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Sooner Than Later: Cardinals, Kyler Murray Top Browns, Baker Mayfield

Quarterback Kyler Murray runs for yards during the Cardinals' 38-24 win over the Browns Sunday.
Quarterback Kyler Murray runs for yards during the Cardinals' 38-24 win over the Browns Sunday.

The roar could be heard easily through the walls of the Cardinals' locker room Sunday, followed by the heavy bass of the rap music blaring for the occasion.

The former was for the Cardinals' Victory Monday they had earned from Kliff Kingsbury – "I've been waiting a while, six weeks, to get to say that," the coach said – and the latter for the 38-24 win over the Browns at State Farm Stadium, a triumph the Cards so desperately needed that of course they'd be turnt up.

The Cardinals (4-9-1) closed their home schedule emphatically, their offense rolling from the time it embarked on a 90-yard touchdown drive to open the game en route to a season-high point total.

Six-game losing streak? Gone. Offensive inconsistency? Gone. A day without taking a sack. A day when the defense held up, only a meaningless late 91-yard Cleveland touchdown drive bolstering the Browns' stats and point total. A day when the Cardinals rumbled for 226 rushing yards, including 137 -- and four touchdowns -- from running back Kenyan Drake.

"I could kind of feel what kind of day it was going to be," quarterback Kyler Murray said. "You could tell it felt different."

The subplot, of course, was Murray's meeting against Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, the two former Oklahoma teammates/Heisman winners/No. 1 overall picks. Murray acknowledged he actually watched the Cardinals' defense a little more than usual because his friend was out there, and "I needed Chandler (Jones) and all those dudes to get after him, of course," Murray said with a grin.

This was after he had secured the win to hold over Mayfield's head. Mayfield doubled Murray's TD throws and his 247 yards were more than Murray's 219, but 101 of Mayfield's yards – thanks to penalties – came on that last TD drive with the outcome already decided.

"He told me he had the bragging rights," Mayfield said. "That's basically the end of it. We have a good relationship, so he was giving me a hard time. (I) just went with the punches."

Said Murray with a chuckle, "he knows what it is. We came to play today, we got the win."

The Cardinals did so because Murray played his best game since the bye, efficiently completing 19-of-25 passes for 219 yards, a touchdown pass to new tight end Dan Arnold and one interception he'd like to have back given that he simply underthrew tight end Charles Clay.

But Murray was not sacked – which, along with the rushing day, spoke both to the excellent game the offensive line had but also the Browns missing top pass rushers Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon – and he rushed for 56 yards in support of Drake's big day.

The Cardinals all but officially eliminated the Browns (6-8) from the playoffs, a blow to a pair of former Cardinals' coaches – longtime Cardinals assistant Freddie Kitchens, now the Browns' head coach, and former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks, who was the defensive coordinator who had to handle a Cardinals' offense that clicked.

"Staying on schedule and not taking negative plays, we did that today," Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk said. "Not getting ourselves in third-and-long … obviously with the run game going, you can see how potent this offense can be."

Drake, who arrived in trade around midseason and quickly established himself as the team's No. 1 running back, was excellent from the opening drive. He gained 43 yards on four touches and scored the touchdown that gave the Cardinals the lead they never relinquished.

He also balanced his work – 60 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, 77 yards and two touchdowns in the second, in achieving his first win of the season. The Dolphins didn't win when he was there prior to the trade, and the Cards had not won since he arrived.

"This game just happened to be a game I was able to get into the win column personally, but this team was jacked up about this game," Drake said. "We wanted to go out and assert ourselves, and that's what we did."

The Cardinals needed to. "It was like going to a funeral every day," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said of the losing streak.

Kingsbury said the Cardinals "needed to make a statement" in this, the Cardinals' final home game of the season. There are road games left to Seattle and Los Angeles, teams that handled the Cardinals easily in the first NFC West meetings this season at State Farm Stadium.

If the Cardinals can play like they did Sunday, maybe there is another win to be had. Maybe more music for the locker room. Maybe another Victory Monday.

"It's refreshing," Murray said. "I'm used to feeling that feeling. Not getting too high, not getting too low, but obviously we're going to cherish this one."

Images from the Week 15 matchup at State Farm Stadium

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