Week 7 Takeaways: Cardinals Skate Past Hapless Houston

Matthew JohnsonOctober 25, 2021
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This is finally the football team Valley sports fans have wanted and deserved for the longest time. The Arizona Cardinals improved to 7-0 on the season with a 31-5 victory Sunday against an absolutely miserable Houston Texans squad that somehow considers itself an NFL team. The win was far from perfect and the Cards have some things to clean up on a short week before they host the 6-1 Green Bay Packers on Thursday night.

Let’s dive into those things with our biggest takeaways from the Week 7 win.

Home Disadvantage?

The Cardinals are playing good football this year, but it’s happening away from State Farm Stadium. Sunday’s game in Glendale was another example of it.

Look, it was a 26-point win to remain unbeaten and the game was never really in jeopardy in the second half because that’s how bad Houston is with backup quarterback Davis Mills taking the snaps.

The Cardinals performance on offense, however, felt off-track during the first half. Kyler Murray took an awkward looking sack in the end zone for a safety and the only points scored for either team in the first quarter.

Murray and the offense finally woke up in the second quarter to post 17 points in the final nine minutes before halftime. Two second half scores gave the Cardinals another 30+ point game, the sixth time this season scoring 30 or more points.

In the three home games this season, the Cardinals lucked out a win on a missed field goal against Minnesota; held off the 49ers rookie quarterback for a 7-point win; and looked totally clueless for the first 20 minutes against the worst team in the league.

The Cardinals are playing very good football at times this season, but it’s largely been on the road. The final 3 quarters of this win over Houston might look good on the scoreboard, but had some sloppy moments that could cost the Cardinals against a better opponent.

Defense is the Star Again

You can’t give defensive coordinator Vance Joseph enough credit for what he’s doing this season (and what he’s done the past few years) for the Cardinals. His squad is playing at an elite level and winning games for the NFL’s lone remaining undefeated team.

Arizona held Houston’s offense to 160 total yards and eight first downs. Linebacker Markus Golden had two sacks and forced a fumble on one, leading a ferocious unit that is tackling opponents better than any Cardinals defense we’ve ever seen.

The Cardinals’ many interchangeable parts on defense is the true difference maker and the main reason this team is 7-0. It doesn’t matter that Chandler Jones has missed the past two weeks, because Joseph can insert Markus Golden. It doesn’t matter there’s been no Corey Peters the past two weeks, insert Jordan Phillips.

JJ Watt continues to stuff the running game like the California ports are doing to the supply chain. He’s playing at an elite level and inspiring the guys around him.

The true test for the Cardinals defense comes Thursday against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense.

Confusing Kyler

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was an efficient 20 for 28 passing for 261 yards and three touchdowns, but took four sacks and for the first time this season (and maybe his career) he was really hit hard by a defensive player.

One that didn’t count was a roughing the passer penalty on Maliek Collins who seemed to run over Murray at about 50 mph. Collins appeared to clothesline Murray as the diminutive quarterback attempted to duck under the hit at the last second.

The Cardinals have benefitted from several favorable penalties this season and this play was another example.

Kyler can’t keep taking these hits though. He needs to stay healthy for 18 weeks and then a long postseason run. Any more games with hits like this and that won’t happen.

Murray was harassed all game when it was totally unnecessary. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury was back on the sidelines after missing last week with Covid. His play calls at times were very confusing, especially the designed quarterback runs near the end of the first half. It took until the fourth quarter for the Cardinals to finally remember they have running backs who can chew up the clocks and put the game away.

If anyone ever doubted the importance of center Rodney Hudson (out for three weeks with a rib injury) this was the game.

Welcome to AZ, Zach Ertz

The Cardinals new offensive weapon made quite the splash in his Arizona debut. Zach Ertz, acquired in a trade last Friday, led the team with 66 yards receiving. The bulk of it came on a 47-yard catch and run touchdown in the third quarter.

Ertz gives an already dangerous offense another target in the passing game and his performance in his first game shows how fast he can get up to speed to learn the playbook and become impactful right away.

His addition solidifies the take we had last week that opponents must play perfect football to beat the Cardinals this season. Arizona is making plenty of its own mistakes, but nothing has cost them yet. With Ertz, this team will be even more fun to watch the rest of the season.