Two teams headed in two different directions faced off on Sunday, but the trajectory changed a bit when the Arizona Cardinals landed a convincing 26-7 victory over the the New York Giants. The former was sitting at 5-7 and atop the NFC East, looking to upset another NFC West opponent after stunning the Seattle Seahawks on the road last week, while Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals desperately needed a win after losing three straight and falling to 6-6 in a hyper-competitive division. The game began as a defensive bar fight, with both Murray and Daniel Jones unable to get much going for their respective teams, but that changed as the game rolled along.
And linebacker Haason Reddick had a lot to do with it, delivering a franchise- and career-best five sacks on the day.
Despite being the best red zone offense in the entire NFL, the Cardinals saw their first three trips to the red zone shut down -- delivering only two field goals -- before things finally swung wildly in their favor. A forced fumble followed the second field goal, one that will be a headline this week due to linebacker Kylie Fitts kicking the ball out of the hands of Dion Lewis (illegal, but not reviewable if missed in real time), giving the Cardinals a fourth trip to the red zone. They'd capitalize with a seven-yard touchdown toss from Murray to tight end Dan Arnold to stretch the lead to 13 points.
Two turnovers by the Giants turned into 10 points for the Cardinals in the first half, and the Cardinals defense didn't let up on Jones after halftime. He'd go on to fumble three times in the game -- although he lost just one -- and was rattled throughout, to the point backup Colt McCoy was seen warming up on the sidelines at one point, eventually taking the field with the game well out of hand in the waning moments. The Giants couldn't get going in the air, save for one nearly pivotal 39-yard reception by Golden Tate that set up the team's only touchdown, and were just as impotent in the rushing attack.
In a contest that saw the Cardinals never trail, they finally bring their losing streak to an end and help their odds in the chase for an NFC wild card berth. For the Giants, it's all about rebounding in Week 16 to stay at the top of a bad division.
Why the Cardinals won
The last time you saw this many sacks, you were looking in Santa's warehouse.
Anytime a player can get to the opposing quarterback five times in a single game, odds are his team will walk away victorious. And what was witnessed on Sunday was Reddick going on an absolute tear, setting a career-high mark but also the franchise record for most sacks in a game. He had six QB hits on the day and all five of his tackles were sacks, with the Cardinals ending the day having eight sacks in all, thanks to contributions in the category from linebackers Markus Golden (1) and Dennis Gardeck (2). The relentless pressure on Jones stranded the Giants passing attack on the tarmac, and stout interior defensive line play combined with never once playing from behind on the scoreboard to help nix the New York rushing attack.
Two turnovers in the first half, eight sacks on Jones en route to the young QB throwing for just 127 yards and no touchdowns on 11 completions, and holding a promising talent in Wayne Gallman, Jr. to 57 rushing yards solidified an impressive win by the Cardinals.
Why the Giants lost
Well, it surely was not because of their defense.
That's the only unit that played like they thought they were capable of winning a very winnable game, but they got little to no help from Jones and the offense. Time and again, the Giants suffered through shortened offensive drives that continuously thrust their defense back onto the field with little rest. That eventually caused noticeable fatigue after essentially shutting down an electric Murray for almost the entire first half -- the Cardinals owning time of possession in a big way. To that point, the Giants wound up possessing the ball only 22 minutes and eight seconds of a possible 60, losing the TOP fight in embarrassing fashion while allowing the Cardinals to control the clock for 37 minutes and 52 seconds.
So if you're wondering why you began seeing Murray finally tear off drive-extending runs and get off the plays downfield he wasn't able to connect on in the first half, you have your answer. The special teams fumble will remain a controversial topic going forward but, even without it, the Cardinals likely win this game big because their offense had no answers for Reddick's onslaught.
It wouldn't be a Giants game without a bit of controversy, and here it is. It's illegal to kick the ball out of a ball-carrier's hands to force a fumble, but that's what linebacker Kylie Fitts did to Dion Lewis on this kick return. Unfortunately for New York, it's not a reviewable offense, and so the Cardinals took possession in the red zone to score their first touchdown of the day -- putting them up 13-0 just ahead of an otherwise stellar defensive two quarters by the Giants.
They never looked back from here.
Play of the game
This sack-fumble not only set the tone for the day early, but the fact it came at the hands of Markus Golden -- the former Giants linebacker who led the team in sacks in 2019 -- made it that much sweeter for Arizona. It was the first sack on Jones, but far from the last.
The Cardinals look to string together back-to-back wins in the NFC East when they host the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15, while the Giants look to bounce back against the surging Cleveland Browns on primetime.
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