Arizona Cardinals Recap - Week 14: Back in the Win Column
YES! YES! YES! YES! Back on track baby!!! What a great way to start our playoff push. The offense got into a rhythm, the defense looked menacing, and we have a good kicker! Christmas came early this year! Sorry not sorry Will, we needed a win and we made a big statement in this game.
Some key takeaways from this game: let Kyler run, throw D-Hop the ball, put players at the positions they played in college, and don't be afraid to try new kickers. Kyler had his best game rushing in 4 games, as he generated 47 yards and 13 carries. He looked more willing to move outside the pocket and scramble for yards. This is definitely the Kyler we saw early in the season and will be much needed for the remainder of our playoff push. Kyler also took more chances with D-Hop and it paid off. Having Fitz back on the field also helped pull attention away from DeAndre to give him more favorable matchups. Speaking of Fitz, he extended his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 254. Absolute legend.
When it comes to position changes, the Cardinals are known for doing too many of them. Deone Bucannon was a safety in college and got moved to linebacker during his second season. He is currently a free agent and has not been a starter since 2017. We almost saw a similar situation with Haason Reddick early in his careeer. After bouncing around our defense, playing middle linebacker in 2017, moving to a 4-3 outside linebacker in 2018, then back to middle linebacker in 2019, all hope seemed lost for Haason as his fifth-year option was declined. Going into 2020, he moved back to his position he played in college: 3-4 outside linebacker/edge rusher (4-3 means 4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers, 3-4 means 3 defensive linemen, 4 linebackers; in this scenario, there are 2 linebackers on the outside and on the line). Since moving back to his true position, he has thrived and that was on display during Sunday's game. If he can carry this performance over for the remainder of the season, our pass rush will be deadly. Additionally, if we can learn from our mistakes with Deone and Haason, then we should be able to get Isaiah Simmons to finish his rookie season strong and set him up for a solid sophomore year by moving him back to safety. As for our kicking situation, dump Zane, sign Nugent.
Hopefully this game is a sign of things to come for Arizona. Despite beating a hot Giants by a considerable margin, we still are making too many mistakes on offense. Although we recovered 3 of our own fumbles, we turned the ball over on downs when we should be settling for 3 points. This happened against the Seahawks in Week 7, the Patriots in Week 12, and the Giants in Week 14. Granted, we won 2 of those games, but the Seahawks game wouldn't have gone to overtime, we would have ran out the clock against the Pats, and we would have awarded Markus Golden's turnover with points on the board. But whatever, a wins a win, so here are your awards for Week 14:
Photo: New York Post
Offensive MVP: DeAndre Hopkins
D-Hop was on a mission against highly touted corner James Bradberry. On just 78% on offensive snaps played, his second lowest this year, DeAndre put up 136 yards; the most he's had since Week 10 against Buffalo. If the pass protection was better, he may have had more receptions and yards as he torched the Giants secondary on the majority of routes he ran. His offensive firepower has been missed over the past 3 games.
Defensive MVP: Haason Reddick
Player of the game right here. 5 sacks, 6 QB hits, 3 forced fumbles, and 5 tackles. What a defining game for our first round draft pick in 2017. Since moving him back to his true edge linebacker position, and the unfortunate injury to star edge rusher Chandler Jones, Reddick has exceeded expectations and has looked like a true first round draft choice. Despite recording only 5 sacks through the first 12 games, he has 11 TFLs and 9 QB hits, while only missing 2 tackles on the season per Pro Football Reference. After Sunday's game, Reddick's numbers have sky-rocketed and he has shown he can succeed in the right role.
Special Teams MVP: Mike Nugent
Finally! A kicker who can make kicks!!! After a rough 2019 campaign with the Patriots, Nugent came in and shined as he stepped in for an injured Zane Gonzalez. Although his field goal attempts were relatively easy, it was incredibly relieving to see a kicker go 4 for 4 on all of his attempts. If the Cardinals decided to kick at the end of the first drive instead of trying to score a TD, he could have potentially gone 5 for 5. I believe Zane will be released, and if he clears through waivers, we will add him back to the practice squad. Yes, the kicks weren't anything spectacular, but we have been missing that level of consistency at the kicker position since Jay Feely left the Cardinals back in 2013.
Unsung Hero: Markus Golden
Big time revenge game for the former Giant. After leading New York in sacks with 10 a season ago, Golden was traded back to Arizona this season to help fill the void left by Jones. Against his former team, he came out screaming. After a strip sack and recovering his own fumble, the Cardinals were set up in excellent field position. Markus also recored a TFL and a QB hit. Although his stats aren't flashy, he set the tone for our defense and let the Giants know who would control the game.
Play of the Game: Dan Arnold Floating TD
This play got our offense moving in the right direction. The Giants defense packed the line of scrimmage with linemen and linebackers. As the ball was snapped, two rushers bluffed a blitz and dropped into coverage. This let the widest rusher get a free shot at Kyler. Murray scrambled to the left and chucked the ball towards the back of the endzone. Dan Arnold set his feet, leaped over four Giants defenders, and came down with a beautiful catch to put up the first TD of the game. This play helped our offense find it's balance and allowed us to move the ball more efficiently. Dan's play over the past three weeks has also helped take attention away from key players like D-Hop and Kenyan Drake. Arnold is finding his place in this offense and will be pivotal come playoff time.
Photo: Associated Press
A win's a win. I'm happy our three game skid has come to an end, but we need to play better if we want to beat the Eagles, 49ers, and Rams to end the season. Jalen Hurts put on a solid performance against one of the best defenses in the league, the 49ers are expected to have Jimmy G and George Kittle back for the end of the season, and the Rams look nearly unstoppable. It's a tough road to the playoffs, but a win next week will generate a lot of needed momentum.
And please, for the love of football, make Nugent the starting kicker.