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Photos by Derrick Spencer
Week 1 Rewind: Pitch Perfect In The Music City
A look back at impressive road victory over Titans to open 2021 regular season
By Zach Galia Sep 14, 2021
Photographs By Derrick Spencer

What a week.

It was the moment we have been waiting for since Jan. 4. The return of regular-season football -- and it did not disappoint in the slightest. There were touchdowns and sacks galore, and the MegaWatt formation even made its debut, all in the name of a 'W' in Week 1.

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The Cardinals hit the road for Nashville for a battle with King Henry and the Titans in a game that should set the tone for the rest of the season. Style is never lacking on the road, and this trip was no different (shoutout to Zaven Collins' cowboy hat). The mantra of 'look good, feel good, play good' was on full display.

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When the bus arrives at the team hotel in Nashville, it's go time. Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, D.J. Humphries and the squad loaded up to head toward Nissan Stadium and their first challenge of 2021.

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Everyone has been (im)patiently waiting for months to see J.J. Watt in the red and white on gameday. They would finally get their wish. The entire squad was amped up and ready for a clash with the Titans.

Kickoff temperature was around 78 degrees, but it felt hotter than that. The anticipation of a new season and new challenges permeated up and down the sidelines.

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Chandler Jones came out of the gate with the 'S' on his chest, racking up five sacks and two forced fumbles on his way to a record day. Jones is currently on pace for 85 sacks this season, which would break Michael Strahan's single season record of 22½ sacks by midway through Week 5. While that pace will be hard to keep, Budda Baker described it perfectly: "It was one for the ages." Prior to Chandler's performance vs. the Titans, the quickest a Cardinals player had reached five sacks in a season was four games. Chandler Jones accomplished the feat in the first three quarters of the season.

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The story of the offseason was the weapons that Kyler Murray was equipped with in the wide receiver room, and they did not disappoint. Rondale Moore showed off his game-breaking speed, A.J. Green made some splash plays down the sidelines, DeAndre Hopkins was, well, DeAndre Hopkins, and Christian Kirk exploded for an impressive two-touchdown day.

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Kyler Murray was a man on a mission in his first game in Year 3, and all of his teammates saw it. Murray racked up 309 total yards and five touchdowns, but his leadership is what stood out. "Man, he won the game," Hopkins said. "At the end of the day, it says 'W' or a loss. He had five touchdowns. He prepared like he was going to have five touchdowns. He demanded everybody else to be on their A-game. When we messed up, Kyler was the first one on us." With his impressive performance, Kyler also became just the sixth player in NFL history with 50+ passing touchdowns and 15+ rushing touchdowns in his first three seasons.

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With 38 points being scored on the offensive side of the ball, it's easy to overlook an incredible performance on the defensive side, but Chandler Jones and company made that an impossible task. The defense shined bright to the tune of six sacks, three takeaways, nine QB hits, eight tackles for loss, eight passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. What some pegged as a statement game for the team against a potential AFC contender was just the first game of a long season to those on the squad. "No statement at all. One and oh," Budda Baker said.

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Every victory should be cherished and celebrated, but this team has much bigger goals in mind. Christian Kirk put it best, "We want to be great. We want to be recognized as one of the better teams. Like I said, this is a great win. It feels good, but it's only one game and we still have a lot of work to go."

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