The Cardinals needed Kenyan Drake, and so the first time the Cardinals ran a play after the running back fumbled away a crucial possession – allowing the Bills to take a 23-9 lead last week – coach Kliff Kingsbury went right back to him for a carry.
"We wanted to keep him rolling," Kingsbury said. "He's a guy who gets better as the game goes on, and we knew we needed him in the second half. He hadn't practiced really, been hurt, missed a week, and I just wanted to get him going get him back in rhythm. I thought he played a heck of a game."
Drake missed one game because of his ankle injury, and his return was bumpy at first. He had a false start and looked like he went the wrong way on a play, leading to a six-yard loss for Kyler Murray. But mostly, after his 100 yards on just 16 carries, it was apparent how important Drake is to this offense, especially when he's attacking the line of scrimmage like he has been doing.
Drake was good last season, but it was his game in Seattle, the 166 yards, mounting the offense on his back when Murray left the game hurt, that really stood out. He's at that level again, looking explosive. Adding in the magic of Murray on the ground and the excellence of Chase Edmonds, it's why the Cardinals are leading the NFL with 168.9 rushing yards a game.
The Cards want to love the Drake Thursday. Kingsbury never stopped, which is why he made sure his back got the ball in his hands as soon as possible after the fumble.
"It meant a lot to me," Drake said. "It wasn't anything I could really dwell on. It was my first fumble of the season and hopefully my last. Playing this position, it's something you have to kind of push to the back of your head. When it happens, we still had a whole half of a game to play. For Coach to call that run and really get my confidence and really the rest of the offense going again, we were able to go down and score."
-- The NFL told teams Wednesday that every team – beginning Saturday – must follow intensive COVID protocols for the balance of the season. Those were previously only when you had a player or staff member test positive. It means masks on the practice field and all meetings are virtual. The league trying to make sure the season reaches the finish line without a COVID explosion.
-- You know by now the Cardinals are No. 1 in the NFL in total offense, averaging 425.5 yards a game (no, yards aren't everything, and Football Outsiders metric has them 12th in the NFL in offense, but trending up.) But in a testament how far this team has come behind the new duo of Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, the Cards, going into the 10th game of the season, need only 30 yards – likely to come on their first drive Thursday night – to surpass the total yards gained all season by the 2018 Cardinals.
-- With De'Vondre Campbell a game-day decision, this may be the moment for Isaiah Simmons. Simmons' playing time has increased anyway, but with Campbell hurting, he's the next man up and besides, as defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said, "it's time." Now, we will see what "time" means when and if Campbell returns to full health. Simmons' breakout moment might end up being that OT pick of Russell Wilson – it would be fitting if his first full game ended up being a solid performance against the Seahawks in the return engagement.
-- The Cardinals are 5-2 in Seattle since the infamous 58-0 loss, in a season after which GM Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt were fired. They are 4-1 in their last five games there, and that one loss – by the bad 2018 Cardinals team – still took a last-second Seattle field goal. (To think, if the Cardinals had not lost that game, they might not have Murray, because they might not have had the No. 1 pick.)
-- I'm curious to see how Kyler Murray does in a game where the temperature is supposed to be in the low 40s and rain is possible (if not probable). The Cards won in New York in the rain last season, but they ran all over the Giants and Murray did not have a good passing day in large part because of the weather. (Murray also didn't finish his initial game up in Seattle, leaving with a hamstring problem.)
-- It's a color rush game for the Cardinals, which means the black uniforms with the red numbers (which I happen to like a lot.)
-- I would guess we will see Patrick Peterson on DK Metcalf, mostly. Peterson did a very good job on Metcalf in the first meeting and in their lone matchup last year. It'll be a lock it happens if Tyler Lockett, who had an incredible 15-200-3 line against the Cards in the first matchup, is hobbled or can't go because of a knee injury that has slowed him this week.
-- With two receptions, Larry Fitzgerald will have 84 career grabs at CenturyLink Field, which would be an NFL record for most catches at an opposing venue. The Colts' Reggie Wayne has the current mark of 83 at Jacksonville's TIAA Bank Field.
-- With one catch – and you know he's getting more than one – DeAndre Hopkins, at 28 years and 166 days, will become the youngest player in NFL history with 700 career catches. The man whose record he will top? Larry Fitzgerald, who was 29-23 when he did it.
-- This is a big one, always, for Budda Baker. The safety is already playing at an All-Pro level, and now he's in his hometown. It's also funny how things turn – just like there are many Cardinals fans who complain the team did not draft Metcalf, Seahawks fans are still sore their team passed on drafting Baker.
Baker, when asked if he ever watched the Hail Murray from the perspective of the Bills defenders, maybe what he might've done differently had he been in such a situation.
"Psss, not at all," Baker said with a smile. "My teammate, D-Hop, the Cardinals, I really wasn't worried about the Bills and I still haven't thought about what they could have done to get a PBU or to pick it off."
-- The Cardinals have already set a team record with 12 straight games scoring at least 21 points. They have the longest active streak in the NFL of scoring at least 30 points, with five, which is also a franchise record.
See you Thursday night.