DAN BICKLEY

Arizona Cardinals hit Big Red reset button in win over Giants

Dec 13, 2020, 3:48 PM
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, right, is brought down by Arizona Cardinals defense durin...

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, right, is brought down by Arizona Cardinals defense during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

(AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

Must-win road games are deathtraps in the NFL. They give dying teams reason to quit.

The Cardinals made it look easy.

A 26-7 domination of the Giants on Sunday was everything they needed to prove, and everything we needed to see.

Following their spirited performance at MetLife Stadium, the Cardinals are back are over .500, back in the playoff picture, back in our good graces. They again resemble a dangerous team that nobody wants to face in the playoffs.

They effectively found and hit the Big Red reset button.

“I thought our guys had a good sense of urgency, understanding we want to be the best team we can be the last quarter of the season,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said after the game. “I felt we made a step in the right direction this week … I did think our leadership stepped up and had a heck of a week.”

The particulars:

Kyler Murray played with attitude. The good kind. He showed real toughness, shrugging off critics and an in-game injury. He kept his head up, in more ways than one. Dan Arnold played like the best tight end in Cardinals history.

The defense showed real disdain for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. There were sacks, turnovers and stop-after-stop dedication. Vance Joseph was ruthless, maybe the best the defensive coordinator has ever been in Arizona. Special teams shined, atoning for that debacle in New England.

A Jersey boy, Haason Reddick, set a franchise record with five sacks and three forced fumbles. He cried after the performance, filled with a deep sense of joy. It was the game of his life and it came at the perfect time. He will be a free agent after the season, after the Cardinals declined a fifth-year option in May.

“Evidently, the gameplan worked,” Reddick said.

“He didn’t let the noise get him down,” Kingsbury said.

In the season’s defining moment, the Cardinals played hard and fast. They played clean and dirty. They unleashed Kylie Fitts, who took a flying leap and kick-forced a fumble, a moment when the MMA met the NFL.

Whatever. The Cardinals made their own breaks on Sunday. Their offense actually seemed to dictate, not settle. Special teams ace Dennis Gardeck had two sacks on the afternoon, giving him four in two games at MetLife Stadium this season.

“Everyone had it going today,” said Cardinals LB Markus Golden, who also shined in his return to New York. “The team had me going today.”

The game was mostly free of drama. There was only a moment when the Cardinals seemed fragile. It came after Murray spun to avoid a blitzing defender, absorbing lower-body contact. He grabbed his leg in pain. He started to limp toward the sideline.

After catching his breath, Murray thought otherwise, swallowing the pain and continuing to play football.

Murray was under a white-hot spotlight on Sunday. There were newly hatched questions about his leadership, his personality, his practice habits and the health of his throwing shoulder.

Murray wasn’t great. But he was really good. He played brave. He moved up in the pocket. He threw the ball on the run. He kept his eyes downfield. He produced chunk plays against a Giants defense that had confused and harassed Russell Wilson.

It doesn’t matter if the Giants are a bad team. It only matters that the Cardinals cared enough to play like they did on Sunday. There were no leadership issues to complain of. No hand-wringing over the head coach, the defensive coordinator or the body language of the diminutive quarterback.

There was just a football team and its quarterback responding very well to building pressure and real adversity.

A football team that now has a one-game winning streak and a monkey off its back.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

Dan Bickley

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, left, talks with quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) during the secon...
Dan Bickley

Madcap world of college football head coaches’ salaries have gone wild

Every so often, a sordid story returns to college campuses, threatening the sanctity of all that is good and pure: Salaries Gone Wild.
1 day ago
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals reacts at head linesman Jerry Bergman #91 after...
Dan Bickley

Why both Kingsbury, Edwards will remain the Valley’s football coaches

Once in the firing line, both Kliff Kingsbury and Herm Edwards will keep their head coaching jobs in Arizona after this season.
3 days ago
Owner Michael Bidwill of the Arizona Cardinals reacts after the team beat the Seattle Seahawks 23-1...
Dan Bickley

Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns racing to break title droughts

The Cardinals are the best team in the NFL. The Suns have won 13 consecutive regular season games. Who gets to a championship first?
8 days ago
Colt McCoy #12 of the Arizona Cardinals throws the ball during the second quarter against the Seatt...
Dan Bickley

Colt McCoy’s play making Kyler Murray’s injury issues irrelevant for Cardinals

Well done, Colt McCoy. And with all due respect, we hope we’ve seen the last of you on a football field in 2021. 
9 days ago
Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns looks on before the game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Ce...
Dan Bickley

Chris Paul’s leadership keeping outside noise away from the Suns

While an NBA investigation looms over the Phoenix Suns, point guard Chris Paul has taken his play and leadership to another level.
14 days ago
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury runs off the field after an NFL football game against ...
Dan Bickley

Arizona Cardinals’ lethargic loss to Panthers hopefully just a blip

The Cardinals' loss to the Panthers had a few concerning trends inside of it that hopefully won't carry over to the rest of the year.
17 days ago
Arizona Cardinals hit Big Red reset button in win over Giants