They say first impressions are everything.
Offensively, while the 2021 Cardinals offense MIGHT look a bit like the 2020 offense at times...it looks vastly improved.
And if the first quarter was anything to indicate on defense...
the Cardinals Chandler Jones MIGHT be good at this football thing.
J.J. Watt had his share of plays made and the run defense looked more than ready to handle, it was Jones’ 3 sacks, 1 TFL and a forced fumble that completely stole the show.
He looked like a madman who hadn’t played football in a year who was ready to show people what he could do.
The Cardinals offense opened up with a 38 yard pass play to Deandre Hopkins but then had FOUR penalties on their drive (3 accepted) to kick a field goal.
The defense, then, bailed out the offense, and set the ball up on the 1 yard line.
AZ committed MORE penalties and Deandre Hopkins bailed out the team moving backwards from the 1 yard line.
This might be what we see from the 2021 Cardinals...an elite defense that gives their inconsistent offense time and Kyler/Hopkins bail out their issues...and then it seemed like something clicked after one of the craziest plays you might see this year from any player.
But Kyler Murray made it look normal:
Kyler Murray is unreal. pic.twitter.com/41PW7j3aZC— Melissa Jacobs (@thefootballgirl) September 12, 2021
The team drove down the field with some long completions and Kyler made use of his new weapons targeting Hopkins, Green, Kirk and Moore in the first half along with an incompletion to Maxx Williams and the Cardinals benefitted from some BAD Titans luck.
Two missed kicks that would have added points from Michael Badgeley aka the “Money Badger” who had never missed from within 40 in his career.
And as for the fear of Derrick Henry? Well...
Derrick Henry in the first half— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 12, 2021
❄️ 9 carries
❄️ 7 yards
Titans are losing 24-6 pic.twitter.com/iGPud8AHNI
Well if first impressions are one thing after an auspicious start, the second half started most inauspiciously.
Kyler threw an INT (poor decision) and the Titans scored. But it’s not about failing in the NFL.
It’s how. you. bounce. back.
And Kyler Murray did just that against an all-blitz look with a heave to Christian Kirk that landed in the endzone, something we haven’t seen in the past—beating the blitz and throwing a TD on it in four verts.
This is art. Kyler drops it in a bucket and the ability to locate and track the football by Christian Kirk is beautiful.— Steven Cheah (@StevenCheah) September 12, 2021
And suddenly, the defense looked like they were ready to pin their ears back, with a batted ball leading to Simmons outleaping (and leveling) his captain in Budda Baker for his second career INT.
In the end? The Titans were atrocious. Awful. They might need to blow it up or find a new OC, much less be a sleeper “AFC Championship” contender cause this game looked over by the end of the first half:
Derrick Henry had nine carries for eight yards in the field half.— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) September 12, 2021
And it was certainly over due to this in the second:
Chandler Jones up to five sacks.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 12, 2021
So....that was fun.
What are the takeaways from Game One?
- Kyler looks more confident as a passer and AZ is now an Air Raid “pass first” team...at least through one game
- Give Chandler Jones ALL the monies. 4...no FIVE sacks in his opener returning to the gridiron.
- Kliff was FIRED UP all game on the sideline in a way we haven’t seen before
- Arizona’s offense was STILL plagued by penalties and burning timeouts...that might fly against a titans
- The Cardinals Defense MIGHT be top 10 (or more?) with how well Murphy and Wilson played against Julio and AJ Brown
- James Conner looks like a breath of fresh air in the rushing game as a “thunder” to Chase Edmonds’ “lightning” and is going to be the end zone guy
- Kyler’s legs and avoiding sacks continues to be a national treasure.
- Watt might not gather elite sack numbers but might make Chandler Jones look like a demigod with all the attention and penetration he’ll get
- Rondale Moore needs all the horizontal passes. Just way too explosive with any sort of space and breaks all sorts of tackles
- Isaiah Simmons looks starting and impact worthy and Zaven seems ready to roll vs. the run (but maybe not the pass just yet)
- AJ Green might be more a WR3 at this point than a true WR1B to Hopkins or a WR2...but has enough size to work in Kliff’s offense while the WR2 so far in Christian Kirk had a DAY with two touchdowns in Tennessee territory.
- Arizona looks like a playoff team if they can clean up the penalties and stay healthy. Will they? Remains to be seen but so far the MVP in my opinion after Murray is clearly Rodney Hudson. Kyler had all sorts of time and very little interior pressure and was able to buy time overall and that wasn’t the case with Mason Cole in there last year.
- Alright one last time...again...Chandler Jones. He might get Vance Joseph another head coach look or two as people see what he had to work with in Denver with a bad QB and once he got talent on defense.
All in all, a good indicator of what might be a really fun season in Arizona.
If the Cardinals can beat up the Vikings and Jaguars over the next two games, there’s a good shot to be 3-0 before an all-world rival game against the Los Angeles Rams.
It was a good day, and a good start, for Cardinals fans.
Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below!