The New England Patriots defense has gone up against its fair share of mobile quarterbacks so far this season. While the Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray is not quite the same type of player as the likes of a Josh Allen or Justin Fields, he is a legitimate dual-threat in his own right and capable to exploit mismatches with his arm and his legs.
How do the Patriots plan on matching up with that kind of QB once again in Week 14? By executing a familiar plan.
“Just try to keep him in the pocket,” linebacker Matthew Judon told reporters on Thursday. “Make him throw from a tight pocket. Make him hit the receivers — he has really good receivers, it looks like their timing is getting better as the season’s progressed. But we have to frustrate him inside the pocket.
“We can’t let him get out and find running lanes, and kind of exploit the defense when he’s running and then find somebody open deep down the field. They do that very well: they extend plays, they get open, and they pick up a lot of first downs.”
Hurt by injuries especially along the offensive line, the Cardinals offense has been mediocre this season. But while the team is ranked only 16th in the league, putting up 22 points per game, Murray is a threat to be prepared for.
The former first overall draft pick has completed 258 of 389 pass attempts (66.3%) for 2,359 yards as well as 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Additionally, he has carried the football on 61 non-kneel-down plays for 420 yards and three touchdowns.
His average of 6.9 yards per attempt ranks fourth in the league among quarterbacks, and the top three have all been on New England’s schedule already this season: the Chicago Bears’ Justin Fields, the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, and the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen.
New England had a hard time against Fields and Jackson, but did look slightly better defending Allen’s ability to break contain.
“I think we have done a better job game after game of keeping quarterbacks in the pocket,” said defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. “We haven’t had a lot of quarterbacks run around us and make a lot of plays. We had like one game but other than that we’ve done a great job of rushing together as a unit.”
The sixth-year defender credits the team’s increased opportunities against dual-threat passers with the improved performance. Now, more of that is needed against Kyler Murray.
“It’s going to be tough,” said fellow team captain Devin McCourty. “A guy like Kyler Murray, which we’ve seen a couple of times this year, they create problems. Their ability to, even when you contain a quarterback, to not really have him contained because of his quickness and his speed.
“We’re going to need that extra time and preparation, and all of those things that we have to our advantage this week. We need to use it and be very prepared to go on Monday night.”