Keys to a Cardinals victory over Browns in Week 6
The Arizona Cardinals take on the Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon on the road with a number of recent obstacles. A breakout of COVID-19 on the team has two players (LB Chandler Jones and DT Zach Allen), two coaches (head coach Kliff Kingsbury and QB coach Cam Turner) and the general manager Steve Keim all unable to make the trip.
But as of now, the game is going to be played and the Cardinals did not have any more positive tests, so the focus turns to the actual game.
What do the Cardinals need to do to improve to 6-0 and defeated the Browns for the fifth straight time?
Make Cleveland one-dimensional
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With Browns running back Nick Chubb being ruled out, the burden of stopping the league’s best rushing offense got a little easier. Reserve running back Kareem Hunt, however, is no slouch.
For the season, Hunt has rushed for 295 yards on 55 carries, a 5.4 per attempt average, and five touchdowns. On any other team, he would easily be considered a feature back.
The best recipe to have Cleveland abandon the run game is for the Cardinals to get early stops and go up early. The Browns’ passing game is much less a threat than their game on the ground. While Baker Mayfield has put up 1,240 yards, he has only thrown four touchdown passes, two of which came during last week’s 47-42 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Cardinals have outscored their opponents 38-24 in the first quarter and 89-55 through the first half. Down two or more scores could have the Browns on their heels for the remainder of the game.
Protect Kyler Murray
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Last week, the 49ers were able to get enough pressure on Kyler Murray to make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket. It was, in no small part, the reason why the offense showed its first struggles moving the ball. Murray also sustained a shoulder injury, one similar to what he sustained last season. That injury derailed an otherwise promising 2020 season. The No. 1 key to Arizona’s success will be behind the arm talent of Murray. His health is undoubtedly their first priority.
Max Garcia will replace Rodney Hudson at the center position. Garcia performed admirably last week subbing for Hudson who left the game due to a ribs injury. But the intangibles Hudson brings have made the difference in the protections, which include recognizing coverages and zero blitzes, and calling those out. Hudson has undoubtedly provided a stable influence for the offensive line as well as Murray.
Overcome recent adversity
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It was bound to happen. Every season and every team faces some level of adversity they must overcome in order to achieve greatness. This Sunday will be, by far, the Cardinals’ toughest challenge yet.
Positive COVID tests have ravaged the Cardinals players and staff. Chandler Jones and Zach Allen have both been ruled out. Coaches Kliff Kingsbury and Cam Turner, will not be on the sidelines. General Manager Steve Keim will also miss the trip to Cleveland.
Under NFL COVID rules, the Cardinals will now be subject to intense protocols which include daily testing. Kingsbury and Turner’s absence means, for the first time in his career, Kyler Murray will not have a familiar voice calling in the plays.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports Kliff Kingsbury is scripting as much as he can and, MMQB’s Albert Breer is reporting Sean Kugler will be calling the plays.
However this shakes out, how the team handles the losses in personnel will say a lot about what they have in the locker room.
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