Monday High 5: Cardinals Dominate Washington

Matthew JohnsonSeptember 21, 2020
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The Arizona Cardinals are 2-0 for the first time since the 2015 season, when they won the NFC West division. Sunday’s 30-15 win over the Washington Football Team showed us dominance on defense and flashes of brilliance from Kyler Murray on offense. That begins our five biggest takeaways from the weekend in sports.

1. Kyler Murray is a special weapon.

The Cardinals raced out to a 20-0 first half lead Sunday, and it seemed very casual. Murray found a wide open DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone for D-Hop’s first touchdown of the season. Murray also ran for scores from 14 yards out and 21 yards en route to an easy win. At times, it seemed too easy for Murray, who connected on deep shots of 54 and 49 yards to Andy Isabella and Christian Kirk respectively. Murray was efficient in the passing game (286 yards) and explosive in the running game (67 yards on eight carries) – executing a game plan designed to wear down the opposing defense.

Big Takeaway: Murray and the Cardinals offense are football’s equivalent of death by a thousand paper cuts. The offense is averaging 75.5 offensive snaps per game through the first two contests this season – up from 62.5 last year. The extra plays, many which involved chasing around the speedy Murray, have gassed the Washington and San Francisco defenses, allowing the Cardinals to close out games in the 4th quarter.

2. Defense is making a big difference this season.

The big reason the offense is able to squeeze out so many plays this season is because the Cardinals defense is 180 degrees different than it was in 2019. On Sunday, Washington was 4 for 12 on third downs and was shutout in the first half. Jordan Phillips and Chandler Jones combined for a strip sack fumble recovery early in the game, right after Murray had thrown an interception deep in their own territory. A few plays later, Cardinals special teams recovered a Washington fumble on a punt return. Washington entered the red zone only three times, converting on just one of those possessions.

Big Takeaway: These moments add up to a dominant performance on defense, something that was hard to imagine being possible after suffering through last season. The defense is affording  the Cardinals offense a luxury to experiment – and so far this team hasn’t been burned by it.

3. The NFC West will be a grind.

As good as the Cardinals start has been, one slip up could put them in last place in the division. That’s how strong the West is in 2020. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is your early season MVP with nine touchdown passes in the first two games. He’s led the Seahawks to a 2-0 start. The Rams are also 2-0. The 49ers rolled the Jets on Sunday to improve to 1-1.

Big Takeaway: The NFC West is beating up on the rest of the NFL, with the only loss coming inside the division (Cardinals win over the 49ers). The Cardinals will need to keep their foot on the gas all season to keep up.

4. Pac-12 is a hot mess.

The Pac-12 is reportedly ready to restart the engines on a college football season in late October, but not everyone’s on board. Jon Wilner of The Mercury News reported Saturday that the conference has a plan for half its teams to play games beginning October 31. The 12 school presidents were supposed to vote on a return-to-play schedule last week, but decided to delay it until September 24. Local health restrictions may further delay action from schools in California and Oregon, meaning the six conference schools in those states will be behind if and when Pac-12 football kicks off. Schools in Arizona, Washington, Colorado and Utah have been able to work out on a limited basis and could arguably be ready to play on Halloween.

Big Takeaway: Potentially good news for Sun Devil fans. Even if it means playing five other teams while they wait for the California schools to get ready, all we want here in the Valley is to see Arizona State hit the gridiron on a Saturday. These fall weekends aren’t the same without it.

5. The major no one got excited for.

I’m not normally a fan of watching the best golfers in the world struggle and hit bad shots all weekend. If I wanted to see bad putts and bogeys I’d go out and play a round with my golf buddies instead. Only 10 of the 144 golfers in the U.S. Open field managed to shoot 10-over-par or better this weekend at Winged Foot. Plus, factor in one of the more unlikable golfers of this generation, Bryson DeChambeau, cruising to a six stroke victory for his first career major – and you have a largely unwatchable final round of our nation’s Open golf tournament.

Big Takeaway: This was the biggest tournament for golf thus far after the return of sports and it was a dud with no drama in the final round. Let’s hope The Masters in November restores some competition on the PGA Tour.

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