Rare win rejuvenates Cardinals for final two weeks

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)It took 14 games, but the Arizona Cardinals finally put together an impressive all-around performance during Sunday’s 38-24 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

The win snapped a six-game losing streak and provided much-needed momentum as the franchise continues to build with first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.

”You have no idea,” Cardinals veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. ”It was like going to a funeral every day. To be able to see the guys compete and fight hard against a good Browns team that still has playoff aspirations, it shows you a lot of character and resolve with the men you have in this locker room.”

Arizona (4-9-1) was effective in every phase, jumping to a 14-0 lead before taking a 21-10 halftime advantage. The Browns briefly rallied to pull within 21-17 in the third quarter, but the Cardinals responded with two straight touchdowns to earn just their second home win of the season.

Kenyan Drake ran for 137 yards and four touchdowns – which hadn’t been done by a Cardinals player since 1993 – and Murray completed 19 of 25 passes for 219 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Even the Cardinals defense, which has been among the worst in the NFL this season, had a solid game.

”It was the first game we’ve played all year where it was just start to finish,” Arizona offensive lineman Justin Pugh said. ”We had a lot of good drives, Kenyan played a monster game, Kyler made all the plays we needed him to make. So it was a full game for us, which was good.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Kingsbury continues to show a good feel for both play calling and evaluating talent. Arizona was balanced between run and pass on Sunday and kept Cleveland off balance all afternoon. Drake has continued to impress after being added in a midseason trade with the Miami Dolphins, and backup tight end Dan Arnold, claimed off waivers less than two weeks ago, made an athletic touchdown catch right before halftime.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The defense had one of its best games of the season, but is looking a little thin at linebacker. Haason Reddick (groin) and Tanner Vallejo (ribs) left in the second half and didn’t return. Kingsbury said he wasn’t sure about their availability this weekend.

STOCK UP

CB Patrick Peterson. It’s been a tough year for the veteran cornerback, who missed the first six games of the season after being suspended for violating’s the NFL drug policy. He hasn’t looked the same since his return, but responded with a good game on Sunday, grabbing the 25th interception of his career and providing good pass coverage on several other plays.

STOCK DOWN

RB Chase Edmonds. The second-year pro looked like a breakout star midway through the season, but a hamstring injury knocked him out of action for a few weeks. Since his return, he’s had a hard time carving out playing time in a backfield that includes the surging Drake and veteran David Johnson.

INJURED

The Cardinals are relatively healthy for a team this late into the season. Reddick and Vallejo are dealing with injuries at linebacker, while Kingsbury also said that offensive linemen Pugh and J.R. Sweezy are ”banged-up.”

KEY NUMBER

0 – The Arizona offensive line didn’t allow a sack all game, keeping Murray upright so he could make plays for the offense. Murray had been sacked 11 times over the past two games.

NEXT STEPS

Arizona ends its season with two straight road games, including this weekend’s at Seattle. It represents a step up in competition from the up-and-down Browns and a good performance would be more proof that the Cardinals are headed in the correct direction.

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