The Arizona Cardinals are definitely one of the 2021 surprises.
While many expected them to be competitive, relatively few would have predicted them to be 9-2 going into Week 12.
That prediction would have been less likely knowing that quarterback Kyler Murray would miss three games (Weeks 9 through 11) with an ankle sprain.
Cardinals have played three games without Kyler Murray and still have the best record in the NFL.
— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) November 22, 2021
Murray is healing, but his status for Week 11 against the Seattle Seahawks was a game-time decision.
In the end, the Cardinals kept Murray out of the lineup, and backup quarterback Colt McCoy completed the three-game stint in his absence.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury shared his concerns about bringing Murray back prematurely.
“You don’t want to put him in harm’s way where that thing can get rolled up again.”
How McCoy Played
McCoy is a 35-year-old solid performer in the backup role.
Coach Kingsbury crafted the offense to suit McCoy, and it worked well.
The Cardinals went 2-1 in Murray’s absence including two road wins in San Francisco and Seattle.
He did not play well in Week 10 against the Carolina Panthers, but he certainly compensated for that poor performance in Week 11 against the Seattle Seahawks.
McCoy went 35 of 44 pass for 328 yards and two touchdowns.
Colt McCoy is the only NFL quarterback – including Seahawk QBs – to win a start at Seattle each of the last 2 regular seasons.
He led the Giants to a 17-12 win here last December & had 328 passing yards & 2 TDs in Cardinals 23-13 victory here today pic.twitter.com/s24n3kf1fk
— Mark Dalton (@CardsMarkD) November 22, 2021
The Cardinals Defense Upped Their Game
Huge win by @AZCardinals in Seattle with Kyler and DeAndre out Defense came to play again and @ColtMcCoy was the man today 9-2 heading into the bye and won 2 out 3 without Kyler will take it!!!! #RedSea pic.twitter.com/TBDeNKH9Pw
— Chris (@Sports_FanChris) November 22, 2021
McCoy was not the only reason the Cardinals played well.
Whereas Murray was the star of the show when the Cardinals rushed out to an undefeated 7-0 start, the defense has picked up its level of play to take some of the pressure off of McCoy and the offense.
Murray Likely Back In Week 13
The Cardinals have a bye in Week 12 so Murray will have had five weeks to heal his ankle.
All of this means he will be rested and ready to go down the stretch with the NFC West-leading Cardinals.
They are undefeated in division play at 4-0 and have two more wins than their closest divisional rival, the Los Angeles Rams who are 7-3.
McCoy As Murray’s Mentor
McCoy is wearing multiple hats with the Cardinals.
In addition to being backup quarterback, he was brought in to mentor Murray.
Coach Kingsbury talked about the decision to sign McCoy during the preseason.
“We knew we wanted to sign the right guy that could play at a high level and could also help mentor Kyler and find a guy that Kyler probably watched. I know he watched growing up when Colt was the king of Texas. It’s pretty neat.”
Colt McCoy has now worked with and been really well liked by Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Dwayne Haskins, Daniel Jones, and Kyler Murray. He was the elder statesman to all of them.
— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) November 7, 2021
Cardinals Remaining Games
The Cardinals have a very manageable schedule throughout the rest of the season.
— Barfolemew the Vaccinated (@RavagerMog) November 22, 2021
Does this mean they could run the table and win all of them?
It is certainly possible given the way the team has played in 2021.
Their opponents are as follows: Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, and Seattle Seahawks.
Even the weather gods are providing them with good favors.
The Bears game in Week 13 is the only one potentially in cold and harsh conditions.
The Cardinals are definitely a team to watch coming down the stretch of the 2021 season.