Key 4th down conversion helped Cardinals take momentum from Jets

Oct 11, 2020, 4:25 PM | Updated: Oct 12, 2020, 7:18 am
Arizona Cardinals tight end Darrell Daniels (81) runs the ball against New York Jets linebacker Nev...

Arizona Cardinals tight end Darrell Daniels (81) runs the ball against New York Jets linebacker Neville Hewitt (46) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in East Rutherford. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

DeAndre Hopkins’ fourth-quarter catches capped it, but a prior possession from the Arizona Cardinals summarized what made a winning football team versus a losing one Sunday against the New York Jets.

The pivotal drive in Arizona’s 30-10 win at MetLife Stadium came after the Cardinals took a 17-3 lead into halftime and then floundered on the first two possessions of the second half.

A six-play, 74-yard drive by the Jets ended with a touchdown that made it a 17-10 game, and suddenly the underdog was within reach. For the Cardinals, it felt like a full half of dominating New York could be followed with nervous feelings — or even a loss.

But days after quarterback Kyler Murray suggested that finding a way to play complementary football was more important than worrying about his offense, which hadn’t found a rhythm lately, the quarterback played to his word. Arizona responded to the Jets’ only touchdown of the day with a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive of its own, quickly extinguishing any momentum on New York’s end.

An explosive 4th-and-1 play at Arizona’s own 39-yard line with 3:49 left in the third quarter kept that drive alive.

Play-action from Murray to running back Kenyan Drake caught two Jets edge rushers in no-man’s land, and tight end Darrell Daniels released off his block to get open.

He caught a pass six yards downfield and rumbled another 25 before being dragged down.

“(Tight ends coach) Steve Heiden brought it to me earlier in the week and showed me the look and said, ‘Hey, this is what will happen on 3rd-and-short, 4th-and-short type calls,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

“It was a beautiful play design by him and it worked out. Happy to see Darrell catch it, and the role he’s come in and provided since Maxx (Williams) has been out has just been huge. That was a big play to keep us going.”

Even before the touchdown that followed — a Drake 1-yard run — the Daniels catch increased Arizona’s chances of winning by 2.4%, according to EdjSports.

Within the game, the single drive highlighted Arizona’s recommitment to the running game. The final six plays of the drive all went to Drake or fellow running back Chase Edmonds, and eight of the 10 total ended with the ball in the backs’ hands.

The Daniels conversion continued a streak of success for Kingsbury and the Cardinals, who are now 4-for-4 on fourth downs this year.

“Fourth down, got to convert,” Murray said. “We connected on that play, a play we had been practicing. To execute in the game is huge.”

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