The storyline was Kyler Murray, and that made sense. And yes, the Cowboys are a different team when Dak Prescott is under center. Andy Dalton has had his moments in the NFL, but in 2020, he's not Prescott.
But for all the slings and arrows Vance Joseph has suffered the last season-plus, the Cardinals' defensive coordinator came up with a heck of a plan Monday night without Chandler Jones. The Cards, thanks to those two bombs that didn't connect between Murray and Andy Isabella, took some time to get going offensively. The defense made sure it didn't hurt.
Dennis Gardeck was out there looking like a shorter Jones (he should've had two sacks and a safety, even). Budda Baker is earning every penny and then some of his new contract. Haason Reddick was good. Byron Murphy Jr. had his best game. Everything the Cowboys tried, especially in the first half, went sideways. When they did have some success, the Cardinals forced a turnover.
The Seahawks are not the Cowboys and Russell Wilson is certainly not Dalton. This week's game against the Seahawks will be a test against MVP favorite Wilson. But the Cardinals have only given up 112 points this season, fewest in the NFC, and held a Dallas team – albeit without Prescott – that was averaging 32 points a game to only 10.
That means something.
-- Every team in the NFC West has a positive point differential, and no other division has more than two teams in that range. The Niners are the lowest at plus-18. The Cardinals are at plus-54.
-- The magic of Kyler Murray. He made two bad throws on the drive following Elliott's first fumble. It was third-and-long. And he scrambles for a first down just like that, erasing his own mistakes. The Cardinals go on to score a touchdown, and the nation saw why Kyler is so dangerous – even if he's only completing 9-of-24.
-- Baker getting his first interception was a big deal, considering the subject comes up often. I'm sure Budda will be happy to have it in the rear view (he did have that Pro Bowl interception last year. Just sayin'.) But even without a pick he was a monster Sunday, blowing people up as usual, forcing that first Zeke Elliott fumble. It's been said before but again, he's earning every penny of his new contract.
-- Baker tweeted that he was also named a captain, now that Jones -- one of the captains -- was lost. Baker certainly deserves it.
-- The last time Baker had a pick (in a game that officially counted)? In 2016, as a junior at Washington when he got one against Washington State.
-- Isaiah Simmons got a bunch of reps at linebacker later in the game in place of De'Vondre Campbell. It will be interesting to hear how Joseph evaluates it.
-- I'm not sure what happened on the two early bombs to Andy Isabella. The first one looked like it was in a good place and perhaps Isabella just didn't track it in the air. The second was really weird, where Isabella didn't know where it was and he and Murray didn't seem on the same page in terms of route depth. Isabella was open both times. You hope they can figure it out.
-- The Cardinals had four turnovers and should've had a fifth. Jordan Hicks will never have a chance at an easier interception than the one he dropped early in the game. But given everything the defense did, it was allowed a misfire.
-- Gardeck, looking like Jeff Van Gundy on Alonzo Mourning, is going to kick himself he couldn't get Andy Dalton for the safety. But Gardeck is making the most of his chances as a pass rusher, isn't he?
-- Kenyan Drake, from the time he steamrollered the defensive back early in the game, looked like a guy trying to show he wasn't dancing around anymore. I don't know if it was cause-and-effect, but he finished with 164 yards, and even without that late 69-yard scamper, it was a good day.
-- Christian Kirk opined about playing well on "Monday Night Football" – "Something about these moments, the level of play always elevates," he said – and that 80-yard bomb he caught made that tangible. It was the backbreaker and the highlight. He's come on of late, an important piece of the offense.
Short week, Seahawks next. Time to fly home.