The New England Patriots have faced four of the top-seven rushing quarterbacks in the league. Of the three they have not, Cam Newton is on the team and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is next on the schedule.
Murray leads all quarterbacks with 619 rushing yards and 10 touchdown runs. He has the second-most 20-yard runs this year behind Cleveland running back Nick Chubb. He is also the first player in league history to total 6,000 passing yards and 1,100 rushing yards over his first 25 NFL games.
On a conference call with Arizona media on Monday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick described the challenge that defending him brings.
“He can hurt you in a lot of different ways," Belichick said. "He’s a fast, explosive player with a good arm. He’s in a good offensive system. Kliff (Kingsbury) puts a lot of pressure on him with the scheme that they run, the running game, the passing game, the RPOs (run-pass options), tempo. He gives you a lot of things to deal with."
Quarterbacks have been the Patriots’ opponents leading rusher in back-to-back games. Overall, the Patriots have seen the fourth-most rushes by a quarterback in the league. Scrambles hurt them Sunday when Houston’s Deshaun Watson ran for 32 yards in five scrambles.
Murray presents a new challenge for New England, but the Seattle Seahawks mapped out a way to stunt the Cardinals offense on Thursday, holding the previously top-rushing offense to 57 yards on the ground.
Penalties certainly put the Cardinals in rough spots to run, but running back Chase Edmonds mapped out what the Seahawks did that was so effective.
"They really played us in a solid look a lot of times against our run, looks meaning five defensive linemen, so that we couldn't really have key combo blocks going up to the second level," Edmonds said. "They did a great job of just dictating the line of scrimmage on that on the end."
Kingsbury also acknowledged that after Murray hurt his shoulder early in the game, the game plan was altered to keep him out of "harm's way."
Before this last week, Murray was rolling, having run for 60 or more yards in four straight games with five rushing touchdowns. However, the Seahawks held him to a season-low 15 yards on five carries. The Cardinals are 0-5-1 when he runs for less than 20 yards in his short career.
The New England defense also has the luxury of facing a mobile quarterback in Newton during each practice.
“We have some plays that are similar to plays with those type of players," Belichick said. "It’s different than what we’ve had in the past where we said that really wasn’t part of our offense. So we have seen some of those.”
Overall, the Patriots have defended running backs well over the last three weeks after inconsistent efforts in their previous seven games.
Kingsbury is prepared for Belichick to attempt to try and “take away” what the Cardinals do well. But, when asked about his plan regarding the New England defense, he pointed to what Arizona can do to prevent a duplicate lackluster performance from Week 11.
"A lot of the focus is going to be on us eliminating those negative plays," Kingsbury said. "If we have the same number of negative plays and penalties that we did last week, we won’t have a lot of success up there, and our guys know that. A lot of the focus is on us improving in those areas and making sure we’re playing downhill more this week.”