Browns were a .500 football team with an outside chance of beating out the Steelers for a remaining AFC playoff spot. The Cardinals were in the thick of a losing streak; the latest loss being a 23 - 17 defeat at the hands of vs. the Steelers. The contest was being billed as a battle of two young mobile ex-Okie QBs (Mayfield and Murray). SIgnals coming out of Cardinal Hq suggested a degree of tension, with veteran OLB and team leader, Terrell Suggs, released from the Cardinal roster. Followers of the Cardinals would be correct to bill this contest as a "gut-check" game.
Cards Power Past Browns 38 - 24
The Bottom Line:
Consistent Cardinal game goal is to come out of the starting blocks full-speed and maintain that momentum throughout the balance of the contest. Unfortunately, they've struggled to successfully execute that strategy (i.e. either they'd come out sluggish or have their momentum wither after a quarter or two).
Today, it looked as if the Cardinals (who received the opening kickoff (after Clevelewand won the toss and deferred) would blow the Browns out of State Farm Stadium. They started fast and (with the exception of most of the 2nd quarter, when they took their foot off the proverbial pedal) kept the pressure on the Browns for prettty much the entire game
In this writer's opinion, Kyler Murray won the "battle of the young QB's"; executing the long game better and running for more ground yardage. Kenyan Drake pretty much "Seized" the starting RB job from David Johnson by scoring 4 TD's and gaining well over 100-yards. The "old Patrick Peterson" emerged, and it was more than evident by his play. Chris Jones - paired with Peterson at the other corner - made the Cardinal CB tandem tough to compete against. Odell Beckham was in a similar situation (with both fans and OJB calling for more production); but Peterson more than held his own against Beckham and the other Brown receivers,,
The thing that struck me most was that the Cardinal offense was just about unstoppable.- after numerous trips to the kitchen (for refills of food or beer) I'd return to the TV screen happy to discover that the Cardinals were inside the Browns 25, driving for yet another score (almost always a TD/ no need to settle for a FG).
Cards sustained a pretty consistent lead that generally averaged more than a TD - narrowing to 4 points late in the 2Q but widening to 21 points midway thru the final quarter of play. It was a satisfying workmanlike effort against an up and coming foe that some observers heralded as a potential Super Bowl contender.
Browns won the toss and deferred. Cards drew first blood, driving deep into Browns territory before Drake ran it in from 5 yds out. That was the only scoring in the 1Q, but the Cards tacked on another 7 on another Drake TD run.
It was here - with aq 14 - 0 lead - that we would traditionally worry that "the Cards would let their guard down. We were right. Midway thru the 2nd quarter, Nick Chubb brought the game back to 14 - 7 with a 33 yard TD run that had the Chubbster bouncing off Cardinal tacklers like a pinball. Browns followed that up with a 44 yd Seibert FG to narrow the Cardinal lead to 14 - 10.
This is where the Cardinal players rolled up their sleeves and put the game away. Murray hit our newest TD (Arnold) for a 6-yd TD pass to widen the Cardinal lead to 21 - 10 at halftime. The opening 3rd quarter possession often determines the outcome of close games. Browns received, and took the better part of the 3Q to narrow the Cardinal lead to 21 -17 on a 2-yd completion to former Cardinal TE Ricky Seals-Jones. But the Cards responded with a 1 yd TD run by Drake to make it 28 - 17 going into the 4Q.
Cards posted 10 more points in the 4Q to more than match another Brown TD - a second one from Seals-Jones. Final Score - 38 - 24 Cards.
2 games to go. They may seem "useless" to some players (& their agents) but you can't underestimate the value of winning a football game (i.e. any football game). Similarly, you can't underestimate the value of beating a Cleveland Browns team considered the "darlings of the NFL at the start of the season.
It would be healthy for our 'effort" players to consider the final two regular season games against the Rams and Seahawks" to be a "second preseason" - an opportunity for a player to convince the coaches that they belong to play essential roles on the Cardinal roster during the off-season and beyond.