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Without Kingsbury, Cardinals Still Must Stop Browns' Run Game

Attempt to go 6-0 on road has to be done with coaching scramble

Coach Kliff Kingsbury will miss Sunday's game in Cleveland.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury will miss Sunday's game in Cleveland.

Kliff Kingsbury will not be there Sunday when the Cardinals play in Cleveland.

The Cards won't have quarterbacks coach Cam Turner either, or defensive cogs Chandler Jones and Zach Allen.

But the Cardinals do have a former NFL head coach on staff in defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, along with assistant head coach Jeff Rodgers, who is also special teams coordinator. They have run game coordinator/offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who was a college head coach.

How the game will play out is anyone's guess with this new curveball thrown at the Cards -- the Browns won a playoff game last season when head coach Kevin Stefanski missed the game because of Covid -- and the game against the Browns was always going to be difficult. While the Cardinals (5-0) have yet to lose a road game, the Browns (3-2) have not been beaten at home.

The Browns have their own issues. They are the top rushing team, but they are missing top rusher Nick Chubb and potentially both starting tackles. That's where the game plan -- Kingsbury or no Kingsbury -- was going to start for Joseph anyway.

"You have to contain the run game to beat this team," Joseph said.

Chubb, who ranks second in rushing yards behind only Henry, hurt his calf, but Kingsbury -- pre-positive test -- noted that Kareem Hunt is a star running back in his own right.

"Unfortunately, they have another one in Hunt, who is just as good as anybody in the league," Kingsbury said. "Chubb is a tremendous player and that will be a loss, but they plug in another back that can do some special things.

"So, we know we'll have our hands full."

Hunt has 295 yards on the season with five touchdowns, tied second in the NFL. Hunt is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, eighth in the league. J.J. Watt said for the Cardinals to have better success against another good running back, the defense must fill the gaps and make the necessary tackles.

"They're a very good running team," Watt said. "But it's about us doing our jobs and getting one week better as coach Kingsbury preaches. It's a great challenge that we look forward to."

Much of the spotlight will center on quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield, former Oklahoma teammates. The two have a great friendship.

Murray beat Mayfield in this first NFL matchup in 2019, so it's understandable the second matchup between former No. 1 draft picks – now quarterbacking on Super Bowl contending teams – is highly anticipated. The Cardinals are trying to start 6-0 for only the third time in franchise history.

When asked about Mayfield, Murray had nothing but praise for his former teammate.

"Baker is a great player," Murray said. "He gets a lot of hate, but I watched him each day. How hard he worked and how he made throws many people can't. I saw it all. I'm glad I got to learn from him throughout all those years."

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