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Rapid Recap: Cleveland Clobbered by Kyler’s Kliff-less Cardinals

The first half saw Arizona take advantage to get off to a 20-0 lead and dominated the second half despite a late Browns surge

Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kyler.

Baker.

The Rematch.

A Oklahoma QB taken #1 overall showdown at the Dawg Pound.

Originally this game might have been called the “Air Raid Bowl” or the “Kliff Bowl” given that Kingsbury has coached both quarterbacks before one transferred to Oklahoma and AFTER one transferred to Oklahoma & was drafted by Arizona.

However, the main storyline of this game from the previous week would be the absence of Kliff Kingsbury after a positive Covid-19 test was revealed on the Friday before the game.

Vance Joseph=Acting Head Coach (shared with ST Coach Jeff Rodgers)

Playcaller duties split by Sean Kugler (run game) and Spencer Whipple (helping in pass game)

Other contributors: Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy.

So how did Arizona do?

To start....really well, with the team off to a 20-0 start.

Who saw THAT coming without Kliff, eh?

Arizona drove down the field and scored with two quick passes, one for a TD to Christian Kirk.

On the other end, Arizona BLEW UP a 4th down play with the Browns (not learning from the Niners) going for it...and Arizona took over on downs after a cleanup sack on Mayfield by Jordan Hicks.

And then Arizona had a shot to break the game wide open...or at least DeAndre Hopkins decided to:

After a strong performance last week on the defensive side, Arizona continued to put their will on the Browns’ offense.

Markus Golden came in with a strip sack of Baker Mayfield that was recovered by Arizona, and they kicked a Prater FG after ANOTHER turnover that was overthrown and picked off by Robert Alford and returned for another score.

The thing is...it’s hard to keep a decent team like Cleveland down. And Arizona ended the half in the WORST way on the road despite a solid half.

OOF.

The Hail Mayfield gave Cleveland a chance to come back into the game and suddenly the Browns had momentum.

That momentum led to a second TD for Donovan Peoples-Jones, and suddenly it was a game. Well...for a while.

The second half, Arizona simply put the pedal to the metal. And THEY were the dogs in the Dawg Pound today.

The Cardinals were determined on both sides of the ball. If they weren’t scoring in the second half and moving the chains, they were taking the ball away from the Browns.

Forced fumble.

Sacks.

A touchdown to a wide-open Hopkins

A big hit on a returning Odell Beckham Jr. on 4th down.

A fade for a touchdown to A.J. Green back against his long-time divisional rival.

The defense solidified themselves as one of the scariest in the league, alright.

But it was Kyler Murray, who outside of a few sacks, made some INCREDIBLE plays to get the Cardinals to another 35+ point game.

Murray Valuable Player, much?

Yeah.

He’s been playing at an MVP level and despite some issues with a new center, he SHREDDED the Browns for 229 yards and 4 TD’s through the air, and it might have been more if not for a few throws that had interference.

All without Kliff!

Coaching matters (and AZ doesn’t win this game without their other coaches stepping up) but QB play matters more. And Murray’s looking like the best thing that’s ever happened to the Arizona Cardinals.

Arizona remained unbeaten and the Cardinals look like they might be the premier team in the National Football League with a Super Star at Quarterback.

What were some of the other takeaways:

  • Arizona being unbeaten is huge when it comes to not just playoff seeding in a tough NFC, but in HOW they’ve been unbeaten. They’ve overcome adversity and...made it look easy. Maybe this is really a scary, scary team
  • The Cardinals’ gameplan didn’t look much different from a Kliff Kingsbury gameplan as far as scripting/calls and the like. Kyler had a lot of input (some of his checks were smart) and him doing it without Rodney Hudson at Center...wow. Feels like he’s already a superstar in any other market, but the rest of the world is finding out now.
  • The defense saw the impact of J.J. Watt but also a “complete” effort with Isaiah Simmons continuing to be physical, two game-breaking plays by Robert Alford and some solid coverage as well. One area of concern=finishing sacks. Mayfield ran around a lot and the “Hail Mayfield” doesn’t happen without him being able to escape the pocket.
  • Baker Mayfield showcased a lot of good and bad in his game...but the good was more “toughness”. His accuracy wasn’t on par and without his tackles and Running Backs, it felt like the Browns weren’t elevated by him....but he also wasn’t a liability. They have a Jared Goff/Carson Wentz like decision ahead of them with Mayfield eligible for an extension.
  • End point...this was another unexpected BEATDOWN in which many picked the Cards to finally lose, and instead they came out as the more motivated, more physical team. That’s been the case in 5 of 6 games this season. Who’d have thunk that Steve Keim adding more physical, veteran players might have paid off this offseason?
  • A potentially unbeaten AZ team vs. the Packers & Aaron Rodgers might end up the most hyped TNF game of all time.

That’s all for now.

The Texans’ game is next week with a still unbeaten (and, honestly, incredible) Cards game is going to be quite a return for J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins against their former team.

And as long as Kyler Murray plays...it seems the Cards have a chance to put on a clinic. That’s more than we’ve ever seen, maybe, at the QB position.

That’s leadership.

You can follow @blakemurphy7 on Twitter.