When it comes down to it, teams need players to make plays and win games. That's what Sunday showed on a couple of levels.
By the time it was over, Kyler Murray made plays, DeAndre Hopkins, Fitz, Chase Edmonds. Darrell Daniels even. Dennis Gardeck. Budda Baker. And with guys like Murray, Nuk, Baker and Fitz, those are the stars. Those are the guys you need to excel.
But then you take a star from the equation. Kliff Kingsbury couldn't say 100 percent for certain about Chandler Jones but he was pretty close to it, because most of the time if there is still an inkling of hope, a coach post-game is going to hold on to that hope. Instead, Jones – who came into the year hoping he'd make a run at the single-season sack record – could finish with one sack. And the Cards will have a big hole on the defense, even if Jones had had a slow start.
(Oh, and the next two opponents are the pass-happy Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks.)
It'd be nice for Gardeck to average two sacks the rest of the way but yeah, that probably won't be happening. The Cardinals need Devon Kennard to get healthy, and we will see if Reggie Walker gets pulled up from the practice squad or if they look for a vet.
-- That's not taking away from what the defense did Sunday or, more importantly, the offense. Murray looked good most of the day (a request on social media – I'd rather not get anymore "Murray needs to be benched" or "Murray is a bust" comments. Criticizing his play is fair and can be justified; the other stuff, nah.) I like what Murray said about having weapons and using them. That makes sense. Fitz got targets in context of the offense. Edmonds is a valuable piece. And it always seems like matter of time before Hopkins gets his.
-- Jones did come really close to a strip-sack when he was in the game. I don't know how Joe Flacco pulled it down a millisecond before Jones popped it away from behind.
-- There were already some wondering about Isaiah Simmons in Jones' spot. Maybe that is an option. It wouldn't have been Sunday, given the unexpected nature of the situation. But maybe with some prep – especially this week, with an extra day before a Monday game? Perhaps.
-- Hopkins extended his streak to 23 games where he gets at least five catches.
-- D-Hop also had 131 yards, already the third time this season in five games he's had at least 130. He didn't have any games of 130 yards or more in Houston last season.
-- That one-handed Fitz catch though. He makes a few more of those he might just get into the Hall of Fame someday.
-- Hopkins, and that TD catch he made. That too might put him on a path to the Hall of Fame.
-- There are few guys for which to root harder than Dennis Gardeck. For him to have a chance to play defensively, and shine, is great to watch.
-- When it comes to protecting Murray, the offensive line needs to make sure they protect him from the line itself. It was funny to see right tackle Kelvin Beachum go to give Kyler a flying body bump after Edmonds' TD run – because the 6-foot-3, 308-pound Beachum knocked the much smaller Murray to the ground.
-- The Cardinals stopped Le'Veon Bell in the second half on a third-and-one play in which Bell stretched wide – and the play linebacker Jordan Hicks made, standing at inside linebacker across from the center and then sprinting all the way to the sideline with Bell and not let the back get the corner, was fabulous.
-- The tight-end-coach-Steve-Heiden-designed fourth-down play that went for 31 yards to Daniels was beautiful. (And impressed that Kingsbury made sure to credit Heiden when the play was brought up postgame.)
-- The Cardinals got rushing TDs from Edmonds, Murray and Kenyan Drake. That's the first time they've had three different players run for TDs since Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower and Anquan Boldin did it in Detroit in 2009. (I remember that in part because Boldin was originally given a TD catch that day from Kurt Warner, and when it was changed to a run, it messed up many fantasy football situations.)
A good win. A solid win. A win the Cardinals needed. Time to fly home.