NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kyler Murray scored five touchdowns and linebacker Chandler Jones had a career-high five sacks as the Arizona Cardinals simply dominated the Tennessee Titans 38-13 Sunday for a big road win to open the season.
Jones, who tied the franchise record, had three sacks in a first quarter so good LeBron James chimed in on social media for his Defensive Player of the Year candidacy. Jones, who wants a new contract, also forced two fumbles the Cardinals turned into 14 points.
Murray tormented the Titans throwing for 289 yards with two TD passes apiece to All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk. Murray’s best pass came came early in the third quarter off his back foot to Kirk on a beautiful floater Kirk simply ran under.
Arizona scored the first 17 points and moved the ball almost at will against Tennessee. Murray either bought timescrambling around until he could find an open receiver or just kept the ball. Murray was so wide open on a keeper he held the ball up almost immediately on a 2-yard TD for a 24-6 lead.
The Titans not only won the AFC South last year, they had one of the NFL’s best offenses in 2020 with Derrick Henry the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 2,027 yards. They tied Buffalo for the second-most yards per game and ranked fourth in scoring, then traded for wide receiver Julio Jones in June.
They dismissed talk of rust after offensive starters had little time together this preseason. They couldn’t have been much worse when it counted. The Titans started with a three-and-out, Jones sacked Ryan Tannehill on the second play of the next drive and stripped him of the ball.
Tannehill was under constant pressure, with Michael Dogbe getting the sixth sack.
About the only thing that didn’t go Arizona’s way was when Matt Prater missed a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Murray became the first Cardinals player with four TD passes and a rushing TD in a game since Charley Johnson in 1962. He’s just the sixth in the NFL to have such a game in a season opener and first since Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2018.
He also posted his fourth career game with at least three TD passes and a TD run. That ties Josh Allen and Jack Kemp for most such games in a player’s first three seasons in NFL history.
JONES IN GOOD COMPANY
Jones became the 17th player in NFL history with 100 sacks in his first 10 seasons. He came in needing three to reach that mark. His five sacks are the third most by a player in a season opener. Derrick Thomas had six to open the 1998 season, and Billy Gay had 5 1/2 for Detroit to open 1993.
Another season, more issues for the Titans with kickers. Tennessee put kicker Sam Ficken on injured reserve Saturday and promoted Michael Badgley. He missed an extra point wide left. On fourth-and-1 with 19 seconds left in the first half, coach Mike Vrabel let Badgley try a 46-yard field goal. The kick missed wide left.
Arizona right tackle Kelvin Beachum hurt his ribs in the third quarter and did not return.
Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan, who gave up the first three sacks to Jones, left with cramps for a couple series in the third quarter. He was replaced by Kendall Lamm, who false-started twice in two series and gave up the fourth sack to Jones. Titans safety Amani Hooker hurt a foot.
Arizona hosts Minnesota next Sunday before going back on the road.
Tennessee visits Seattle next Sunday.
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