Gameday leftovers: Do the Cardinals need Kyler Murray’s rushes?

Nov 30, 2020, 3:31 PM | Updated: 8:42 pm

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals scrambles against the New England Patriots during the seco...

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals scrambles against the New England Patriots during the second quarter of the game at Gillette Stadium on November 29, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Kyler Murray said after a 20-17 loss to the New England Patriots that he doesn’t need to run for the Arizona Cardinals to be successful.

Yet Arizona is 1-8-1 when he rushes for fewer than 30 yards. His five rushes for 31 yards Sunday against the Patriots just escaped adding to the loss column on that statistic, and it mattered that all but one of those runs were in the second half.

Kingsbury on Monday backed Murray’s assessment: There should not be a correlation between the Cardinals’ offensive success and the volume of their quarterback’s aggressiveness on the ground.

“I don’t think it has a negative effect,” he said of games Murray isn’t running it. “When we have to be great at the precision passing game, it’s just about us being more consistent in doing that — being on time with the ball and having the right depths with the routes. You’ve got to have more sense of urgency there.”

Perhaps that’s a sign that execution by players like Murray and his receivers must improve.

Murray went 23-of-34 for 170 yards and no touchdowns at Gillette Stadium. While the quarterback admitted to missing a few check-downs, Murray overall had an efficient enough game for Arizona to win, Kingsbury said.

New England not only put bodies on the edges to keep Murray from running loose but tormented the 5-foot-10 Murray when he was in the pocket. Patriots were often leaping off blocks, batting down multiple throws at the line. One of those led to an interception.

“We got to do a great job of, when they jump, we got to dump ’em,” Cardinals guard Justin Pugh said after the game.

So with New England making Arizona run the ball with its backs, Murray’s zone-reads went their way. Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds and the offensive line were left to take advantage with one less player converging on the running backs.

“They obviously had a good plan and wanted to try and contain him in the running game,” Kingsbury said of the Patriots’ commitment to stopping Murray. “When that happens, we have to be more productive with the backs and getting yards that way. I thought at times we were but just not consistent enough in that run game.”

On a positive note …

New England (5-6) is no longer led by Tom Brady.

It’s concerning for the Patriots that Damiere Byrd, who played for the Cardinals last year, is their leading receiver this year. Byrd and Jakobi Meyers were the only two Patriots who ended the game against Arizona with more than zero receiving yards.

On the ground, the Cardinals held New England to 3.7 yards per carry.

Arizona’s defense, for the most part, gave its team a chance to win in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots finished with a mere 179 total yards and just 3.5 yards per play.

“I thought V.J. had a great plan going in,” Kingsbury said of defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. “We knew that we wanted to try to limit the running attack and make them try to throw it, load the box and show them different fronts. There’s some short fields that they had to work from where they scored some points there but was really proud of that group and the effort they gave.”

New England’s longest of four scoring drives measured in at 46 yards. The others: 31, 33 and 35 yards.

Cam Newton finished with the fewest passing yards (84) and worst passer rating (23.6) in his 10-year NFL career.

“They put together a great game plan,” linebacker Markus Golden said Sunday of the Cardinals coaches. “We was able to get out there and make some stuff happen and keep Cam — slow him down a little bit. I give credit to the coaches.”

COVID-19 reserve list returns

The Cardinals appear hopeful that they will get Larry Fitzgerald, Trent Sherfield and Deionte Thompson off the reserve/COVID-19 list for a Sunday home game against the Los Angeles Rams.

“Talking with (head athletic trainer) Tom Reed, we’re hopeful that all three guys will be available for Sunday but that remains to be seen,” Kingsbury said, adding Fitzgerald has been doing well in quarantine since Thanksgiving.

Arizona missed all three players. Fitzgerald as the future Hall of Fame leader, Sherfield for his gunning abilities that would have potentially shut down two big punt returns and Thompson for added depth at safety.

“Just having (Fitzgerald) out there, before every game he comes up to me and motivates me. We missed him,” linebacker Markus Golden said on Sunday.

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Gameday leftovers: Do the Cardinals need Kyler Murray’s rushes?