Murray knows he should have put a little less touch on and more zip. But, this turnover did not seem to phase Murray at all. He got right back on the saddle and his back corner of the end zone TD pass to newly added TE Dan Arnold was a thing of sheer beauty. Check it out:

https://www.azcardinals.com/video/kyler-murray-dan-arnold-reaches-high-for-epic-td-grab-browns

Kingsbury said that perhaps his favorite play of the day was when Kyler Murray threw the ball over the end zone on a busted play—-again—-”staying on schedule”—-and learning from previous mistakes.

Kudos to Vance Jospeh, the coaches and the Cardinals’ defense for holding their own in this game. It’s amazing what can happened when all 11 players are playing hard and with a strong sense of urgency.

It was a welcomed sight to see CB Patrick Peterson look like the Pat P. of old, as he dogged Odell Beckham Jr. all game long with the tenacity of a pesky wasp, and came up with a huge interception on the Browns’ 1st drive and then nearly a second one in the end zone later on. See his outstanding high pointing of the ball:

https://www.azcardinals.com/video/patrick-peterson-picks-off-baker-mayfield-in-the-end-zone-cardinals-browns

if only the coaches could impress upon Peterson to break down on his tackles—-amazing that a player of his caliber still does everything tacklers are taught not to do. Good tackling is all about lowering one’s pad level—-which is why you break down with your knees bent. Peterson almost always goes high and tries to arm tackle—-which, as we see week after week—-is a bad mistake.

Peterson said after the game that he will be back in 2020. While that may be the case, this game was good for him and the Cardinals because it certainly re-fortified his trade value if that’s the direction the team wants to take.

The front seven had their hands full with All Pro caliber RB Nick Chubb. It was encouraging to see OLB Haason Reddick land a nice tackle on Chubb, before, alas, he injured his groin. The Cardinals were missing DT Rodney Gunter, who was having another solid season before suffering his toe injury last week.

Kudos to Chandler Jones for picking up his 15th sack—-and making the Browns pay for trying to block him with a TE:

https://www.azcardinals.com/video/chandler-jones-soars-to-take-down-baker-mayfield-cardinals-browns

But the hit of the day came from OLB Cassius Marsh who took the romance out of the crossing route for WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Inexplicably, however, mass confusion in the red zone remains with regard to covering TEs. And until progress is made in that area, it feels reasonable to question whether Vance Jospeh is a championship caliber DC.

While Patrick Peterson won a game ball for his improved play—-in my opinion—-the most impressive and consistently aggressive player on the defense in this game was S Jalen Thompson. Thompson allowed Cardinals fans the rare treat of watching a Cardinals’ defender blow up a screen pass. Thompson also made two huge third down stops.

The fact that the Cardinals were able to use their two 5th rounders in the 2020 NFL Draft for S Jalen Thompson and RB Kenyan Drake is a feather in GM Steve Keim’s cap. While it’s fair to question Steve Keim’s decisions in free agency and his 1st round picks, Keim deserves credit for acquiring Day 2 and 3 talents. Jalen Thompson is, imo, a 2nd round pick in this year’s NFL draft had he stayed at Washington St. Kenyan Drake, was a 3rd rounder, who right now is playing like a 2nd round RB.

This win versus the Browns likely increased the odds that Steve Keim will remain the GM in 2020—-and the improvement this week on the defense likely means that Vance Joseph will remain the DC.

If that’s the case, it would be wise, imo, to see the Cardinals do three things: (1) have the coaches decide on the free agents and draft picks they want, with Kliff Kingsbury getting the final say; (2) promote OL coach Sean Kugler to OC (running game and pass pro coordinator) or, as with Jeff Rodgers, award him the title of assistant head coach and give him a raise; (3) hire a defensive guru to advise Vance Jospeh, particularly with regard to pass coverages and week to week game planning regarding coverage matchups and calls.

If the coaches are heavily involved in the personnel decisions as Kliff Kingsbury was in the drafting of Kyler Murray the trading for Kenyan Drake, then if Sean Kugler is convinced after surveying the free agent and drat pools that D.J. Humphries is his guy at LT, then make it happen, assuming that Humphries’ agent is willing to work out a fair deal for both sides, one that should include a games started incentive.

Kudos to the Cardinals and Kenyan Drake—-this Victory Sunday brought a feeling of excitement and satisfaction that the Bridging would love to see turn into a habit: