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Gameday leftovers: Kingsbury wants Cardinals to hit stride; Fotu’s light is on

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, center left, and Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, center right, greet each other after their NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Eyes are forward and heads are down for the Arizona Cardinals.

It’s a quick turnover after a Monday win over the flawed Dallas Cowboys leads Arizona into a home game against the lossless Seattle Seahawks before a Week 8 bye. How focused is Arizona?

Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, after a successful return to his home state, didn’t even imbibe in postgame Coors Lights after his team’s 38-10 victory at AT&T Stadium.

“I did not. I’m saving those for the bye week. We got five more days,” he told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday.

It’s clear the Cardinals feel there’s work to be done. While the defense put together its best effort through a 4-2 start, the offense grinded all night after it took awhile to feel Dallas’ defense out.

“We still have not hit our stride offensively, and I think more than anything that’s encouraging,” Kingsbury said Tuesday on his Zoom meeting with reporters. “We got to hit it here soon because we have a great Seattle team coming in, scoring a bunch of points and has a tremendous defense.”

After watching the Cowboys film, Kingsbury made sure to point out that quarterback Kyler Murray’s night of 9-of-24 passing for 188 yards and two touchdowns was “dominant.”

Murray scored a rushing touchdown and gashed the Cowboys for 74 yards on 10 carries, picking the right moments to attack with his legs.

He didn’t turn the ball over and even with some missed throws led an offense that managed 38 points.

If it goes that well this week against the Seahawks, Kingsbury can treat himself to a Coors Light on Sunday night. Or to support his home state of Texas, he can keep it local.

“I mean, my go-to is Tito’s vodka, which is a Texas vodka,” he said.

Baby steps for rookie development 

It was another week of encouraging — if not slow — progress for two Cardinals rookies on the defensive side of the ball.

Leki Fotu, coming off a game in which Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said was “phenomenal,” played a career-high 38 snaps with one quarterback pressure.

“The light has come on for him a little the last couple weeks. He’s a huge presence,” Kingsbury said. “For such a big guy, he’s very agile and physical and has worked hard at it. It’s been nice seeing him have an expanded role.”

First-round pick Isaiah Simmons got some run, finishing with 18 defensive snaps played. He was targeted twice and allowed a catch for six yards. Simmons also took an Andy Dalton pass in the back while trailing his man in coverage up the seam.

Simmons added four combined tackles on the day.

And on the offensive side of the ball, the domino effect of right guard J.R. Sweezy sitting out with an elbow injury pushed third-round pick Josh Jones into action. He played his first offensive snaps as a pro, appearing in eight plays and in the role as a third tackle on heavy packages.

DeAndre Hopkins got a shoutout from Bun B

He’s in Arizona now, but DeAndre Hopkins sure made an impression on the Houston area in his seven seasons with the Texans.

Houston-based rapper Bun B shouted Hopkins out on Instagram as ESPN’s analysts spoke about the receiver’s work to fight against racial injustices.


Kyler got tired. Well, yeah

Kyler Murray admitted Monday night that all his rushing to keep drives alive wore on him as a passer. An overthrow targeting Larry Fitzgerald in the back corner of the end zone and an inaccurate ball to DeAndre Hopkins were among the issues in the passing game he wants to get cleaned up.

“A couple of little things earlier in the game, if we detail those things up it’s probably a catch,” Murray said. “A couple of those bad throws on me, I was tired, which obviously can’t happen. And then I missed him. I had the opportunity, (Hopkins) ran a ‘go’ and if I had thrown it better it probably would have been a TD and we would all be happy right now. So I got to be better.”

Kingsbury shrugged off two early misthrows to second-year receiver Andy Isabella as things that happen when an offense attacks that far downfield.

And in general, the coach said familiarity between Murray and Hopkins, and piecing the parts of the offense together, will improve in time.

As for Murray being tired, do you blame him? This is how much work he put forth on the ground.

‘Great spiral’

Safety Budda Baker’s first career pick was a big story in the Monday game, but overlooked was his comment about how difficult it was to make the grab with one thumb still in a cast.

He wasn’t trying to take a jab at the Cowboys’ Dalton, but it came out like a backhanded compliment.

“Just not being able to squeeze it in, I tried to catch it like this (against my body),” Baker said. “It went right into my body. It was a great spiral by Dalton.”

PFF grades

Surprise! Baker graded well with his first career interception, a sack, two more quarterback pressures, plus a forced fumble.

Left tackle D.J. Humphries led the offense in PFF grading for the second week in a row as the Cardinals pounded the rock with 20 Kenyan Drake carries. Speaking of Drake, Kingsbury said the team’s tracking data said he was the fastest ballcarrier for the team so far this year.

“I know on that (69-yard) touchdown run, his miles per hour was the fastest of anybody on our team this season and that says a lot about his conditioning — 42nd play of the game and he ran faster than anybody has all season,” Kingsbury told Bickley & Marotta.

 


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