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Vance Joseph Speaks Following Cardinals Win Over Browns

The defensive coordinator was thrown into head coaching duties on short notice this week.

Always expect the unexpected in the National Football League. 

That rings especially true during COVID times, and hits even harder for an Arizona Cardinals organization that has seen quite the change in personnel in the last 72 hours. 

The Cardinals expected to go into their meeting with the Cleveland Browns without outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID list Tuesday after testing positive. 

What Arizona didn't expect, however, was to lose more people just days prior to the game. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury, quarterbacks coach Cam Turner and defensive end Zach Allen were all dinged for testing positive Friday. 

Defensive lineman Corey Peters was also placed on the list Sunday morning. 

The Cardinals were thrown a curveball shortly before the team plane departed for Cleveland. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers were tasked with co-coaching the team in Kingsbury's absence. 

They hit that curveball out of the park. 

Arizona defeated Cleveland 37-14, seemingly not missing a beat despite all of their absences and the whirlwind that ensued the prior days. The victory pushed the Cardinals to 6-0 on the season. 

Following the game, Joseph spoke to media members and gave his thoughts on how the team handled adversity. 

"Obviously it's been a rough week, losing our head coach and losing a couple guys to COVID. It's been a up and down week but our team leaders were great all week. No one wavered, no one blinked, staff didn't blink. Every day, it was bad news. And no one blinked not one time," Joseph said. 

"Even yesterday, even (at) Saturday morning practice when the players knew that Kliff was down for the game. It was no worries. 

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"It was really exciting to go play a really good football team. This staff is amazing. It's a great football staff. It's our third year all together, that helps having continuity like this. And Kliff, obviously with his offense, has coaches to call it like he would call it so we didn't miss a beat offensively. 

"It was aggressive. It was the way Kliff would call the game. And obviously on defense I was there and Jeff (Rodgers) there on special teams so nothing was different from the first five weeks."

The Cardinals tallied 352 net yards and scored over 30 points for the fifth game this season. On the defensive side of the ball, Arizona limited the league's top rushing attack to just 73 yards rushing (their next lowest this season is 153). 

Without front seven members such as Jones, Allen or Peters, the Cardinals relied on a group effort that included practice squad member Jonathan Ledbetter. 

"Those young kids stepped up and played very well. It was a run day-first for us and that was the emphasis all week, to stop the running game. And that happened, and we made Baker (Mayfield) a passer and that was the goal," said Joseph.

Mayfield was sacked five times on Sunday, with linebackers Markus Golden and Jordan Hicks each reaching the quarterback twice. Defensive lineman J.J. Watt also notched the first of hopefully many sacks with the team. 

Joseph's biggest takeaway from the win?

His team's ability to control the clock down the stretch. Cleveland was held scoreless in the second half partially thanks to Arizona's ability to move the chains when called upon. 

"What was impressive was the last quarter, we burned about nine minutes just running the football," said Joseph. "That's a sign of a great offense, We can throw the ball obviously and score 30 points a game, but when it's time to screw it down and run the football and finish it on the field, that's impressive. That was very impressive."

Up next? The Houston Texans, who will travel to State Farm Stadium next week. 

It's unclear on if, when, or even how the team will be able to sort their current COVID issues out. 

However, Arizona's dominant display on Sunday showed the true fight and ability to push through adversity that we've been hearing from the locker room since training camp. It was only a matter of time until the rest of the league learned as well.