Start believing in the Arizona Cardinals.
They remain the NFL’s only unbeaten team at 6-0 – and four of those victories have come on the road. The schedule now swings in their favor with six of their remaining 11 games at home. Three of those road victories scored high in degree-of-difficulty against opponents with Super Bowl aspirations – the Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams and, last weekend, the Cleveland Browns.
And the Cardinals beat the Browns – whipped them, in fact – with one arm tied behind their back. That’s because Arizona visited Cleveland without head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who stayed home in Covid protocol. Quarterback coach Cam Turner also remained home. Not that it mattered. Kyler Murray executed their offense to perfection, throwing four touchdown passes in a 37-14 victory.
“No one wavered, no one blinked,” said Arizona’s interim head coach Vance Joseph. “The staff didn’t blink. Every day it was bad news and no one blinked – not one time. Even Saturday morning at practice when the players knew that Kliff was down for the game, there were no worries. There was really an excitement to go play a really good football team. The boys performed. Nothing was different from the first five weeks.”
The Cardinals sacked Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield five times and harassed him into three turnovers -- an interception and two fumbles. Murray threw his touchdown passes to three different receivers and Arizona possessed the football for almost 35 minutes.
“I think we were excited,” Murray said. “The odds seemed kind of stacked against us. It was pretty much an opportunity to come out here and prove ourselves against a good team. We prepared well for them. It is on us to give them our best.”
The Cardinals now play three of their next four games at home. The Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers visit the next two weekends.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. No one shuffles the deck like the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens felt good about their depth at running back heading into training camp last summer with J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. All were holdovers from the NFL’s top-ranked rushing attack in 2020. But the Ravens lost all three to injuries before the start of the season – Dobbins and Edwards with knees and Hill with a ruptured Achilles tendon. So the Ravens signed three veteran Pro Bowl running backs to replace them – Le’Veon Bell, DeVonta Freeman and Latavius Murray. All three rushed for touchdowns Sunday in a blowout victory over the Chargers and the Ravens again boast the best ground game in football.
2. Owner Shad Khan should ask the NFL for more overseas home dates for his Jacksonville Jaguars. Since 2013, the Jaguars have posted a 20-41 record in home games played in Jacksonville. But since 2013, the NFL has annually scheduled Jacksonville a “home” game in London. The Jaguars improved their “home” record in London to 4-4 with a 23-20 victory Sunday over the Miami Dolphins. So, the Jaguars have won 32.8 percent of their home games in Jacksonville since 2013 but 50 percent of their “home” games in London.
3. If this was soccer, the New York Giants would be in danger of relegation. The Giants were crushed at home Sunday by the Los Angeles Rams, 38-11…and the game wasn’t as close as the score. The Giants are now 1-5, having lost their last two games by a combined 51 points. New York’s best running back (Saquon Barkley) is sidelined by injury as is its best wide receiver (Kenny Golladay). QB Daniel Jones has not thrown a TD pass in three of his last four games. This is a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2016. It’s is a franchise that has forgotten how to win. Maybe Ted Lasso is the answer.
4. There is no longer a home-field advantage in the NFL. Road teams won more games last NFL season (128) than home teams (127). The logical explanation was the lack of crowds in a Covid-riddled season. With empty buildings there was no noise, no home field advantage. Well, there are crowds this season. There is noise. But there still isn’t a home field advantage. Through six weeks road teams have compiled a 50-43 record.
5. Forget Deflategate – check these footballs for helium. Nine punters this weekend averaged better than 50 yards per kick – and some were closer to 60 than 50. Washington’s Tress Way averaged 58 yards, Las Vegas’ A.J. Cole 57 yards and Green Bay’s Corey Bojorquez 56 yards. The league average last season was 45.6 yards.
FOURTH AND 10
1. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson Sunday became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to win 35 games. He’s now 35-8 as a starter and doesn’t turn 25 until January. Dan Marino won 34 games and Drew Bledsoe 32 by the age of 25.
2. Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs returned his second interception for a touchdown this season Sunday against New England. The Cowboys have won both games that Diggs has scored. League-wide, NFL: teams are 10-3 this season when they return an interception for a touchdown.
3. Matthew Wright became the 10th different NFL kicker to win a game this season with a field goal on the final play of a game, booting a 53-yarder at the gun to give Jacksonville a 23-20 victory over Miami.
4. Daniel Jones became the 10th different quarterback to throw 50 passes in a game this season. Tom Brady and Dak Prescott have both done it twice. Quarterbacks who have thrown 50-plus passes this season are a combined 3-9 record. Brady, Derek Carr and Prescott have been the only winners. Brady, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Prescott have been among the losers.
5. There were seven new head coaches hired in the NFL this season. Dan Campbell of the Detroit Lions is the only one still looking for his first victory. His Lions are the league’s only winless team at 0-6.
6. Referee Alex Kemp and his crew have officiated five NFL games this season. The home team has lost all five of those games. The New York Giants became the latest to lose Sunday with Kemp on their field.
7. Matthew Stafford posted two 4-TD pass games in his final three seasons with the Detroit Lions. He already has two 4-TD games in his first six games with the Los Angeles Rams.
8. The Kansas City Chiefs have gone consecutive games now without a sack on defense. That’s 65 passes without trapping the quarterback. No other team in the NFL this season has gone back-to-back games without a sack.
9. Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow has thrown at lest two touchdown passes in all six of his games this season. The only other quarterback who has thrown at least two TD passes every game is Patrick Mahomes.
10. Rich Bisaccia became the sixth interim head coach in Raiders history but only the second to win his debut game. Bisaccia coached Las Vegas to a 34-24 road victory Sunday over the Denver Broncos. The only other interim coach in franchise history to win his first game was Art Shell in 1989. Bisaccia stepped in after the resignation of Jon Gruden.
STAT THAT MAY INTEREST ONLY ME
Kirk Cousins, Justin Herbert and Dak Prescott all threw their first 1-yard touchdown passes of the season Sunday. Aaron Rodgers already has four of them – this after leading the league with eight such 1-yard TD tosses in 2020. In comparison, NFL runnerup Russell Wilson had four 1-yard touchdown passes in 2020, Josh Allen and Tom Brady three apiece and Patrick Mahomes two. Defensive scouting report on the Packers – when Green Bay gets to the 1, forget the run.
STAT THAT MAY INTEREST ONLY YOU
The New England Patriots are winless at home, having lost all four of their games at Gillette Stadium. You have to go back to 2000 – Tom Brady’s rookie season when he rode the bench as the team’s fourth-string quarterback – to find the last time the Patriots lost four times at home. They finished 3-5 in Foxboro that year. Then the dynasty began in 2001.
STAT THAT MAY INTEREST BOTH OF US
Urban Meyer loves to play Miami. In 2008, he beat the Miami Hurricanes as the head coach at Florida. In 2012, he beat Miami of Ohio as the head coach at Ohio State. And last Sunday he defeated the NFL Miami Dolphins as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. His only loss to a Miami team came in 2001, in his very first season as a head football coach at Bowling Green. Ben Roethlisberger passed Miami of Ohio to a 24-21 victory over Meyer’s Falcons that day. Meyer is 3-0 against the various Miamis he has played since then.
GOLD JACKET QUOTE
“I think we lost to a good team today. This is a perennial division champion, a perennial playoff team that’s been to the playoffs 13 of the 14 years John Harbaugh has been head coach. They won a Super Bowl. This is a championship caliber team with an NVP quarterback. I think that’s what happened today. They outplayed us and outcoached us” – Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley after a 34-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens
GOLD JACKET RECIPIENT
Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins. The Vikings were a three-point underdog at Carolina but Cousins passed for 373 yards and three touchdowns in the upset. Twenty-seven of those yards came on the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime against the Panthers. It was the fourth time in six games this season Cousins has played turnover-free for the Vikings, who evened their record at 3-3 with the victory. Cousins also avoided any sacks for the first time this season in 48 pass attempts. He threw that 27-yard game winner to K.J. Osborn for a 34-28 victory. He also tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to WR Adam Thielen and a 2-yarder to TE Chris Herndon. Cousins now has 13 TD passes this season against only two interceptions.