Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but it's OK to admit how impressive of a feat it was to see an Arizona Cardinals team led by a first-year NFL coach and a rookie quarterback push the undefeated San Francisco 49ers to the limit on Thursday Night Football. The near-upset that ended with a 28-25 final score was due in large part to the newly-acquired Kenyan Drake, who had himself a day against one of the best defenses in the league.
Drake, who was traded to the Cardinals by the Miami Dolphins ahead of the NFL deadline in exchange for a conditional 2020 sixth-round pick, amassed 162 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in his debut with Arizona. That's good enough for the second-highest output of his four-year career, and his best since a Dec. 11, 2017 against the New England Patriots, when he led the Dolphins to victory on the heels of a 193-yard day from scrimmage.
That's the version of Drake head coach Kliff Kingsbury was hoping would show up in the desert, and not the iteration that struggled to put up numbers in a floundering Miami offense.
He got his wish.
"I think his skill set is perfect for what we do," Kingsbury said following the nailbiter against the Niners, via the team's website. "He's explosive, he runs tough. For him to come in and learn an entire game plan, and we didn't pull anything back. We knew we'd have to call our best game against those guys."
Kingsbury wasn't the only one impressed, with rookie first-overall pick Kyler Murray echoing the sentiment in a big way.
"Super impressed," Murray said of Drake. "To be honest, I kind of felt or knew what he was capable of. Everybody's situations are different, but in this offense I felt like if he just felt comfortable enough to understand the plays and concepts, he would thrive."
Drake turned 15 carries into 110 yards and a rushing touchdown, and he reeled in all four of his receiving targets to tack on another 52 yards in the air -- second-most behind wideout Andy Isabella. It took him no time at all to acclimate to the Cardinals playbook, and it helps that they immediately made him a focal point of their offense from minute one.
"Coach Kingsbury told me he was going to get me the ball," Drake noted. "I didn't know to what degree, but to go out here, make plays and help this team win games, that's what I'm here for. They went out and gave an asset for me, so regardless of the short week they expected me to come in and produce and help this team win games. I took it upon myself to do my part.
"... All I had to do was come in and learn the game plan. It wasn't like they threw the book at me. It was a specific game plan we had to work on. I came here and just tried to make the plays that were there."
Make plays he most certainly did, while instantly looking like a trade steal in the process. The 25-year-old is in the last year of a rookie deal that doesn't carry a fifth-year option, by virtue of him having been a third-round pick, but if he continues this level of play he'll have multiple suitors to land his services in free agency in 2020.
And you can be sure the Cardinals will be one of them.