What Went Right for Cardinals in Sunday's Win

The Arizona Cardinals are 1-0 after a lopsided victory over the Titans.
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The Cardinals went on the road against a 2020 division winner and walked away with the second-most lopsided victory since head coach Kliff Kingsbury took over in 2019. 

Arizona defeated the Tennessee Titans 38-13 on Sunday, a victory that took all three phases coming together to accomplish. 

The Cardinals defense was brilliant against one of the league's most potent offenses from 2020.

Arizona's offense overcame a couple of stumbles and showed immense potential, especially quarterback Kyler Murray.

"We've been counted out so many times and we just wanted to come out and set the tone early," wide receiver Christian Kirk said in his postgame press conference. "I was just really happy with how we came in and how the guys fought all the way to the end. And we were able to secure a statement win."

What went right

Chandler Jones

Jones set the tone for the defense on the first two possessions of the season. 

The Titans handed the ball to Derrick Henry, a wrecking ball of a running back who gained over 2,000 yards last season, on the first play. 

Jones wrapped him up for a loss, and two plays later, Tennessee had to punt. 

When the Titans got the ball next, Jones went untouched rushing from the weak side and stripped quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was rolling out on play-action. Nose tackle Corey Peters picked up the ball and ran inside the Titans 1-yard line. Arizona scored its first touchdown soon after.

Jones set a career high with five sacks Sunday which he paired with two forced fumbles. 

"It was epic, I think it was one for the ages," safety Budda Baker said of Jones' performance. 

He hit the quarterback six times and was so dominant that Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan tweeted this after the game:

In the press conferences, the Cardinals were not surprised. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said he has to take Jones out of practice sometimes because he is unblockable and does not let the offense get its proper work. 

Jones missed most of the 2020 season after he tore his biceps in Week 5. He made a loud reintroduction on Sunday. 

The rest of the defense

Jones was the standout, but there were strong performances across the defense in Week 1.

The Titans were second in the league in yards last season and fourth in points with an average of 30.7 per game. Arizona held them to 248 yards with their 13 points. 

Henry gained 58 yards on 17 rushes and had only eight yards at halftime on nine attempts. He had only one game with fewer than 60 yards last season. 

The front seven came together in collapsing on the run and putting pressure on Tannehill. 

Defensive end J.J. Watt's presence was a difference-maker. 

Inside linebacker Jordan Hicks played a lot despite not being a starter, and he was key to stopping the run. 

Second-year linebacker Isaiah Simmons knocked away two passes and intercepted another.

The defensive line's success put less pressure on the secondary, but the Cardinals defensive backs stepped up too. 

Cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. shut down whomever he guarded with three pass breakups and tight coverage. Even rookie Marco Wilson held his own against All-Pro receiver Julio Jones. 

"Seeing the work that we put in before the season and then training camp, you kind of know when everybody gets everything running, everybody does their job at a high premium," Baker said.

The Cardinals forced long third-down attempts and turnovers, which was exactly what they set out to do. Tennessee was 5-for-14 on third down 1-for-3 on fourth down.

Kyler Murray

The Cardinals quarterback became the second player in team history to throw for four touchdowns and run for another, per ESPN Stats and Info. 

Murray was not fully healthy down the stretch last year as he dealt with a shoulder injury and then injured his leg in the season-ending loss to the Rams. He looked as sharp as ever on Sunday.

His ability to improvise was special, especially on this play:

When asked about that play afterward, Kingsbury joked, "Great play call, wasn't it? Fantastic."

Not only does Murray run around to extend the play, but he has the awareness to stop, set and make an accurate throw. Whether he was pressured or not, Murray was accurate with his throws all game. His only real blemish was an interception he threw in the third quarter. 

Murray also utilized his arsenal, targeting DeAndre Hopkins six times, Kirk five, as well as Rondale Moore and Chase Edmonds four times. 

On the ground, Murray picked his spots. He carried the ball five times for 20 yards. The Cardinals used his running ability to be productive, but did not rely on it to move the ball. 

Murray finished with 289 passing yards and four touchdown passes.