Their Week 3 game looked like it would be a home run for the Arizona Cardinals. A young Jacksonville Jaguars squad, almost entirely reliant on the fledgling arm of Trevor Lawrence, should have been easy pickings. But instead, the Jaguars momentarily were a real test for the Cardinals in Week 3.
Arizona improved to 3-0 this week after a mixed performance against Lawrence and the Jaguars, the 31-19 victory a somewhat gratuitous scoreline for Arizona. On the back of a handful of excellent individual performances, the Cardinals are still undefeated, but their latest showing was perhaps their least convincing of this young season.
Arizona Cardinals Manage a Week 3 Win Against Jacksonville Jaguars To Remain Undefeated
Cardinals Were Inconsistent
The Cardinals scored midway through the first quarter, and Byron Murphy’s red zone interception seemed to seize control for the Cardinals. However, the script changed when Arizona contributed arguably their worst sequence of drives so far this season. Consecutive punts, a missed field goal, and an interception preceded Jacksonville’s most dominant drive of the game, an eight-play, 75-yard drive consisting of only run plays. On the back of James Robinson and Carlos Hyde, the Jaguars marched down the field against an Arizona run defense that has been unable to replicate their Week 1 performance against the Tennessee Titans. Against the Cardinals, Jacksonville’s offense hinted at a balance not yet seen this season.
Arizona’s poor second quarter was accentuated by what was one of the highlight plays of the weekend. After he nailed a 62-yarder last week, Kliff Kingsbury sent Matt Prater out to try a 68-yarder. At only 16 feet in elevation, in that thick Florida air, Prater came up short, which, with zeroes on the clock, appeared to end the half. Except the half was not over; Jamal Agnew returned the missed field goal attempt for a 109-yard touchdown. With Kyler Murray throwing an interception on Arizona’s next offensive possession, Jacksonville seemingly had firm control of the game.
Shifting Momentum on Defense
After marching their way down the field 1950s-style, the Jaguars attempted a flea-flicker. But, when the Cardinals offensive line let J.J. Watt make a beeline for their quarterback, it did not really work out for Arizona. Trevor Lawrence had a man deep; the play could’ve been a home run. Instead, it gave Arizona the game. Byron Murphy, Arizona’s standout on defense, grabbed Lawrence’s errant check-down attempt for his second interception on the day and ran it back untouched for a pick-six. Jacksonville’s offense never recovered, punting and fumbling twice on their next three possessions to end the game.
Shutting down Lawrence’s arm talent was the key for Arizona on defense. The former Clemson quarterback demonstrated that talent when he hit D.J. Chark in the back of the endzone. Ultimately though, the Cardinals held up in pass coverage and the defense contributed to the win. Arizona’s secondary did a great job of taking away Lawrence’s deep shot, as well as coming up and tackling well on underneath throws. Jacksonville predictably continued to lack consistency on in-breaking routes and Jacob Hollister’s juggled ball gave Arizona their first turnover.
Lawrence played a solid game against Arizona but was let down by both his coaches and his receivers. Defensive scoring played a more significant role than initially expected, but capitalizing on Lawrence’s inexperience and, to be frank, the poor game management and play calling from Urban Meyer and Darrell Bevell ended up turning the game in Arizona’s favor.
Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, James Conner Quietly Contribute
DeAndre Hopkins is one of the NFL’s best receivers, and that has been reflected in the attention he’s received in the last two weeks. Last year, the Cardinals faltered when teams took away Hopkins. This year though, Arizona’s supporting cast is shouldering the load. A.J. Green’s production has slowly begun to ramp up this season after not being a factor in Week 1, and Sunday’s game proved he has still got it. He demonstrated a range of abilities on the outside, impressing fans on a long and contested completion downfield. Maybe Kyler Murray’s trust in Green will grow and the wide receiver’s role in the offense will continue to grow.
Christian Kirk hasn’t needed to earn Murray’s trust, but he’s definitely benefitting from it. Kirk is Murray’s guy in gotta-have-it situations. He has a league-high 93.0 receiving grade against man coverage, where Murray has targeted him frequently. Now fully entrenched in the slot, the Cardinals are getting the best out of their former second-rounder. He totaled 104 yards on the day, tying for the game lead in receptions. Meanwhile, running back James Conner chipped in with two touchdowns of his own; the first rushing touchdowns by anyone not named Kyler Murray for Arizona this season.
It wasn’t a convincing win, by any means. Arizona was inconsistent and that will not fly against a better team. However, a team can only beat what is in front of them, and Arizona managed to get the win. Trevor Lawrence showed real promise, but the Jaguars contributed to their own downfall and flea-flickered the game away. With the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, and Cleveland Browns coming up, this Cardinals Week 3 win was vital.