From Fitz to P2, Cardinals provide good feels by beating Browns
Dec 15, 2019, 7:50 PM | Updated: Dec 16, 2019, 11:13 am
GLENDALE, Ariz. — While he relayed no update on his playing status for next year afterward, Larry Fitzgerald made two catches in the first possession of what could amount to his last home game of his NFL career.
Cardinals teammate Patrick Peterson kept Cleveland Browns No. 1 wideout Odell Beckham Jr. relatively in check.
Arizona running back Kenyan Drake burned Cleveland for 6.2 yards per carry and four touchdown runs, quarterback Kyler Murray played game manager well and the Cardinals finished the 2019 home schedule with a 38-24 win Sunday at State Farm Stadium.
For a 4-9-1 football team, you couldn’t blame the fans getting a little greedy late.
One play encapsulated the Cardinals’ best start-to-finish win of the year.
Arizona led the Browns 35-17 with just more than five minutes to go and found itself at Cleveland’s 3-yard line.
By that point, Drake had four touchdowns. A fifth would have put him in unique company, but on 3rd down, the pro-Cardinals crowd began chanting for their future Hall of Famer to get a good-bye score — just in case he does decide to retire.
“I was hoping we were going to give it to Kenyan one more time, for him to get in there five times,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s tough to be able to do and it shows you his dominance, the way he was able to perform in the passing game and the run game and really did a good job in blitz pickup too for us.”
Neither Fitzgerald nor Drake saw the ball on that play, though head coach Kliff Kingbury said the play-call attempted to get the former a touchdown.
Instead, with Fitzgerald covered, Murray threw it away, and Arizona settled for a field goal.
“Loved it,” Kingsbury said. “Probably my favorite play of the game because it’s growing up. With a bunch of those throwaways, we weren’t moving backward and we were staying on schedule.”
Murray, who Kingsbury said had his best week of practice all year, finished 19 of 25 for 219 yards, an interception and a touchdown thrown. Near the end of the first half, Murray found tight end Dan Arnold, who made his debut as a Cardinal, in the back corner of the end zone to put Arizona ahead, 21-10 at half.
By the end of the game, Murray had also added 56 yards on eight carries, part of 226 total rushing yards by Arizona on the day.
But the defense showed up, too.
Second-year Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield went 30 of 43 for 247 yards, two touchdowns and one pick opposite Murray, his good friend and fellow Oklahoma Heisman-winning quarterback.
On Cleveland’s first possession of the game, Mayfield overthrew Beckham Jr. in the end zone only to be picked off by Peterson, whose struggles this year after a six-game PED suspension have kept him under the microscope.
“My legs are finally coming back to me. (Strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris) told me, ‘A superior athlete that misses one week is almost like missing two weeks,’” Peterson said. “So now this is technically like my 10th week getting back in the swing of things, so my body is just starting to come back around and I’m feeling great.”
Peterson is under contract for next season. But after last year’s trade request that the cornerback later rescinded, his PED suspension and his on-field struggles, he was asked postgame if he thought the 2019 home finale might be his last game in State Farm Stadium as a Cardinal.
“Nah. This probably won’t — this won’t be my last home game here,” said Peterson, who had seven tackles and three passes defensed. “I’ll be back.”
Kingsbury said Peterson “had a different look in his eye in practice” this week and requested to shadow Beckham Jr.
He did so pretty well. Mayfield targeted Beckham Jr. 13 times and connected eight times for 68 yards. The receiver’s longest reception was for 17 yards.
On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals being led in receiving yards by Damiere Byrd was arguably the fifth or so biggest storyline of the day. He had six catches on a team-high six targets and thanks to a 51-yard reception had 86 yards on the day.
For Arizona overall, ending a six-game losing streak felt good. The Cardinals celebrated in the locker room once word of taking a victory Monday off reached the players.
Even with two difficult road games left, it felt like a more-than-necessary release as they hope to build beyond this season.
“We’ve been there all year. We’ve been in close games all year and to finally have a win like this at home with the last game of the season here, it can give us momentum going into the 2020 season,” Peterson said. “Hopefully we left the fans with a good taste in their mouths and hopefully we can come back and continue building on these last two weeks and that can roll over into next season.”Array