Three Things: What the Cardinals did Right and Wrong in 38-10 Win in Dallas
Looking at the score alone, it appeared that the Cardinals 38-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys was a near perfect game. The Cardinals did a lot well, as they broke their takeaways slump and ran the ball better than in any game this season.
It was not a flawless performance, though, as it certainly had a slow start.
Still, there was a lot of smiling, running up and down the sidelines and even some bowling by the end of the night.
What went right
On Youtube, there is a function to speed up a video that's playing. Safety Budda Baker looked like he was moving two times faster than everyone on the field Monday night. From a first-quarter forced fumble to a fourth-quarter interception, the first of his career, Baker flew around the field and lit up his box score. He finished with those two turnovers, seven tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits.
"He is everywhere," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "You watch the game, 32 (Baker) shows up in every situation all night, just such a tremendous player and a great leader for us."
Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips added about the NFL's highest-paid safety: "Budda is worth every penny."
Baker's first forced fumble might have been the play of the day.
The Cardinals started slow on offense, and the turnover allowed them to start around midfield, which led to the first points of the game.
Baker told it best on how it unfolded.
"I knew their tackles were fanning very hard on me when I came down blitzing," Baker said. "I'm a contained edge rusher, so I had to go outside. So the tackle, those guys are strong, got me under my pads. Honestly, I heard Andy Dalton saying 'Zeke' (Ezekiel Elliott) because I think Zeke wasn't looking. So he was like 'Zeke, Zeke.' So then he dumped it down to Zeke and I knew Zeke didn't see me. So I just tried to rip the ball out."
Even the Hall of Famer Deion Sanders had to shout out Baker's efforts.
For the first time this year, the Cardinals had a 100-yard rusher.
When they were seemingly trying to run the clock out late in the fourth quarter, Kenyan Drake hesitated, read the defense, then burst through the middle of the line for a 69-yard touchdown to make the game 37-10, the final exclamation point.
Drake owned the second half, with 76 yards on the ground before that massive rush.
"He's going to find first downs and find the hole and run physical and he seems to get stronger as time goes on," Kingsbury said.
Drake finished with 164 yards on the ground, two shy of his Cardinals high.
In the first half of the game, though, quarterback Kyler Murray was the leading rusher.
He struggled to complete passes from the start, but his ability to make plays on the run and pick up first downs put the Cardinals in prime positions on their first two scoring drives.
In the third quarter, Murray became the second quarterback in team history with six touchdown runs in a season. Jim Hart accomplished this in 13 games back 1968. Murray has six scores in six games.
"You saw what he did with his legs, some crucial runs on the scramble drill and even some called runs," receiver Christian Kirk said. "He's just so special with the ball in his hands."
Forcing turnovers, getting in the backfield
The Cardinals forced more turnovers on Monday than they had in five games combined beforehand.
They forced and recovered two fumbles, both against All-Pro halfback Elliott, and had two interceptions, one by Baker and another by Dre Kirkpatrick.
The first fumble led to the Cardinals breaking the stalemate. Then, Elliott fumbled on the very next possession, forced by Phillips, which led to Arizona’s second touchdown.
"There's been such a competitive nature out there on the practice field," Kirk said. "They are such a talented defense and it was only a matter of time when there was going to be a game like this when they get those turnovers."
The Cardinals also made Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton uncomfortable in the pocket. Arizona had three sacks and eight quarterback hits.
Without star outside linebacker Chandler Jones (biceps injury), the Cardinals needed others to step up. Haason Reddick had two sacks and a pass deflection and Dennis Gardeck almost forced a safety.
"I deal with them every day in practice, and for them to come out here on Monday night and do what they did is a big deal," Murray said.
What went wrong
Before the fumble with 2:44 left in the first quarter, the Cardinals and Cowboys were tied at 0-0 and Arizona had three punts on three drives and three penalties. Murray was 4-for-11.
He and Andy Isabella failed to connect on a pair of deep shots and the run game struggled to get going. The Cardinals had 23 yards of offense.
"We were close on a couple of things early, had some close throws that I think we will make in the future," Kingsbury said. "May have been a little too revved up."
To make matters worse, linebacker Jordan Hicks missed a point-blank interception thrown his way inside the Dallas 30-yard line.
Arizona had to jump-start its offense against a struggling Cowboys defense. A slow start like that next week, and the 5-0 Seattle Seahawks may not be so forgiving.
After the game, Murray showed pride in his teammates but was frustrated with himself. There were several moments in which Murray and his receivers were simply not on the same page. This happened at least once with DeAndre Hopkins, who only had two catches Monday. Murray finished 9-for-24.
"Just little detail things that we've got to clean up, which lead to incompletions or timing deals," Murray said. "I missed a throw to Hop(kins), which shouldn't happen. And then missed a throw to Larry (Fitzgerald). Just a lot of stuff left out there, a lot of opportunities left out there. Could have been a lot better."
The Cardinals commanded the game mostly through defense, running and a few deep passes. But, Murray wasn’t in a throwing rhythm at any point on Monday. He didn’t need to be to win with Arizona even scoring on a 79-yard touchdown drive that had no receptions.
But, missing receivers as often as Murray did showed it simply was not his night tossing the football.
As ESPN's Ed Werder, who was in Dallas, put it, Isabella appeared as if he couldn't locate the ball in the air. He was targeted twice early, both shots down the field. The first appeared that he didn’t adjust to the ball in the air. The second looked like a miscommunication that frustrated Murray. Isabella wasn’t targeted again. He's had four catches in the past three games.