We’re No. 1?: Cardinals not putting stock in having top NFL offense
Becoming the No. 1 offensive team in the NFL by yards per game after a week in which they did not participate, the Arizona Cardinals resume play with their heads down.
If you don’t believe that, well, here’s what Kyler Murray said Wednesday when he was asked about Arizona leading the league by averaging 419 total yards per game.
“Is that real?” he asked Cardinals staffers before attempting to answer.
“I didn’t know that, but I guess that means we’re doing something good. This being Week 9, we’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s a good stat, a lot of progress from last year to this year. It’s a long season, and we’ve got a lot of work to do, a long way to go.”
Heading into a home game against the defense-oriented Miami Dolphins, the Cardinals are quite aware that they didn’t handle the bye week well last season, which led to a walloping of a 34-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Murray’s innocence when it comes to the offensive statistics isn’t surprising considering he has been arguably the most criticized — and most self-critical — Cardinals player for the team’s relative lack of offensive punch during a 2-2 start.
Arizona is now on a three-game winning streak, and the quarterback threw for 360 and 380 yards in the first and third games of that span. In the Monday Night Football game when he was off with his arm, Murray controlled the Dallas Cowboys with his legs.
While the Cardinals offensive line has earned praise this year, that group has said the team has yet to find its identity in the rushing game. Penalties have been a problem for the offense as well (Arizona has been the fifth-most penalized team in the NFL).
Among the reliable pieces to the offense, DeAndre Hopkins still leads the NFL with 704 receiving yards on 57 receptions.
Other than that, it feels like the Cardinals have few reasons to get caught up in the numbers.
“We don’t talk about that. There’s a lot of things that we can improve on and get better with,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “Those are things we address in the facility. That’s our standard.
“It’s only Week 8 for us. We got to be able to finish the season as the No. 1-ranked offense, and I’m not talking about January, I’m talking about February.”
And to be fair, what’s in a yard-per-game average anyway?
Football Outsiders’ analytics say Arizona is 10th in offensive Defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), and the Cardinals are seventh in yards per offensive play (6.1).
So, no, they are not the best in anything other than doing more moving of the ball and keeping drives alive, which does not win football games. Well, not directly.
“I’ve been fortunate to be around some good offenses, and we’re not even halfway through the season, so it doesn’t really matter in November where you’re at record-wise or statistically,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said this week. “I do appreciate the development that we’ve had on that side of the football. I think as a coaching staff and with our players, the guys have carried over, understanding where we wanted this thing to go and what it could look like if we continue to work hard and continue to put in the time to improve.”
All that leads to this: Knowing they are No. 1 is a piece of evidence that buy-in to Kingsbury will continue.
That’s important for an offense still navigating how to feed so many mouths after Hopkins, whose connection with his young quarterback feels ahead-of-schedule, all things considered.
Murray won’t use the team’s production as a bragging point. But the confidence in his team’s offense?
It sure is there as Arizona comes off the bye.
“I feel like it’s hard to prepare for,” Murray said when asked if teams are getting a handle on how to stop his offense. “You can try to prepare for it in the first half of the game when dudes are fresh, rested and stuff like that. The Seahawks were doing different things than teams in the past have done, forcing me to pull it, but then we go five quarters deep.
“It’s really a mind game out there I can’t really explain to you. Dudes get tired. I’m still going, running backs still running, line still blocking hard. It’s tough. You’ve got to account for the running back. You’ve got to account for me. It’s a good thing.”