Rapid reactions: Arizona Cardinals roll over Houston Texans
The Arizona Cardinals used a strong defensive effort against a huge underdog in the Houston Texans and moved to 7-0.
Here’s what our Arizona Sports hosts and editors saw from Arizona in a 31-5 victory.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: Maybe we’re getting spoiled around here. Or maybe it’s just me. The Cards scored over 30 points … again. Zach Ertz had a spectacular debut. The Cards offense ran for 172 yards and their defense allowed 2.8 yards per carry. Arizona actually covered a spread that got to as high as 20.5 right before kickoff. There were a lot of things from this game to like. How much time Kyler Murray spent on his back wasn’t among them.
Sacked four times and twice needing a visit to the blue tent, he had a rough day at the office. Never ideal but especially so with a short turnover before Thursday Night Football against the Packers. Arizona right guard Josh Jones had another subpar day, which has become somewhat of a trend the last few weeks, and Murray is paying the price for it. There’s not a lot of time to work on Murray’s protections with short week, but keeping him upright is always a top priority.
Other than that, and the slow start, there’s not much to complain of. Specifically, the Cards defense continues to impress nearly halfway through the season. Even when the Cardinals were trying to find their offensive footing, the defense was the calming influence throughout the game. Of course, some of that has to do with the Texans and their rookie quarterback, but it never felt like the Texans had a ghost of a chance in this game and that was mostly due to the effort of Vance Joseph’s defense.
Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com Cardinals reporter and editor: So much for the return of the MegaWatt package.
This was a should-win game for the Cardinals, and after a weird first quarter, it turned out to be just that. Murray was able to check a few things off the list Sunday. He fired off a touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins, who faced his former team for the first time in his career and got his new weapon in Ertz involved right away in this high-flying offense. Speaking of Ertz, with how good he has been over the past eight seasons, he never had a longer score (47 yards) than on Sunday. Might the Cardinals unlock more of the Stanford product? He literally had nine days to prep and now has just days before a Thursday Night Football matchup with the Green Bay Packers.
But the real star of Sunday was Arizona’s defense. While the offense sputtered out the gate, the defense was locked in from kickoff, allowing just a field goal over 60 minutes of action. J.J. Watt showed Cardinals fans what they’ve quickly grown accustomed to seeing, while giving the Texans a look at what they no longer have.
I’m concerned, however, with the slow start we saw in Week 7. It looked like the Cardinals had righted the ship in that department but that wasn’t the case Sunday afternoon. That can’t happen against Aaron Rodgers and a Green Bay squad that understands the magnitude of Week 8’s matchup. A win over the Packers, and the Cardinals get that trusty head-to-head victory, which could come in handy with how both teams are playing and just how this season is shaping up.
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: It was only a matter of time. After three series in which Arizona’s offense went nowhere with a total of zero yards, the Cardinals scored on their next four possessions, going touchdown, touchdown, field goal and touchdown to take complete control of a game they would go on to win and improve to 7-0.
With Green Bay coming up on Thursday, some people worried about a trap game, but the opponent has to be somewhat competent in order to lose a game like that. The Texans are not that team. They were never a threat. At least they can say they led the Cardinals at one point in the game, though a lead starting with the safety did not last long. Even when Murray gifted the Texans good field position with a pick, Houston did nothing with it, going three-and-out and gaining only one yard. The Texans had no downfield threat with Davis Mills at quarterback. Just look at their play calls on third downs.
Despite another game without 100 yards receiving, the dominance of Hopkins continues to amaze. Another touchdown reception makes it seven for the season. Randy Moss (23) and Jerry Rice (20) are the only receivers to have 20 TD catches in a season – could Hopkins be the third? He is on pace for 17, so he is close. The run game dominated again. Ertz welcomed himself to the pack by feasting with a 47-yard touchdown reception. And Markus Golden – who doesn’t love him?! – had two sacks.
Arizona scored another ho-hum 30 points – for the sixth time this season. And most importantly, they stayed ahead of the Rams, which is really all that matters. That battle for who will win the division and who will be the wild card is, to me, the main thing people should care about. Green Bay comes in Thursday night and that game will be more of a gauge for Arizona. This one was was always going to be a Cardinals victory.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: One of the biggest differences with this year’s Cardinals team is that when they do play down to the level of their competition, they only do it for small portions of the game.
Make no mistake, the Cardinals were atrocious in the first quarter against the woeful Texans, but once that alarm went off, they handled their business very decisively.
We’ll start with the Cardinals defense, which was stingy all day long, but especially so in the second half. Arizona allowed 58 net yards on six Houston possessions. The Texans got three first downs in the final 30 minutes and never got closer than the Cardinals’ 37-yard line after halftime. Golden continues to be a spark plug, especially in the absence of Chandler Jones. For the second straight week, Golden had two sacks and a forced fumble — this week he actually recovered it as well. His turnover squelched a Texans drive near midfield after the Cardinals had finally taken a 7-5 lead.
Offensively, it was fun, but it wasn’t perfect. Murray took two of the biggest hits he’s taken as a pro quarterback. Most of the pressure on Murray came from whomever was lining up against second-year player Josh Jones, who started at right guard. Murray also made one of the best throws of the NFL season — his 41-yard dart to A.J. Green on a 3rd-and-23 in the second quarter was a thing of beauty.
The running game continues to be a pleasant surprise. Chase Edmonds and James Conner combined for 145 yards on 25 carries, and that number wasn’t bolstered by long runs. Rather, it was a relentless, chain-moving effort from the backs. The receiving corps continues to shine and the addition of Ertz went pretty well (yes, I’m underselling). His 47-yard touchdown catch was the longest of his illustrious career.
It’s all good right now with the Cardinals, but it’ll take a much better effort Thursday night against the Packers to keep that zero in the loss column.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com lead editor: Most of us regular observers of the Cardinals — or Texans — could already guess that, even with a sloppy start, Arizona would have to flop with grand proportions to lose. So let’s talk a few takeaways that could lead to things down the road.
For one, there was the insertion of Ertz, who by all accounts passed the test in his first action with the Cardinals. He flashed his hands and his run-after-catch pop that apparently hasn’t lost him despite his age and coming off a down year.
On the negative end, the center and right guard spots for the Cardinals are at least a little problematic. Max Garcia had some snapping issues again, while Jones at right guard had at least three blown pass-blocking plays. Houston clearly wanted to test that part of the line early on and got a few hits on Murray because of it.
Maybe the best thing of the day? Arizona’s defense had another game against a subpar opponent to get in some reps. With all the young guys and some missing bodies up front, getting reps for younger players and linebacker Dennis Gardeck — he’s still working back from a serious injury — is important.
A few days are upcoming to patch some holes and let Murray’s body rest.