Undefeated Arizona Cardinals Dispatch Houston Texans in Expected Blowout

Zach Ertz
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The undefeated Arizona Cardinals headed into Sunday’s meeting with the Houston Texans as 19-point favorites, one of the larger spreads in NFL history. The 1-5 Texans had next to no chance in a road game against the league’s only still-perfect team. The final score of 31-5, a Scorigami, ultimately indicated the gulf between the two sides.

Arizona’s offense seemingly sat out the first quarter, even giving up a safety, so the Texans crept out to a tenuous 5-0 lead before Arizona’s 31 unanswered points did the business. However, the Texans were understandably poor on offense, and Arizona’s defense held them without a touchdown, an impressive feat in the modern game. It certainly wasn’t the cleanest game from the Cardinals; there should be particular concern about how the offensive line played. Yet Arizona expectedly blew out the Texans to improve to 7-0, preserving the NFL’s only perfect record in 2021.

Undefeated Arizona Cardinals Destroy Houston Texans in Week 7

Nit-Picking On Offense

Now, the Cardinals won by a significant margin. They eclipsed 30 points for the sixth time this season, and Kyler Murray did a routinely excellent job of using all of the weapons he has at his disposal. There’s not too much wrong with an offense that scores 30 points and, for the most part, Sunday’s Cardinals were pretty good.

What the final score doesn’t show, though, is Kyler Murray having to run around like a lunatic, a la 2020. His offensive line clearly didn’t like the meal he treated them to earlier this week. Now, the offensive line is missing its best pound-for-pound player in Rodney Hudson, but Arizona still had four starters out there against Houston. The Texans totaled four sacks and four QB hits on Murray, who took some bad losses trying to create plays.

Second-year guard Josh Jones, who recently kicked inside from tackle, had a relatively poor day. Maliek Collins was Houston’s most threatening player, swimming and spinning his way through Jones on several occasions. He blew Murray’s head off more than once and briefly sent Arizona’s quarterback to the blue medical tent. Jones owes his quarterback more than a meal this week.

Murray figured it out in the end, but he was hit more against Houston than he has been all year. That’s not ideal, especially on a short week. Murray’s durability has been questioned frequently and losing their quarterback cost Arizona in 2020. Murray has developed his game to protect himself and continue to thrive, but his offensive line has to keep up.

Arizona’s Passing Attack ‘Ertz’ Houston

Murray was excellent, as usual, despite an underwhelming performance from his linemen. The connection with DeAndre Hopkins was there all day, with A.J. Green and Christian Kirk playing their part in a 261-yard passing day for Murray. He did throw his first pick since Week 3, but three touchdown passes more than made up for it.

Although Hopkins led the team in targets with seven, it was actually new acquisition Zach Ertz who tied for the team lead in receiving yards against the Texans. Brought in to replace the fallen Maxx Williams, Ertz demonstrated his ability to be a dynamic receiving threat from the tight end spot. His touchdown, a 47-yard catch and run, was not only his first in a Cardinals uniform but the longest of his storied nine-year career so far. He might not be the blocker that Williams is, but Ertz adds yet another lethal weapon to an already ruthless Arizona passing game.

Undefeated Arizona Cardinals Have a Top Caliber Defense

Again, it’s only the Texans, but holding a team to only five points in a game is exceptional. They have two rookies in starting roles and haven’t had Chandler Jones for the last two weeks, yet they’ve held the Cleveland Browns in check and suffocated the Texans.

The Texans had rookie Davis Mills in at quarterback. He’s definitely improved throughout the year, but looked exactly like the third-round rookie starter that he is. It doesn’t help when Brandin Cooks, far and away Houston’s best weapon, is dropping the ball, but without the deep-shot to Cooks in play, the Texans had nothing. Arizona did a consistent job of coming up and tackling well, exploiting the forced simplicity of Houston’s offensive scheme.

Markus Golden is perhaps the most underappreciated player on this team, but this week, he’s getting his props. In the absence of Jones, Golden has been the focal point of Arizona’s pass rush, and has been their best defensive player over the last two weeks. Against Houston, he led the team in both sacks, with two, and QB hits, with three. Adding another tackle for loss to his stat sheet, Sunday was a great day for the “Junkyard Dog.” If he can continue this production when Jones returns, there’s a chance the pair can replicate their record-breaking 2016 season.

The Texans were a stepping stone this week; the Cardinals dispatched them in the manner of a 7-0 team with bigger fish to fry. On a short week, facing one of their most dangerous opponents in the Packers in a few days, getting past the Texans was a formality handled excellently. On to Green Bay.

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