ARIZONA CARDINALS

Rapid Reactions: Cardinals defense electric in win over Giants

Dec 13, 2020, 3:28 PM | Updated: Dec 14, 2020, 7:27 am
New York Giants' Alfred Morris (41), center, is brought down by the Arizona Cardinals defense durin...

New York Giants' Alfred Morris (41), center, is brought down by the Arizona Cardinals defense during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker addressed the defense last week after the team’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Viewing the aftermath of Sunday’s 26-7 win over the hosting New York Giants, the unit took his words to heart.

Absolutely disrupting the Giants on nearly every possession, the Cardinals turned in an impressive 8.0 sacks, five of which came from linebacker Haason Reddick.

Throw in five forced fumbles and there was no room for the Giants offense to find any sort of rhythm all day.

It’s a positive sight for a team fighting for their playoff lives with three games to play this season.

Arizona Sports’ hosts and editors provide their two cents on the Week 14 outing.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta

Just what the doctor ordered for the Arizona Cardinals.

A dominant defensive performance spearheaded by Haason Reddick powered the Cardinals to a much-needed 26-7 win over the New York Giants.

Reddick set a franchise record with five sacks of Giants quarterbacks, and the rest of the defense followed his tenacity. The Cardinals held the Giants to 159 yards of total offense — the fewest yards Arizona has given up in a single game since Jan. 1, 2017 when they held the Rams to 123 yards in a 44-6 season-ending win.

And no, we didn’t see a dominant offensive day by Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. Five of their six scoring drives traveled 34 yards or less. But they did have 390 yards of offense and they ran the ball effectively, getting 159 yards against what had been a very stingy Giants defense.

Murray looked a little more ready to run than he has in a month, and compiled 47 yards on 13 carries. Through the air, Kyler didn’t put the ball in jeopardy and finished with a pretty respectable 24-of-35 for 244 yards and a touchdown. The TD pass went to Dan Arnold, who made a fantastic catch on a play that was extended by Murray on a third-and-goal which stretched the Cardinals’ lead to 13-0 after the special teams created a short field.

Penalties weren’t a factor for the first time in what seems like a long time. Arizona had only four flags for 22 yards on the day. And with Mike Nugent subbing for Zane Gonzalez, we won’t be talking about a big missed field goal once again. Nugent hit four kicks from 37 or less — interestingly enough, double the amount of attempts Gonzalez had from that range all season long.

It wasn’t all perfect. While relying on the run game to melt clock (which they absolutely should have been), Kenyan Drake put the ball on the turf twice in a three-play span early in the fourth quarter. Luckily, the Cardinals were able to fall on both.

This was a very important game for the Cardinals, and they played with the requisite urgency, which is a very good sign heading into the last three weeks of the regular season.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo

The missing pass rush. Kyler Murray’s ability to run the football. DeAndre Hopkins. A reliable kicking game. The Cardinals’ playoff hopes. All things missing. All things found — for now — in Jersey of all places.

The 26-7 win over the Giants wasn’t perfect for the Cardinals but it was really, really close. The pass rush was rejuvenated by a record-setting performance from Haason Reddick’s five sacks, three forced fumbles, six quarterback hits and two tackles for loss. Daniel Jones and the Giants offense were simply overwhelmed to the tune of 159 yards, 10 first downs and three turnovers. Questions about Reddick’s lack of production, and theirs as a team when rushing the quarterback, were answered for now.

It wasn’t Murray’s most prolific rushing game of the season but it was enough to re-establish it as a threat. Clearly there was an emphasis on Hopkins and it paid off with his most productive day since the Hail Murray winner vs. the Bills. After enduring questions about body language and usage all week long it felt like order was restored. And while Mike Nugent’s four field goals were hardly taxing (all 37 yards or less), the fact that he made them was a calming influence. A sharper offense would have hung a 30 or 40 burger on the G-Men with that great field position and the turnovers forced. That’s the one element of the game that left me wanting more.

But for now, consider most of the boxes checked, including the most important of all: The Cardinals have re-established their playoff positioning.

It might not be as strong as it was a month ago, but it’s there. If they have two more wins in them they can probably punch a ticket to the postseason for the first time in a half decade. Yes, much of what had gone missing was found Sunday. Most important of all … a heartbeat.

Jordan Byrd, producer of Burns & Gambo

One of the oldest clichés in the sports book is defense wins championships. And while a championship still seems like a far off dream, the Cardinals defense won the game for them in New York on Sunday.

The Arizona defense had eight sacks against two different Giants quarterbacks and only allowed the New York offense to get past the 50 yard line once all day. Haason Reddick was the leader as he set a new franchise record for sacks in a game, but guys like Markus Golden and Dennis Gardeck had great performances as well. When the game was still in the balance in the early stages of the second half, Vance Joseph’s unit played lights out. Just look at the drives the Giants had after their second-half touchdown. Three plays for nine yards, three plays for -1 yard, six plays for two yards and finally a fumble on their last possession.

Vance Joseph has taken a lot of flack since coming to Arizona but Sunday might have been the guy’s best all round game. Now, it should be noted that the Giants looked terrible with an injured Daniel Jones, who clearly wasn’t at his best. But you have to give it to the Cards D for making this game feel like a complete blowout.

The reason that performance didn’t turn into an ultimate beat down on the scoreboard was the inefficiencies on the other side of the ball. Arizona could have been up by as much as 21-0 after their first four possessions but instead had to settle for a 6-0 lead. Poor execution and negative plays prevented Kyler Murray and company from really running away with this game early on. Some second half adjustments and establishing a run game with Kyler and Kenyan Drake helped the Arizona offense look better down the stretch but there was a lot of points left on the field against a defense that had to be exhausted by the end.

The Cardinals break their losing streak and come away with a must-win game. Combined with the Vikings loss to Tampa Bay, the Cards are back in the playoff picture for now. But they should consider themselves lucky. Had they been playing against a better opponent on Sunday, all of the missed opportunities could have turned into another disappointing, head shaking loss.

Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter

It was good to see at least one side of the football take care of business and execute. The Giants stink and the Cardinals defense did what it needed to do, but with that being said, that’s still progress.

Kyler Murray had his mojo back as a runner in terms of seeing the way the defense is moving, particularly in the pocket. Even if he’s not making highlight-reel plays off designed runs, if he’s creating extra time and also scrambling a bit, that’s still a huge plus for the offense. Everyone brings up Russell Wilson as a comp in that regard, but Aaron Rodgers might be one of the best ever at those two elements despite not possessing elite speed like Murray. Having that feel Murray displayed in New Jersey, like that excellent step-up to find DeAndre Hopkins, is nearly just as important as his quickness. That was a nice new development.

This is not a game to take much stock in. The early turnovers gifted the Cardinals control of the game against a real bad team. Shoutout to the guys up front on both ends. They won that game.

Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter

Markus Golden’s revenge game couldn’t have been scripted much better!

He set the tone with an opening-possession strip-sack, paving the way for a massive showing for the defense as a whole.

Haason Reddick’s franchise record-breaking day of 5.0 sacks to go along with three forced fumbles kept the Cardinals firmly in the driver’s seat throughout the game. He’s the first player since Vonnie Holliday in 2002 to register at least five sacks and three forced fumbles in a game.

The numbers are impressive, but with a hobbled Giants quarterback and an offense missing its top rushing threat, it was almost expected that the team show up on the defensive side of the ball. Let’s hope this a spring board of sorts for Arizona.

The offense didn’t have to do much with the great field position off four New York turnovers but continued to have miscues and failed to find pay dirt more times than not while deep in Giants territory. Only two touchdowns were scored all day for Arizona, even though they had ample opportunities to really blow the doors off the game.

The defense isn’t going to put these kind of numbers up the rest of the way, especially with the remaining opponents on the schedule. The offense needs to find that rhythm and figure out how to flip the switch that we say earlier in the season.

And last but certainly not least, Mike Nugent still has it.

The kicker was a perfect 4-for-4 on his field goals and added two extra points on Sunday.

The jury is still out whether the team will make a switch from Zane Gonzalez, who was inactive against the Giants, but after a miss-free day from Nugent, there could be room for discussion.

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Rapid Reactions: Cardinals defense electric in win over Giants