It all changed with an injured right hamstring.
Or so we thought.
Following a scramble out of bounce, Kyler Murray was seen noticeably frustrated on the sidelines and for good reason. The rookie phenom quarterback had reaggravated his nagging right hamstring to the point where he couldn’t renter the game.
At the time, Arizona was cruising, leading rival Seattle by the score of 20-7. Kenyan Drake kicked off this one with an 80 yard touchdown scamper that fueled a Cardinal running game that produced 253 yards on the ground.
Following Murray’s injury, backup Bret Hundley would take the reigns and promptly drive down the field.
But two critical drops and a blocked field goal later, and the Seahawks were suddenly in business.
Or so we thought.
The story of this game was not the injury to Kyler Murray, nor was it the heroics of Hundley. It wasn’t even the continued breakout play of running back Kenyan Drake.
For the first time all season, Sunday was all about the Arizona Cardinal defense.
Playing their most inspired football of the year, the Vance Joseph led unit absolutely pummeled the Seahawk offense for four quarters.
Chandler Jones had perhaps his best game as a pro (which is saying something). The newly elected Pro Bowl rep finished with an astonishing four sacks and six total QB hits.
Outside of their opening drive (89 yards and a touchdown), Russell Wilson and company managed only 135 total yards for the remainder of the game. The Seahawk quarterback was sacked five times while being held to a 78.6 passer rating in the process.
Hundley would cap off this historic Cardinal outing with a phenomenal nine play, 78 yard touchdown drive that was highlighted by a ridiculous 14 yard Hundley run to setup Kenyan Drake on the one yard line.
Touchdown Cardinals. Game over Seahawks.
With the win, Arizona (now sporting a two game winning streak), moves to 5-9-1 on the season.
Game Ball: Kenyan Drake
What more can we say that hasn’t already been said since the Cardinals acquired Drake from Miami in late October? The soon to be free agent was tough as nails Sunday, running for 166 yards and two touchdowns. He has 292 rushing yards and six touchdowns in his previous two games combined (Cleveland/Seattle).
The question now becomes whether or not Arizona can afford to bring him back considering their 2020 financial commitment to David Johnson. Drake and his agent will demand big dollars, but the free agent running back market hasn’t been kind to featured runners in recent off seasons.
To Drake’s advantage, the former Alabama standout does not heavy workloads attached to his name when in comparison to some of his free agent counter parts (Melvin Gordon, etc.).
If Drake does bolt for big dollars, Arizona can be thankful they made the move to acquire him. He has done wonders for the continued maturation of Kyler Murray, while spearheading this two game winning streak for head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Not bad for the flip of a fifth round draft pick.
Game Ball: Brett Hundley
The numbers do not reflect the admirable job Hundley did for Arizona on Sunday against the Seahawks.
The former UCLA Bruin conducted the game winning drive late in the fourth quarter, but was several drops away from putting this one on ice much earlier.
Hundley, under the face of adversity, proved he’s more than capable of manning the backup role for Kyler Murray moving forward. His ability to replicate some of what Murray does in the run game, while also completing enough balls to move the chains could be invaluable during the Kingsbury era.
Perhaps Kliff Kingsbury has found his Drew Stanton?
Game Ball: Chandler Jones
Despite the defensive struggles for the Cardinals in 2019, Chandler Jones is putting together perhaps the single greatest defensive performance for any Cardinal defender in franchise history.
The term “unblockable” is thrown around far too much these days, but that’s exactly how you should describe Jones’s outing against Seattle. He was the primary reason Wilson could not settle into any kind of groove in the passing game, wrecking havoc seemingly every dropback.
With his four sacks of Wilson Sunday, (which gives him 19 on the season) Jones needs 3.5 more in the season finale against the Rams to tie Michael Strahan for the single season record.
At this rate, and I’m not sure it’s close, the acquisition of Jones is proving to be the greatest defensive trades in franchise history.
Game Ball: Vance Joseph
There is no secret that Joseph has been a marked man during his first year as defensive coordinator in the desert. The unit, which greatly lacks in quality personnel, has been one of the worst (if not often times “the worst”) defensive units in all of pro football.
None of that mattered Sunday, however.
For the first time this season, the Joseph led redbirds held an opposing offense to under 20 points. Not since that dreadful “6-6” Sunday night tie several seasons ago has the Cardinal defense looked so dominant against Russell Wilson.
From Patrick Peterson, to Jalen Thompson, Budda Baker and of course Chandler Jones, the stars were out for the Cardinals defensively. Following their first possession, Arizona held the Wilson led unit to just two field goals throughout the remaining 3.5 quarters of play.
This game likely seals the deal in regards to Joseph returning to Arizona come 2020. While many fans may wince at that notion, Joseph proved today that he’s at least capable of these types of performances.
Let’s wait and see what he can do with some added talent in the front seven before we bring back out the pitchforks.
- At the writing of this article, there has been no official word on the extend of Kyler Murray’s injured hamstring. The good news is he was walking around, active with his teammates during the duration of the second half. Kingsbury, in his post game presser, mentioned that they “did not want to put him in harms way”. That quote suggest they were being overly cautious in an effort to avoid a more severe injury. With the fearsome Rams defensive front on deck, the smart play appears to be sitting him in week 17. There is no reason to risk additional injury, especially when 2020 expectations will be sky-high.
- Budda Baker, fresh off his Pro Bowl nomination, was a heat seeking missile on Sunday afternoon. The third year player finished with a game high nine tackles, including one tackle for loss. He also laid a hit on Seattle RB C.J. Procise that has likely resulted in a broken arm.
- Baker wasn’t the only standout safety for Arizona Sunday, as rookie Jalen Thompson continued is his stretch of quality play to end his 2019 campaign. Thompson racked up three tackles and a near interception of Russell Wilson that likely would have been a touchdown the other way. The combination of Thompson and Baker should be a strength of this team moving forward.
- Credit where credit is due, as newly appointed OLB Haason Reddick contributed nicely as an edge rusher against Seattle. He remains limited against the run, being overpowered primarily on the edge against quality tackles. But any production from Reddick, at this point, should be taken as a win considering his stance on the team just a few weeks ago.
- Pharoh Cooper was very good on Sunday for Arizona. He has made a huge difference in the return game and will occasionally haul in a critical pass or two on offense. If manageable, I’d be very tempted to bring in back next season.
- The Arizona offense finished with 253 rushing yards on Sunday, which was the most allowed by a Seattle defense since 2010.
- Much of the success in the run game can be contributed to the play of Arizona’s offensive line. Justin Pugh, in particular, was terrific against Seattle’s front. He was the pulling guard on Drake’s 80 yard touchdown that set the tone for the remainder of the game. The unit only surrender two sacks on the afternoon.
- The Cardinals finished with 412 yards of total offense (with nearly 250 coming in the first half) and still managed to avoid committing a turnover.
- Another week, another big time defensive performance from Patrick Peterson. The widely veteran completely shutdown rookie DK Metcalf in the tune of ZERO catches.
- Byron Murphy, on the flip side, was also very good, limiting Tyler Lockett to just one catch for 12 yards. Both he and Chris Jones were critical down the stretch for Arizona, breaking up several pass attempts on Seattle’s final drive. Jones himself defended three passes on the day.
- If this was Kyler Murray’s final game of the season, he will finish with just under 4000 total yards of offense and 22 touchdowns. The most impressive stat may be only turning the ball over 10 times, all of which were via interceptions. Kyler Murray only fumbled once in 2019 (recovered).
- Sunday’s victory against Seattle was Arizona’s first divisional win in 2019.
- If you’re wondering about the current state of the Cardinal’s receiving core, Larry Fitzgerald led the way with 48 yards. From there, Pharoh Cooper was the next true wide receiver contributing with a mere 14 yards.
SOS RECEIVER HELP!
- Another week, another shutout in the passing game for rookie WR Andy Isabella.
- At the writing of this article, the Arizona Cardinals are slated to pick ninth overall in next April’s NFL Draft.