The Arizona Cardinals won a football game on Sunday, beating the winless New York Jets by a convincing 30-10. Kyler Murray threw for a career-high 380 yards. DeAndre Hopkins had 131 yards receiving. The 20-point margin of victory was the franchise's largest since Christmas Eve 2017.
And yet, the celebration was a little muted in the Big Apple.
That's because it's hard to get too giddy about the Cardinals' ability to rise in the loaded NFC West now that All-Pro linebacker Chandler Jones is likely out for an extended period — and possibly the season — with a biceps injury. The Cardinals improved to 3-2 after beating the Jets but still trail the Los Angeles Rams (4-1) and Seattle Seahawks (5-0) in their division.
Jones has 61 sacks over his 4 1/2 seasons in Arizona and is one of the cornerstones of a rebuilt defence that's been much better this season. He's also a pied piper of sorts, constantly joking, laughing and keeping teammates loose.
“He's an incredible human being to be around,” Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Never seen him without a smile on his face, his work ethic, the energy he brings to the practice field, he's relentless. Even when teams are double-and triple-teaming him he doesn't get down, he's excited for everyone else's success.
“He's a huge part of this deal.”
Kingsbury didn't completely rule out Jones returning, saying an MRI was scheduled for today. Once all the information is available, the team will figure out what's next.
“That's something we're working through right now, what are the next steps, what are the options on the table for him?” Kingsbury said.
The three-pronged running attack of Murray, Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds continues to be mostly effective. It was Edmonds' turn to shine on Sunday when he ran for a 29-yard touchdown that gave the Cardinals an early 7-0 lead. The Cardinals ran for 127 yards against the Jets and have topped 100 yards on the ground in every game this season.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Cardinals continue to be one of the most penalized teams in the NFL, earning 42 yellow flags through five games, including 10 against the Jets. Kingsbury said the team has been too lax in letting penalties slide during practice and that needs to change.
LB Dennis Gardeck was the feel-good story of Sunday's game, finishing with two sacks after replacing the injured Jones. Gardeck has developed into an ace special teams player over his three years in the NFL but was considered little more than an emergency option on defence . After his performance against the Jets, that could change. It's not realistic for Gardeck to match Jones' production on a weekly basis, but the 2018 undrafted free agent out of Division II Sioux Falls showed he can make an impact.
Drake hasn't been quite as productive in his second season with the Cardinals, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry through five games. He has also hasn't been utilized as much in the passing game with six catches for 22 yards. That drop in production isn't all his fault: Now that Edmonds is healthy and Hopkins is catching tons of balls on the perimeter, there are more options. But there's no doubt Arizona would like Drake's yards-per-carry average to jump.
Jones is obviously the big concern but the Cardinals have other injuries on defence . LB Devon Kennard (calf), S Chris Banjo (hamstring) were both inactive for the Jets game and another safety, Jalen Thompson (ankle) ,is on injured reserve. There was some good news: S Budda Baker returned after thumb surgery and played well against the Jets despite wearing a cast on the hand.
14.1 — yards per completion for the Cardinals' passing attack, which was much more vertical against the Jets, hitting on several intermediate and deep routes. It was a big change from the loss to the Panthers the week before, when Murray averaged about 5 1/2 yards per completion.
Arizona has an extra day to prepare for a “Monday Night Football” game against the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are dealing with their own injury issues after losing QB Dak Prescott to an ankle injury. If the Cardinals can find a way to win, they'd return to the desert with a 4-2 record and be at home for nearly a month with a three-game homestand wrapped around a bye week.
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David Brandt, The Associated Press