He had only 72 hours, but Kenyan Drake knew he’d be ready.
Entering the Cardinals’ Week 9 divisional matchup against the undefeated 49ers, the team’s newest running back didn’t doubt it. He was on the field getting comfortable. He was learning the playbook and watching it click. David Johnson (ankle) and Chase Edmonds (hamstring) were out with injuries, and after landing in Arizona on Monday, Drake knew this could be his chance.
“I’ve always been the type of person, you go to a swimming pool, you don’t just dip your toe in, you dive right in,” Drake, who was acquired from the Dolphins on Monday for a conditional 2020 draft pick, said on Wednesday. “This is up my alley… The bullets are flying, and I’ll be ready.”
He was true to his word, racking up 110 rushing yards on 15 carries, adding 52 yards on four catches and putting on a performance that, despite a 28–25 loss on Thursday night, will leave the Cardinals just as confident as he was before the outing.
Kenyan Drake has officially arrived in the desert.
It didn’t take long for the fourth-year back to feel right at home. On the first play of Arizona’s opening drive, Drake exploded up the middle for a 36-yard gain to set the Cardinals up at the 49ers’ 35-yard line. Five plays later, it was Drake who punched it in from 4 yards out, giving Arizona a 7–0 lead just three minutes into the game.
By the end of the half, Drake had tallied 70 yards on 10 carries in addition to the touchdown.
He was a constant for the Cardinals offense, but he couldn’t do it alone. On the other side of the field, Emmanuel Sanders (seven catches for 112 yards and a touchdown) was also making his impact as a new acquisition, showcasing an impeccable chemistry with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (28-of-37 for 317 yards and four scores) and breathing new life into San Francisco’s offense. No longer was George Kittle Garoppolo’s only high-level downfield receiving threat. After the third-year tight end hauled in a 30-yard strike to make it 7–7 at the end of the first quarter, Sanders put San Francisco back in business with a 20-yard catch of his own on the team’s first drive in the second quarter. Kendrick Bourne gave the 49ers the 14–7 lead, but it was Sanders who contributed 64 of the team’s 76 yards on the drive.
San Francisco quickly began to look like the relentless force we’ve grown used to seeing every week. The Cardinals, meanwhile, looked like they had no answers. Drake tried to give them one in the third quarter, helping cut Arizona’s deficit to a single score with 46 yards on the team’s second-half opening drive. But Garoppolo’s brilliance was too much to overcome, and by the time Kyler Murray (17-of-24 for 241 yards and two touchdowns) found Andy Isabella for an 88-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, it was too late.
The 49ers remained unbeaten. The Cardinals fell to 3–5–1.
Still, Drake gave Arizona a bright spot in what was otherwise an unsuccessful primetime showing. In six games with the Miami Dolphins this season, Drake’s season-high for rushing yards was 44. His longest run? 11 yards. His rushing touchdown total? Zero.
He blew past all of those marks with Arizona in his very first quarter.
Yes, there’s no telling what the Cardinals’ backfield will look like when Johnson returns. And yes, it’s too early to determine whether or not his performance was an anomaly or a new norm.
But if he continues to run the way he did on Thursday night, there’s reason for the Cardinals to believe Drake will be what they needed him to be. Quick. Real. Ready.
NOW ON THE MMQB: How do the Patriots prepare to face Lamar Jackson? Albert Breer asked others who've gameplanned against the Ravens quarterback already this season. ... Stephon Gilmore is the best corner in football. Jenny Vrentas tells us why. ... Kalyn Kahler explores whether or not the Bears can overcome a disappointing first half and compete in the NFC North ... and more.
WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Your indisputable NFL power rankings heading into Week 9. ... How Aaron Jones has emerged as one of Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets. ... This quote may just be the league's new butt fumble ... and more.
1. Odell Beckham is jumping in the fire with Baker Mayfield.
2. The Nationals have inspired Matt Nagy. Now he hopes he can inspire his Bears.
3. Once upon a time, future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten was a defensive end with no desire to play offense. The Athletic's Saad Yousuf reveals how that changed.
4. Trent Williams had cancer, and he blames the Redskins for not diagnosing it sooner.
5. Steve Smith isn't sugarcoating how he feels about the Panthers' wide receivers.
In honor of Halloween, we're reliving the greatest accomplishment of Randy Moss's Hall of Fame career.
Question or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.