GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals are off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2015 and just the sixth time in the past 30 years. The offense is fun to watch, the defense is vastly improved and the special teams have made game-changing plays.
And they’re not even playing particularly well.
The Cardinals rolled to a 30-15 victory over Washington on Sunday, building a 27-3 lead by early in the fourth quarter. The comfortable margin masked a few things that irritated Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury, including 11 penalties, numerous negative-yardage plays and other missed opportunities.
“We left a lot out there, I think that was pretty evident to see,” Murray said. “I know we all felt as if we left a lot out there in the locker room, from coaches and players. It’s frustrating at times, but at the same time you have to understand this is Week 2.
“We’re not where we hope to be at the end of this thing, but like I said, we got the win and that’s really all that matters.”
Murray has had a good start to the season, running for three touchdowns, including two in the win over Washington. The second-year quarterback also completed 26 of 38 passes for 286 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Kenyan Drake ran for 86 yards. DeAndre Hopkins caught his first touchdown pass with the Cardinals.
But Kingsbury says Murray and the offense can be much more efficient.
“We are not as sharp as we’d like to be, but (Murray) has so much talent that he can make some incredible plays,” Kingsbury said. “We’re just going to keep working at it and hopefully take another step next week and go from there. He’s a spectacular talent. We all know that. I think when we really get it clicking and in a rhythm, we can get rolling pretty good.”
For now, the Cardinals will enjoy a good start that’s been rare in recent seasons. Arizona had a 2-11-1 record over the four Septembers from 2016 to 2019.
Arizona had big plans for the passing game this season, especially after adding Hopkins in an offseason trade with the Texans. The Murray-to-Hopkins connection has produced immediately. Hopkins has caught an NFL-high 22 passes for 219 yards through two games.
Veteran Larry Fitzgerald continues to be an ageless wonder. At age 37, he’s already caught 11 passes in two games.
“Those are two of the best receivers to ever play the game of football,” Murray said. “I think there’s a reason for that: they’re reliable, they know how to get open, use their body, have great hands and they are who they are. I’m glad they’re on my team.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Kingsbury was frustrated by the team’s lack of discipline against Washington. The Cardinals were penalized for 97 yards and it was a big reason for the team’s offensive lull in the second and third quarters.
“The margin of error is going to get smaller and smaller,” Kingsbury said. “We can’t continue to do that and expect to win games.”
LB De’Vondre Campbell. Kingsbury said Campbell was the team’s highest-rated linebacker during free agency and the team was thrilled to sign him. So far, he’s been exactly what the Cardinals needed. Even at 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds, he excels in pass coverage and makes life difficult for opposing tight ends.
LB Isaiah Simmons. Campbell’s presence has allowed the Cardinals to ease Simmons into the playing rotation. Kingsbury is still very high on the No. 8 overall pick but it’s clear he has a lot to learn during his rookie season, especially because there were no preseason games.
The Cardinals have largely avoided the rash of injuries across the NFL that have sidelined big-name players. Starting safety Jalen Thompson (ankle) is on the IR for at least the next two weeks. Starting center Mason Cole (hamstring) and starting tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) also missed the Washington game.
The Cardinals placed Williams on IR on Monday and activated WR KeeSean Johnson, who had been on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
151 — The Cardinals have run 151 offensive plays so far this season, which ranks second in the NFL. Kingsbury’s offense is built on pushing the tempo and through two games it’s been successful.
There’s a lot to like about these Cardinals. If they can clean up the penalties and continue to improve, they’ll be a factor in the NFC West race. They’ve got a solid chance to go 3-0 with a home game against the winless Detroit Lions on Sunday.
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