Field Position Battle Key in Arizona Cardinals Week 13 Victory

field position battle

Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears projects to be the only cold-weather game this season for the Arizona Cardinals, but oh, was it cold. The weather, a chilly 39°F at kickoff, brought rain and wind that threatened the efficiency of both teams on offense. Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury noted after the game that the adverse conditions played a role in his play-calling. He also added that the weather wiped out ‘a significant portion’ of his playsheet. In the end, Kingsbury’s offense put up 33 points and won the game, but it was thanks in no small part to Arizona’s dominance in the field position battle.

In truth, Arizona’s defense won the game for the Cardinals, giving their situationally-limited offense favorable situations to begin the game; it wasn’t until their third possession that the Cardinals took a snap on their side of the field. Dominating the field position battle in all phases of the game ostensibly won the day for Arizona.

Arizona’s Offense Takes Advantage of Defensive Dominance Against Chicago

Field Position Battle Eased Arizona’s Offensive Load

Arizona’s biggest luxury heading into Sunday was the return of their two best offensive players; Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins came back in after a month out injured. It was unclear how Arizona would deploy the duo after a long lay-off, but when his offense started their first possession at the opposition 29, Kingsbury was afforded the opportunity to take some risks.

Owing to the less-than-ideal weather, and the need to bring Murray and Hopkins back into the fold gradually, throwing a 21-yard touchdown pass on a 4th-and-2 to open the game is the only logical approach, right? Yes, because Kingsbury knows what he’s got at his disposal; Murray looked like he didn’t miss a beat, and Hopkins remains the best wideout in the NFL. Kingsbury was also quick to note, per Hopkins’ touchdown, that if Hopkins is on the field, he will always be the number one option. He pulled it down, the Cardinals got rolling, and the offense never looked back in one of the quietest 33-point showings you’ll ever see.

Outside of scoring, the performance wasn’t statistically loud; Kyler Murray threw for a season-low in both attempts and yardage. Understandably, the weather played a prominent role. There may have also been some sense of easing Murray back in after a month out. Yet, in truth, with several short fields to work with, dominance in the field position battle left Arizona’s offense with little to do to beat the Bears.

Cardinals Comfortable In Ground-and-Pound Approach

This is Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense. With Murray at the helm, the Cardinals fling the ball all over the field. However, in Chicago, Arizona only attempted 15 passes. There are a bunch of mitigating factors, weather included, but James Conner was always expected to play a significant role in Sunday’s game.

Aside from a one-handed touchdown grab, Conner’s game had few fireworks, much like the rest of the offense. However, with 20 attempts, he narrowly missed out on a season-high in single-game carries. Regardless, out of either necessity or strategy, the Cardinals demonstrated a clear focus on running the ball in Chicago. Murray put aside any doubts about his lingering ankle injury with 10 carries and two rushing touchdowns of his own, whilst Rondale Moore and Eno Benjamin also had small contributions. All in all, much to the delight of Arizona’s offensive line, the Cardinals ran the ball 35 times.

The Cardinals were allowed the luxury of running the ball in a game where the weather effectively removed the potential for field-flipping offensive plays. Controlling the game on the ground down the stretch, the Cardinals continued to exhibit why Arizona is a top rushing side in the NFL.

Defense Won Field Position Battle, and The Game

The offense put up 33 points, whilst the defense technically scored none, but Arizona’s defense won this game. Fond memories of terrorizing Andy Dalton in 2020 came back to the forefront quickly against Chicago. Back-to-back picks on the first two possessions by Jalen Thompson and Budda Baker set an unfortunate precedent for Dalton, forced to throw the ball more as Chicago chased Arizona. Two more picks followed, from Byron Murphy and lineman Zach Allen, all four setting the Cardinals up in Chicago territory.

There was some trouble defending the run, which is becoming an alarming theme. Still, the Bears were contained by a defense that played well overall. Jordan Hicks continued a convenient habit of being everywhere, quietly leading the team in both tackles and sacks. He earned himself a game ball for his typically underappreciated efforts.

Arizona dominated the field position battle in all phases of the game; the offense took advantage of the opportunities given to them by a turnover-hungry defense. Their focus and execution carried over to special teams, with veteran punter Andy Lee launching a bomb that Arizona downed at the 1-yard line. In a game of unfortunate circumstance, the Cardinals made their own favorable situations and marched out of Chicago with a promising win. 10-2, on to Los Angeles.

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