The Arizona Cardinals are now 7-0 on the season after defeating the Houston Texans 31-5 Sunday afternoon at State Farm Stadium. Quarterback Kyler Murray had three touchdown passes. Linebacker Markus Golden had a pair of sacks and both forced and recovered a fumble.
The defense was great again and the offense overcame a shaky start to put up numbers on par with the rest of the season so far.
It was a game they should have won and they did.
What can we take away from the game? Below are our Week 7 observations and takeaways.
A change at kick returner
(AP Photo/Matt Patterson)
It was a minor change, but running back Eno Benjamin handled kick return duties instead of rookie receiver Rondale Moore. Benjamin was active only for the second time in his career.
It will be interesting to see if this continues, as it could signal an increased role for Moore on offense.
The Texans got after Kyler Murray
As bad as the Texans have been this season, they gave Murray the most physical game he has faced this season.
Murray was sacked a season-high four times and hit or tackled other times that were flagged for penalties. He also had a tougher time getting free from their rushers than against other teams.
He even had to go to the medical tent a couple of times. One came after he was tackled for a safety (and the officials missed an obvious facemask penalty).
Murray was unconcerned about how he would feel leading into the Thursday night game with a short week.
The Cardinals had an interesting early offensive game plan
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
They began the game with six pass plays. Against the second-worst rush defense in the league, one would think they would have tried to establish that early. That was not the case and, with the pressure they were getting early, perhaps it led to the early shaky offensive play.
The defense was still great
Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic
The Cardinals entered the game with the No. 2 scoring defense in the league. Allowing five points (only three of which came against the defense) will only improve that.
They did not allow any second-half points.
They held the Texans to 2-for-13 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down.
They forced another turnover.
They allowed only 160 total yards.
Everything about their defensive play was great.
The pass rush was great, although the numbers didn't show it
Markus Golden had the Cardinals’ only two sacks of the game and they only got credit for five quarterback hits on Davis Mills.
However, they were in Mills’ face all game.
Twice when Mills was in the grasp of Cardinals defenders, he managed to get the ball away, and Devon Kennard had a sack nullified by an illegal contact penalty down the field.
Zach Ertz was immediately impactful
(AP Photo/Darryl Webb)
Ertz was impactful in the game.
He had a 47-yard touchdown catch. He showed he had ball skills and the ability to move better than Maxx Williams in the open field.
He was tied with the team lead with 66 receiving yards on three receptions. He could have had three touchdowns. Kyler Murray misfired on a throw to him where he was open and would have scored, and he just missed rushing for a touchdown, coming up a yard short of the goalline.
There was another snap issue
Max Garcia has played well at center while Rodney Hudson has been out, but there have been hiccups. Last week, there were a pair of bad snaps. There was another on Sunday that led to a big loss in the first quarter. Those are harder to overcome against teams like the 6-1 Green Bay Packers.
Markus Golden is balling
Golden had two sacks for the second week in a row and now has six on the season, giving him the team lead.
Considering the contract he is on (two years, $5 million), they are getting incredible value for him.
The starters didn't have to play a full game
With a short week and a game on Thursday, the Cardinals will have to quickly recover and bounce back. Many of the starters were able to come out of the game early because of the big lead.
Defensive starters Budda Baker, J.J. Watt, Jordan Hicks, Isaiah Simmons, Jalen Thompson, Byron Murphy and Jordan Phillips all got fewer snaps than they would have because of the game.
Kyler Murray didn’t come out until the final drive, but DeAndre Hopkins got a few extra snaps of rest.
We will see the actual snap counts on Monday to see how much rest they got.