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ARI 30 WAS 15: Q1 Key Plays

Washington Football Team v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Kliff Kingsbury said to the team after the game that it was great that the Cardinals brought a certain sense of confidence into the game which helped pave the way for their 30-15 win, but, that, as he and the players well know, they have a number of areas they need to improve.

Thus, if you would like to follow along with the Week 2 Game Highlights, we can take a close look at some of the positive and negatives the coaches and players will be scrutinizing as they analyze their performance. (Thanks to ESPN play-by-play descriptions)

Play 1: ARI 3rd & 2 at WSH 40

  • (12:39 - 1st) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray left end to WAS 27 for 13 yards (F.Moreau).

This is a classic read option by Kyler Murray, who puts the ball in Kenyan Drake’s belly while looking to see how WAS DE #90 Montez Sweat reacts to the play. Sweat bites inside, thus Murray keeps the ball and runs wide to the left where Sweat vacates his contain.

TE Dan Arnold is at first a decoy top open up the running lane for Murray as he runs an out route and then he tries to block CB #25 Fabian Moreau, who makes a heckuva play to shed Arnold’s block and get to Murray’s ankles just as S #30 Troy Apke is converging.

Good combo block on the WAS ILB by TE Darrell Daniels and LT D.J. Humphries.

Play 2: ARI 3rd & 3 at WSH 20

  • (10:47 - 1st) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray pass short left to D.Hopkins to WAS 8 for 12 yards (T.Apke).

This is a clever tweak of last week’s big “Mesh” play that DeAndre Hopkins nearly scored on.

The Cardinals motion into what looks like the Mesh, and it starts out looking the same way, only Hopkins stops his crossing route and works his way back to the left.

WAS has done their homework and looks prepared for the Mesh, as CB Moreau immediately starts to run with Hopkins, but then can’t re-direct in time to recover on Hopkins.

Credit WAS DT #93 Jonathan Allen for hustling from behind to assist on the tackle, as WR Christian Kirk hustles over to get a decent block on CB #23 Ronald Darby.

Play 3: ARI 3rd & Goal at WSH 4

  • (9:09 - 1st) DeAndre Hopkins Pass From Kyler Murray for 4 Yrds. TOUCHDOWN. Z.Gonzalez extra point is GOOD, Center-A.Brewer, Holder-A.Lee.

Cards line up with Hopkins isolated left and “trips” to the right.

WAS is running a “5 under” zone coverage.

Murray checks the trips to the right, sees that WAS is in zone coverage, then turns his head back to Hopkins and throws a TD strike. WAS S #26 Landon Collins knows he should have picked up Hopkins as Hopkins came into his zone. But—-the Cardinals did a clever thing here by having RB Kenyan Drake capture Collins’ attention by running an out pass underneath him.

Note: The Cardinals are very apt to see teams zone them in the red zone, especially on 3rd downs. Why? The main worry is being in a position to tackle Kyler Murray if he runs the ball. When teams go man-to-man, they vacate parts of the field which makes it easier for a scrambling QB to exploit.

Play 4: WAS 2nd & 4 at WSH 31

  • (8:47 - 1st) (No Huddle, Shotgun) D.Haskins pass short right to S.Sims to WAS 39 for 8 yards (B.Murphy).Penalty on ARZ-P.Peterson, Defensive Holding, declined.

The Cardinals get a decent pass rush here and DE Devon Kennard and DT Angleo Blackson get their hands up on the pass (good improvement from last week), but are unable to deflect the well-thrown ball from Dwayne Haskins to Steven Sims on a crossing route.

The Cardinals are in man coverage and the speedy Sims is being chased by CB Byron Murphy, who is a step behind, but manages to make the tackle after the catch.

There was a defensive holding call on the play by Patrick Peterson which was declined. You can see Peterson holding WAS WR #17 Terry McLaurin on the top of the screen. McLaurin appears to have gained a step on Peterson after shaking press coverage.

Play 5: WAS 1st & 10 at WSH 39

  • (8:22 - 1st) (Shotgun) D.Haskins sacked at WAS 30 for -9 yards (C.Peters).

The Cardinals come right back and get the sack on Haskins thanks to a perfectly run TEX twist by DE Chandler Jones and DT Corey Peters. Jones fakes an outside rush, then veers sharply inside as Peters then loops to the outside and finds himself right there to meet Haskins as he tries to scramble.

Play 6: ARI 3rd & 10 at ARI 9

  • (5:39 - 1st) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray pass INTERCEPTED by L.Collins at ARZ 20. L.Collins to ARZ 19 for 1 yard (D.Hopkins).

Having converted a key 3rd down earlier by faking the Mesh play, this time the Cardinals run what looks like a version of the Mesh, with Hopkins running a crossing route underneath Andy Isabella who is running a deeper crossing route form right to left.

The Cardinals will talk about this play a lot—-one might imagine that they will agree that when the ball was thrown Hopkins and Isabella were too close together and that it would take Kyler Murray hanging in there a second longer before throwing the ball to the deeper crossing Isabella.

The main key about the Mesh play is which WR gets more open on the crossing routes once they have cleared out their sides.

WAS is playing man to man underneath and with 2 high safeties and Landon Collins makes a superb break on the ball and picks it off, putting the Cardinals’ early momentum in the game in question.

Murray may have been able to wait a second more before to let Isabella clear, but WAS runs their own “twist” stunt to Murray’s left by having DE Sweat crash inside and having the ILB loop around to the outside.

In retrospect, the coaches might elect to keep RB in as a protector so that Murray can buy that extra second. On this play, the RB runs an out/circle option pattern, kind of like what the 49ers did last week with Rakeem Mostert. But typically that RB option pass is not a good call on 3rd and long.

Good tackle made on Collins by DeAndre Hopkins who made what was arguably a better tackle and tackling effort than either of the Cardinals starting CBs made all day.

Play 7: WAS 1st & Goal at ARI 9

  • (4:22 - 1st) D.Haskins sacked at ARZ 15 for -6 yards (J.Phillips). FUMBLES (J.Phillips), RECOVERED by ARZ-C.Jones at ARZ 12. C.Jones to ARZ 12 for no gain (M.Moses).

Obviously, this was a key play in the Cardinals’ win, by taking the momentum right back from WAS after they had made the interception and were knocking on the door of the goal line. We saw from WAS’s win over the Eagles that they are a team that can take full advantage of momentum, even to the tune of scoring 27 unanswered points. Thus, this turnover was huge for the Cardinals, as DT Jordan Phillips pokes the ball out of Haskins’ hand and Chandler Jones pulls in the loose ball.

Play 8: ARI 1st & 10 at ARI 12

  • (4:14 - 1st) (Shotgun) K.Murray sacked at ARZ 5 for -7 yards (J.Bostic).

We knew coming into the game that WAS likes to blitz their ILB #53 Jon Bostic up the middle, which he did every effectively versus the Eagles.

Here C Lamont Gaillard does a good job of initially picking up the blitz, but is unable to sustain his block when Bostic was able to slip off the block to sack Murray.

In my “Game 2 Nitty Grittys” preview, I talked about the conundrum the LB blitz is for the offense, as it behooves the Cardinals to keep at RB inside to help on the ILB. When the RB is kept inside he can’t help on the edge rusher to his side—-and WAS has 3 premier edge rushers in Young, Sweat and Kerrigan.

On this play WAS does a very good job rushing both ILBs, #54 Kevin Pierre-Louis and #53 Jon Bostic. RB Kenyan Drake after the fake handoff does a good job of picking up KPL, which left it up to Gaiilard to stave off Bostic.

WAS left the middle wide open, but there were no Cardinals’ receivers over the middle. However, TE Darrell Daniels looks wide open on an out pass to the left flat, but Murray wasn’t able to see him. But, with the middle wide open, Murray is apt see that he could have bolted the pocket when it was converging—-after all, this is what teams risk when they blitz from the inside, particulalrly when they blitz both ILBers. A big win for WAS on this play.

Play 9: ARI 4th & 7 at ARI 15

  • (2:56 - 1st) A.Lee punts 57 yards to WAS 28, Center-A.Brewer. S.Sims to WAS 40 for 12 yards (D.Daniels). FUMBLES (D.Daniels), RECOVERED by ARZ-A.Brewer at WAS 40. A.Brewer to WAS 40 for no gain (F.Moreau).

Another huge momentum swing made by the Cardinals, this time from their special teams—-marking twice in two weeks the STs come up with a huge 1st quarter play.

Whenever a punter boots the ball 57 yards, it gives the punt returner ample time to make a big play. Steven Sims makes a strong move up the left hashmark. Watch the effort that Cardinals’ ST ace Dennis Gardeck makes to try to tackle Sims. While Gardeck can only get a hand on him, Sims keeps sprinting and when he is undercut by Darrell Daniels, the ball pops out before Sims‘ knee hits the turf and LS Aaron Brewer, who typically hustles down in punt coverage, alertly pounces on the ball, just beating CB F. Moreau to the recovery by a fraction of an inch and nano-second.

Andy Lee had a big day averaging 49.3 yards on 4 punts, one inside the 20.

Play 10: ARI 2nd & 3 at WSH 33

  • (2:08 - 1st) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray pass short left to D.Hopkins pushed ob at WAS 25 for 8 yards (K.Curl).

Nice hitch pass to Hopkins on a dart by Murray, sprung in part by an aggressive block attempt by Christian Kirk which enabled Hopkins to elude hard-charging S K. Curl, who recovers to make the tackle after Hopkins niftily eludes the WAS CB up the sideline.

Play 11: ARI 3rd & 4 at WSH 19

  • (0:34 - 1st) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray pass short right to L.Fitzgerald to WAS 14 for 5 yards (J.Moreland).

How fitting that Play 11 of this highlight video, a key 3rd down conversion, is taken care of by #11 Larry Fitzgerald.

Fitz makes a perfectly timed cut on his out pass—-and let’s appreciate the textbook timing, arm strength and accuracy that Kyler Murray makes on this throw amidst the outstanding WAS pass rush.

Play 12: ARI 1st & 10 at WSH 14

  • (0:00 - 1st) Kyler Murray 14 Yard Rush TOUCHDOWN Z.Gonzalez extra point is GOOD, Center-A.Brewer, Holder-A.Lee.

Amazing that Kyler Murray got the snap just in the nick of time (before the clock hit 0:00) and he takes off on what looks to be a speed option only, the pitch man, RB Chase Edmonds makes one of the three good blocks on the play, in addition WR Trent Sherfield and TE Darrell Daniels’ blocks, which gives the quick-footed, jitterbugging Murray a chance to deke the one unblocked man, CB #20 Jimmy Moreland, and skip into the end zone.

End of Quarter Score: ARI 14 WAS 0

Thanks to all of the excellent Washington Football Team fans who contributed to the “Game 2 Nitty Grittys” thread. I can imagine how frustrated you were in this first half, because on a couple of occasions it looked like your team was going to capitalize on the momentum of the interception, the Bostic sack and the Cardinals’ having to punt deep in their territory when the game was 7-0.

I will write and post the 2nd (TUES), 3rd (WED) and 4th quarter (THU) key play analyses and will have much more to say about the Cardinals and your WAS team, which I believe is a lot more talented than people think.