Rapid Reactions: Cardinals cruise on Monday Night Football vs. Cowboys
It took a sluggish first quarter and a few fumbles by Ezekiel Elliott to get there, but the Arizona Cardinals rolled on Monday Night Football to a 38-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
The offense got a handful of big plays, but the defense was the starring side of the ball, with Budda Baker putting in an all-time career performance.
Arizona now improves to 4-2 heading into Sunday’s return home against the Seattle Seahawks.
Arizona Sports’ hosts, reporters and editors give their thoughts on the Cardinals victory.
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo
This was billed as the return of Kyler and Kliff to AT&T Stadium. And while both the quarterback and the head coach were outstanding, nothing and I mean nothing can overshadow the pure dominance of the Arizona Cardinals defense.
Is there any doubt that Budda Baker is one of the premier defensive players in the NFL? He made his presence felt in this game with a forced fumble, sack, interception and was basically unstoppable. And how about Byron Murphy, with several key pass breakups and a recovered fumble? Throw in these performances: two sacks by Hasson Reddick making up for the loss of Chandler Jones, some tremendous pressure that almost resulted in a safety and a quarterback hit by Dennis Gardeck early to set the tone. A forced fumble by Jordan Phillips who also had a fumble recovery on Baker’s forced fumble. Dre Kirkpatrick played physical and had a pick. Arizona’s defense had eight, count them, eight quarterback hits and forced four turnovers. They took Ezekiel Elliott out of the game early with two forced fumbles that the Cardinals offense converted into 14 points.
This game was OVA — over at halftime. The Cardinals played a complete 60 minutes of outstanding football. They kicked the Cowboys ass all over the field. Outside of giving up a gimme touchdown late in the game in which Andy Dalton picked on cornerback Kevin Peterson time and time again, the Cowboys offense was a complete zero in this game. Forget the 344 yards the Cowboys racked up because 75 came of them late in the fourth quarter on one meaningless drive. The Cardinals held the Cowboys to 10 points, a 3.6 yard per game rushing average and that great receiver trio of Cooper, Gallup and Lamb combined for just 166 yards. Hats off to Vance Joseph for an excellent game plan and to the Cardinals defense for stealing the spotlight in this one.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo
When I was a kid growing up here in Phoenix in the ’70s and ’80s, my father – who is from the Washington D.C. area – had two rules: root for Washington, hate the Dallas Cowboys. The first never took. The second? It has lasted a lifetime. To the point where I got a text from him right about the moment the Cards went up 28-3. It simply read, “Glad the Cowboys are terrible.” The why and the how we’ll discuss in a moment but if you’re looking for my “rapid reaction” to that metroplex mauling, that’s it. There’s something special about beating that team. Embarrassing that team. Matching the worst loss ever suffered in that building by that team. I was fortunate enough to be in Dallas covering the moment when Jake Plummer and the Cards brought an end to the reign of Aikman, Michael and Emmitt. Felt good then. Felt good now.
The game itself was fairly easy to diagnose. Kyler Murray was clearly over-amped for his homecoming game; I had a feeling that navigating the choppy waters of his own emotions would be difficult. Fortunately for him, the nerves in his head were calmed by the wings on his feet. When in doubt Kyler can tap into athleticism very rarely — maybe ever never? — seen out of the position to settle him down. Oh, and the bomb to Christian Kirk was the deep breath and calming moment everybody needed. He only completed nine passes but no matter. Something tells me Kyler is going to need a few extra hours to come down off that high.
The revelation of this night was the defense. The rest of the country probably wondered how on earth the Cardinals could make Budda Baker the highest-paid safety in the game when he didn’t even have an interception. Not anymore. On both counts. Of all the sparkly things on Monday night, Budda shined the brightest. Byron Murphy had his best moment as a Cardinal. The same can be said for Vance Joseph. Pressure was applied, turnovers were forced and boxes were checked for a defense that many felt had to prove it could play at a higher level. Against a backup quarterback you say? Fair point and one that will get put to the test in six days when the MVP front runner Russell Wilson comes to town.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta
I didn’t think Vance Joseph had it in him — a scheme to terrorize an opposing starting quarterback.
The Cardinals defense (namely Budda Baker) made Andy Dalton’s first start as a Cowboy an absolute nightmare in a 38-10 win at AT&T Stadium.
Dalton completed 34 passes, but most of them were inconsequential, if not just garbage stat padding. Cardinal defenders blitzed from all over, they tackled well and forced four turnovers. If I’m Kliff Kingsbury, I’m splitting the game ball in half between Joseph and Baker.
Offensively, we saw the Cardinals hit on the big play — three of them over 60 yards, including a beautiful 80-yard touchdown pass from Kyler Murray to Christian Kirk.
(I feel like there’s a but coming…)
But, Murray wasn’t all that sharp in the passing game. Yes, he was once again electric in the run game with 74 yards and a touchdown. Yet, he only completed 9-of-24 passes and 140 of his 188 passing yards came on two plays. If the Cardinals are to accomplish what they’ve got in mind, Murray has to be more accurate.
And the penalties. The last 30 minutes of the game was pretty much nothing but stat-padding, but it felt like focus was hard to maintain — especially on a late 18-play touchdown drive from the Cowboys that included four defensive penalties on the Cardinals.
But, in the grand scheme of things, the Cardinals won two of three straight road games by 20 or more points. They’re 4-2 heading into a Sunday showdown against the unbeaten Seattle Seahawks.
Yes, they’ve lost a couple of games that they felt were winnable, but they’ve bounced back with authority the last two weeks against the Jets and Cowboys.
Luke Lapinski, host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski
The Jets game was supposed to be the get right game. The one you win so convincingly that you get to work on some little things and maybe even get some of your struggling players back on track. And it was. But not like this one.
Not only did the Cardinals run their record to 4-2 and tie the Rams for second place in the NFC West, they did it by embarrassing the Dallas Cowboys in their own building on national television. Not a bad way to announce yourself to football fans across the country.
The defense played motivated football, making us forget about the absence of Chandler Jones for one night by obliterating the Cowboys’ o-line, harassing Andy Dalton, bottling up Ezekiel Elliott and forcing four turnovers.
Budda Baker’s been good all season, but he reached a new level tonight, notching his first career interception — with a cast on his thumb, no less — forcing a fumble and picking up a sack too, just for fun. Haason Reddick looked like a first-round pick with a couple sacks, Byron Murphy was everywhere and even Isaiah Simmons saw some playing time.
Meanwhile, Kyler Murray only had to complete nine passes to win a game by 28. How does that even happen? Kenyan Drake delivered a much-needed, 164-yard, two-touchdown performance, Christian Kirk and DeAndre Hopkins delivered highlight-reel plays down the field and the Cardinals put up a season-high 38 points. They even tied their highest point total from the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray Era in the process.
In other words, if you have to play the Seahawks on short rest while they’ve somehow had a full bye week to prepare, this is how you want to go into that game.
Jordan Byrd, host of Arizona Sports Saturday and producer of Burns & Gambo
Complementary football was something the Cardinals discussed needing more of this week, and that’s exactly what happened Monday night against the Cowboys.
The offense struggled early in their first few possessions so it was left up to the defense to make some plays. The Cardinals turned four Dallas turnovers into 24 points and were able to shake the offense out of the early first quarter funk. The defense was the star of the show in this one. Budda Baker had his national coming-out party to the rest of the NFL, where many fans may not have been aware of just how talented he is. They know now. Byron Murphy and Haason Reddick also flashed in what was by far Vance Joseph’s best-called game of the season.
The blowout win is going to make some of the offensive mistakes be overlooked by some. Kyler Murray was far from sharp in his return to AT&T Stadium, overthrowing multiple balls and many times having miscommunications with his receivers. The Cardinals should feel good about this dominating win, but Kyler will need to be much better if Arizona is going to beat the Seahawks Sunday.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com reporter and editor
The dud of the first quarter remains a red flag for the Arizona Cardinals, but perhaps the sign of a good football team is that it can make a bad team look worse than usual — in two consecutive weeks — despite troubling signs on one side of the ball.
The defense was not that side of the ball. With Chandler Jones out of the lineup for the first time, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph blitzed like crazy and set up his best player, Budda Baker, to have a monster game with two turnovers forced himself. The Cardinals scored after a Dallas turnover on four of their six scores, and that came as the rushing attack put all the weight of the world on the Cowboys’ front seven. Against a group of talented receivers — yes, Andy Dalton is no Dak Prescott — Arizona’s defensive backs played their best game as a collective group.
Kyler Murray’s ugly passing numbers were made up for and then some with his legs, just as it’d been at times in his high school career at AT&T Stadium. There remain concerning trends about the success of Arizona’s passing game, but winning on Monday night will make that a concern for another day.
Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter
This is such a needed morale boost for the Cardinals, particularly the defense. It’s no secret that defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s job could have been on the line with two more losses heading into the bye week, and his group dominated. Even if it was Andy Dalton, that’s still a very talented group Dallas has on offense around the quarterback. Budda Baker was the best player on the field and an absolute star. Arizona has been desperate for that type of defensive performance lately after getting so many from Chandler Jones and Patrick Peterson the last few years. Baker stepped up and I’m ready to be wrong about that contract.
The Cardinals’ offense benefitted from turnovers and blown coverages for four of the five touchdowns, one of which Christian Kirk made an impressive readjustment on the ball for. Kyler Murray’s questionable missed throws were still there, as were the frustrating offensive drives. The scoreline should not be viewed as the offense’s coming-out party, just as was the case for Murray’s career-high passing numbers against the Jets last week. Murray’s troubles throwing plus the penalties were enough to still bring on some cause for concern.
The Cowboys stink and clearly were affected by the loss of Dak Prescott in more ways than one, but Arizona took care of business in a way that should rightfully bring on some belief. Now it’s time to see if the Cardinals can truly come into form against the Seattle Seahawks and show their potential as an overall team, something that, outside of Monday night, hasn’t revealed itself all that much since Week 1. Because, boy, they are certainly going to need it.