Lions Will Have Tough Time Stopping Murray
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has an intriguing personality, mixing introverted tendencies with supreme confidence that has helped Arizona push to a 2-0 start for the first time in five years.
Teammates love that the soft-spoken Murray works hard and is humble. They also love his unique swagger.
"It's not my first time dealing with success in my lifetime," Murray said. "This is part of the game. We work hard in the offseason, we work hard to practice to win. We expect to win."
Now the impressive Cardinals host the struggling Lions on Sunday at State Farm Stadium. Detroit has lost its first two games and given up the most yards rushing in the NFL.
That doesn't bode well for stopping Murray, who is the first quarterback in NFL history to run for at least 150 yards and three touchdowns in the season's first two games. He ran for scores of 14 yards and 21 yards in a 30-15 win over Washington last week, darting and dancing around defenders on the way to the end zone.
"He's like a punt returner back there," Lions defensive end Trey Flowers said. "Any type of space he has, he takes advantage of it. He makes the most athletic guys miss."
Arizona's success isn't just because of Murray and new receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who has 22 catches through two games. The rebuilt defense is giving up just 17.5 points per game, which ranks second in the NFL.
Detroit gave up 42 points in a loss to the Green Bay Packers last week. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is once again putting up big numbers, but it's not been enough to overcome the mediocre defense.
Embattled coach Matt Patricia is 9-24-1 in two-plus seasons as a first-time NFL head coach. The Lions have lost 11 times after leading in the fourth quarter under Patricia. That doesn't even count last year's 27-27 tie against the Cardinals, which came after Detroit blew an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Losing three in a row to start the season would make a return to the playoffs unlikely. But that's not even a concern at the moment.
"We're not focused on the playoffs," Lions receiver Danny Amendola said. "We're focused on the Cardinals."
KENNARD SWITCHES SIDES
Arizona gave up the most total yards in the NFL last season, so it rebuilt that side of the ball by adding a handful of free agents in the offseason, including linebackers Devon Kennard and De'Vondre Campbell and defensive lineman Jordan Phillips. The Cardinals also drafted linebacker Isaiah Simmons with the No. 8 overall pick.
Kennard played the past two seasons with the Lions, starting 15 games in both 2018 and 2019. He had one of his best games with Detroit against Arizona in 2019 with three sacks of Murray, who was playing his first NFL game.
Now Kennard will be going after Stafford. The linebacker got his first sack with the Cardinals in last week's win over Washington.
Arizona's second-year coach Kliff Kingsbury is like most in the NFL when he says it's strange playing in front of empty stadiums. It's not an ideal situation, but it does make for better communication.
If Kingsbury wants to convey a message to someone on the field in 2020, all he has to do is raise his voice.
"I can literally yell at the receivers or running back or quarterback and get his attention," Kingsbury said. "He can look over, and we can have some communication or dialogue from the sideline, which hasn't been possible in the past."
LARRY FROM STATE FARM
Arizona's veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald needs just two catches in Sunday's game to set the NFL record for most career receptions at one stadium. He has 645 at State Farm Stadium. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice had 646 during his career at Candlestick Park.
Matthew Stafford, drafted No. 1 overall by Detroit in 2009, seems to keep his emotions in check no matter how long the team's losing streak is or when the team has had success during his career.
"It doesn't mean that inside I'm not pissed at times or pumped at times," said Stafford, whose career record is 69-81-1 in the regular season and 0-2 in the playoffs. "All of that is in there, but I have to make sure I move on to the next play. It does me no good to get lost in my emotions."
Detroit is off to such a tough start that its punter has been one of its best players so far. Jack Fox, an undrafted rookie last year, has helped the Lions rank second in the NFL with a net average of 51.3 yards on punts over the first two games of his NFL career.
"I'd love for him to have a really calm day and only hold for extra points and field goals," Stafford said.
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