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Trey McBride Makes An Early Mark, And Falcons Aftermath

Trey McBride asked if he could sit down in his locker while doing an interview. It had been a minute since he had been, if not playing that many snaps, certainly used as much in the offense and absorbing the correlating punishment.

Ten targets later, with seven catches and 78 yards and his first NFL TD, McBride took a breath. It has been a rocky first season, mostly because he was forced into playing a big role when Zach Ertz went down. But his play is starting to look like a reason why the Cardinals would've spent a second-round pick on him.

"I feel like I know exactly what's going to happen," McBride said.

Tight end has been a spot underutilized by the Cardinals over the years. I mean, the last time they had a 100-yard receiving game from the position came from Rob Awalt back in 1989 against the Cowboys. But if McBride develops like this, and you add Ertz back in next year, it should be a position of strength.

"(Trey) has got a long way to go, but the skillset is there," coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

And that's where we are in the season right now anyway – figuring out what steps young players might be able to take to become core pieces of the roster.

-- Kingsbury said he sees DeAndre Hopkins as part of the roster in 2023, as the speculation starts to stir about the 30-year-old wideout (who does not have guaranteed money in his contract going forward). Hopkins missed the game Sunday with a knee issue that kept him out of practice Friday, and Kingsbury said he did not know if Hopkins was going to be available to play against the 49ers in the finale.

"His knee was acting up, the one he had surgery on," Kingsbury said. "We just need to be cautious.

"We haven't been able to utilize as much as we would've liked but he's a guy who has been a big part of this offense. He's missed some games the last two years but we know what he looks like when he's healthy and rolling."

-- If Hollywood Brown's arm injury is something – and Kingsbury certainly didn't dismiss it after the game – the Cardinals could be down another key offensive player. Brown played well Sunday, with six catches for 61 yards and drew a 40-yard pass interference.

-- Matt Prater has been excellent, and his four field goals were crucial again Sunday. The 57-yarder to take the final Cardinals lead was clutch again, even if the defense couldn't hold. But Prater was thinking about the four. He was thinking about the one.

"I'm pretty confident right now," Prater said. "But the one I'm thinking about is the one I missed. That's more what I am thinking about.

That was 43-yarder late in the third quarter that would've extended the Cardinals' lead to five. Prater did extend his NFL record of field goals of at least 50 yards to 71.

-- But Prater said he thought the work done by new long snapper Hunter Bradley was good. It did look like Bradley had some low snaps on field goals – and there was an Andy Lee punt blocked, although Kingsbury couldn't pinpoint the reason yet – Prater said it worked out.

"Considering we've only been working together a short time and it was only the second or third time we've kicked together, it went alright," Prater said.

-- I thought David Blough earned the right to get another look. It was a solid game, and he pushed the ball down the field more than the Cardinals had all season.

— J.J. Watt had another sack, giving him 10.5 on the season and allowing him to finish his final season with double-digits for the sixth time in his career. But it was his lone tackle of the day, and he knew it.

"I played like sh*t," Watt said. "I put us in a very tough spot. I put a lot of blame on myself for this one." 

-- According to Elias, there has been only one other time in NFL history since 1950 -- excluding the 1987 strike season -- where a team used four different starting quarterbacks in four straight games. In 2018, the Bills used Derek Anderson, Nathan Peterman, Matt Barkley and Josh Allen in consecutive games. Now the Cardinals join the club.

-- Running back James Conner went over 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the second time in two seasons for the Cardinals. He had reached that mark only once in four years with the Steelers. The man is a workhorse, and worthy to be the offensive version (along with Kelvin Beachum) of the Budda Baker-J.J. Watt work-no-matter-what vibe.

Gotta fly home now. One week to go.

Tight end Trey McBride spikes the ball after his first NFL touchdown.
Tight end Trey McBride spikes the ball after his first NFL touchdown.