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Cardinals crush Titans in 2021 opener, 38-13


NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the highest projected totals of the weekend, one team delivered and the other didn’t. Arizona came into Nashville and thrashed the Titans from the opening kickoff until the final whistle.

Kyler Murray was spectacular. Ryan Tannehill? Not so much. Tennessee’s offensive line? A complete disaster.

Kliff Kingsbury’s offense was creative, utilizing several different playmakers and keeping the Titans off-balance for most of the day.

Todd Downing, in his debut as the Titans offensive coordinator, managed just 13 points.

It was a disastrous start for the Titans. They very much looked like a group that hadn’t played together in a while, attempting to shake off the rust from the offseason. Ryan Tannehill had zero protection early on, and the offensive line struggled to get any push up front for Derrick Henry.

Chandler Jones wrecked the Titans early and often, causing a fumble that led to an Arizona touchdown. He ended up with three sacks in the first half, one of the big reasons that the Titans could only muster six points in the opening two quarters.

Kyler Murray, on the other hand, was brilliant. The Titans had no answer for his mobility, or DeAndre Hopkins, as usual. The Titans-killer did it again on Sunday, catching two early touchdowns to help establish a 24-6 lead for the Cardinals.

Tannehill managed just one touchdown drive in the half, scoring on a keeper. Newly signed kicker Michael Badgley missed the extra point, and later missed a long attempt at the end of the half.

Kevin Byard gave the Titans a huge spark to open the third quarter, picking off Murray and putting the offense in business. Tannehill quickly cashed in with a strike to A.J. Brown, cutting the Arizona lead to 24-13.

That momentum didn’t last long, however. Two more turnovers from Tannehill allowed Murray a chance to put this game on ice, and that’s exactly what he did. Christian Kirk hauled in two third quarter touchdowns, pushing the Arizona lead all the way out to 38-13.

That score would hold until the end.

Tannehill was out of rhythm all day, and the run game never once got rolling. We saw last year that this passing attack was built off of the success of the run game, and that element didn’t exist with Derrick Henry this afternoon. Forced to make something happen on his own, Tannehill simply never had the protection needed to operate in the pocket.

The Titans have to find a way to shake this one off with a tough road trip to Seattle up next.