The Cardinals clinched a playoff spot and the first double-digit winning season for both Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury 33-22.
So who won and lost on the day?
Let’s find out:
Winner: Byron Murphy & Jalen Thompson’s Pro Bowl campaigns
You might be able to put “Agents” instead of “pro bowl campaigns”.
The Cardinals defense stepped up in a big way with the offense having a rainy, slippery time in getting Murray and Hopkins back on the field for the first time in over a month.
They forced 4 INT’s of Andy Dalton and while David Montgomery had his, it was the 4 INT’s (not all on Dalton) that
Chandler Jones had half a sack and a full sack was charged to Jordan Hicks but Thompson and Murphy were the stars.
Both had interceptions and while Jalen Thompson was top notch in coverage all day and had an interception, Murphy also had a sack to his credit and another pass breakup.
Those two, in addition to Budda Baker (expecting father, by the way) having yet ANOTHER almost Pick-6 is part of why Arizona’s defense has been so difficult for any offense to manage.
They have rushers that can get to the QB, sure, but the breakout years from Murphy and Thompson are why they’ve been one of the best pass coverage teams in the entire NFL.
If either miss the pro bowl, it’ll only be because Budda Baker and Trevon Diggs are more household names, sadly. They will be Cardinals to lock up for a long time to come.
Loser: Surprisingly, Kyler’s MVP campaign...?
If Stats are important, then Kyler Murray’s 4 TD’s will be up there and he didn’t seem to lose anything in running the ball.
But Arizona’s offense didn’t throw the ball a ton and Kyler finished with only 123 total passing yards. It will be curious to note how voters see Murray as he missed 3 games and in coming back might not have the same resume when measuring up to other quarterbacks who have missed only 1. A big game vs. the Rams might reset that but for K1, staying the same might not be the best case scenario.
(To contrast...Tom Brady indoors went off for 368 and 4 Touchdowns and if all things were equal, it’s harder and harder for Kyler to catch up).
Of course, if he ends up getting to go all the way, well, that will make things different you would imagine as to how missing out on the MVP award might make Kyler feel.
Winner: Zach Allen
Big man touchdowns are the best. When JJ Watt went down, everyone said there was no way you can replace a player like that.
They’re right...but Zach Allen is trying his hardest to:
He’s been impressive and made at least one game-changing play per game and his INT of Dalton was what put the game away for
Loser: Arizona’s RPO run and end-around game
The Cardinals with Rondale Moore got of to a tremendous start, and we’ve even seen them use it to manipulate defenses well in passing the ball downfield.
However, in today’s game teams seemed to be far more aware and stuffing them the last few weeks, particularly in this game and against Carolina.
If Moore develops into a downfield guy in addition to a guy who can make plays from the backfield, it’ll be solid (and we did see James Conner on a direct snap play design almost score a TD) but there were enough plays for lost yardage that Kingsbury might need to address how best to run the ball even in situations like today where it’s raining and throwing it isn’t optimal.
Winner: James Conner, again.
All he does is score touchdowns and make incredible catches
At this point, James Conner is one of the best success stories not just for the Cardinals but in the NFL this season.
Loser: Andy Dalton’s record vs. the Cardinals
Dalton is 1-4 against Arizona, and after losing to the Cards in Kyler’s rookie year as a Bengal and being blown out last year by them as a member of the Cowboys, he had perhaps his worst performance yet in turning it over 4 times through the air.
I counted two that were on his receivers, but all in all the Bears’ passing attack has simply not looked NFL caliber. The worst was the Allen pick on what was a screen but this play was just brutal as well in throwing it behind the receiver:
Jakeem Grant is WIDE open, but Dalton manages to throw a pick pic.twitter.com/UTQt7s6m1T— Billy M (@BillyM_91) December 5, 2021
Dalton’s seen his ability as a starter shrink while the legend of Colt McCoy has grown, and it’s unfortunate as he’s truly been a stalwart starter over the last decade in the league. Here’s hoping he can find a fresh start with a good team.
Loser—Kliff Kingsbury’s Handsome Face (and some contract leverage?)
Kingsbury had Leki Fotu run into him on the sideline entering the 3rd quarter and had the team trying to stop what seemed to be a bloody lip or a hurt tooth through most of a quarter. He kept calling plays and while you can say he was “bleeding” for his team in a way, I’m sure plenty of folks are hoping that their Ryan Gosling Look-Alike coach won’t be any worse for the wear. Or at least this supermodel:
After all if there’s two things true about Kliff, it’s that he’s hard to talk on injuries and easy on the eyes.
As for the leverage, Oklahoma, which reportedly had interest in him, signed Brett Venables to be their head coach so Kingsbury can’t quite use college football in ALL of his contract negotiations. But he will still end up a winner all the same at the end of this season.
Winner: Cardinals Fans
It’s been two weeks since the Cardinals last played a football game, but it’s been ALMOST two months since we have seen Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins play football together for this team.
In their return, they hooked up like nothing had changed for a score on 4th and 2 and it felt like all was right with the world.
And the fans who’ve waited for so long to see it got what they wanted:
Now let’s hope that connection holds solid and this Cards team gets healthier heading in to a big divisional showdown next week.