Kenyan Drake picks up playbook, Cardinals in loss to 49ers

Oct 31, 2019, 11:18 PM | Updated: Nov 1, 2019, 11:18 am
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Is it misleading that 115 of Kenyan Drake’s 162 total yards came on the Arizona Cardinals’ touchdown drives to begin each half in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers?

In a way, yes.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has shown a talent for scripting successful opening drives in the past, and Thursday at State Farm Stadium wasn’t any different. Yet that Drake was acquired from the Miami Dolphins in a Monday trade to produce in those scripts and beyond just four days later made it even more impressive.

It’s impressive because of the trust Kingsbury put in his new running back, who was filling in for injured running backs David Johnson and Chase Edmonds.

“For them to entrust in a guy that — all they know or they’ve known from me (is) through watching tape,” Drake said after the Thursday debut for Arizona. “I felt like it was my job to come in and regardless of the situation, was to, you know, play ball.”

He did that, rushing 15 times for 110 yards (7.3 yards per carry) and making four catches for 52 more.

Drake scored the opening touchdown at the 12:11 mark of the first quarter as well as the final points of the game, on a two-point conversion that made it 28-25, Niners.

While many of those yards came on scripted plays, Drake still played as the clear-cut No. 1 back.

He had to know the offense, or at least hide the details that he didn’t.

“To be able to do that on such a short week is a testament to his intelligence and his willingness to learn to get into his book,” Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “I can only imagine he hasn’t had much of a life in the last few days (being) in the building all day, at home doing the same thing, but you know he cares.

“It matters to him and that is why he has been able to have the success he’s had.”

This all came against a 49ers defense with a stout front-seven. The Cardinals rushed 23 times and threw it 24, as rookie quarterback Kyler Murray completed 17 passes for 241 yards and two scores without a turnover.

They piled up 153 rushing yards, and the balance — plus some tempo late — allowed Murray to find Andy Isabella in man coverage for an 88-yard strike with less than five minutes to play that set up Drake’s two-point conversion. The drive gave Arizona a shot.

All this happened as the Cardinals shuffled their offensive line.

Right tackle Justin Murray was ruled out with a knee injury, and left guard Justin Pugh slid to the unfamiliar tackle spot while guard/center Mason Cole replaced him.

“I think it was (former NFL guard) Josh Sitton … he’s the one who explained it perfectly,” Pugh said. “Go home, go to the bathroom and wipe with your other hand.

“See how that feels. It’s a little messy sometimes, but it gets the job done.”

The results in the ground game were a little less repugnant than that description.

Drake’s game certainly was.

“I think his skillset is perfect for what we do,” Kingsbury said. “He’s explosive. He runs tough. For him to come in and learn an entire game plan — and we didn’t pull anything back, we knew we’d have to call our best game against those guys.

“His level of preparation showed out today.”

Added Drake: “That was a testament to the guys around me. Kyler did a great job putting me in the best position to continue to make the plays that I need to make. The team communicated with me really well. It’s a testament to them and them putting me in the best position to have success.

“All I had to do was come in and learn the game plan. It’s not like they threw the playbook at me. There was a specific game plan that we had to work on and try to make the plays out there.”

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