5-0 Cardinals battling injuries in addition to opponents on the schedule

For the first time since moving to the desert, the Cardinals are unbeaten after five weeks — but player health is a concern moving forward


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The Cardinals’ tight, low-scoring victory over the 49ers ensured a first 5-0 start since 1974.

Bob McManaman has been a senior sportswriter at the Arizona Republic since 1981. He has covered the Cardinals since they arrived in the Valley in 1988, and told Northeast Valley News in an interview last Friday that health would be vital to Arizona’s success in 2021.

“They just got to stay healthy. If they stay healthy and keep doing what they’ve been doing, I think they’ll be in fantastic shape,” McManaman said. “Run defense needs to get better, health in the secondary needs to get better, I think the pass rush will come [together]…and Murray’s just got to keep protecting the football.

“Other than that, they’re doing all the right things.” 

The Cardinals remain the last unbeaten team in the NFL after a 17-10 home victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. The team’s defense continues to surge, but staying healthy is a must for this team over the course of the new 18-week, 17-game season.

Arizona’s offense, piloted by the explosive Kyler Murray, had a quiet day Sunday in Glendale. Despite strong performances throughout the first month of the season, quarterback Murray threw for 239 yards and a touchdown. Scoring came at a premium.

But the Cardinals gained separation in the fourth quarter thanks to Murray’s nine-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Deandre Hopkins. Arizona took a 17-7 lead on the play, and though the 49ers answered with a field goal, rookie quarterback Trey Lance was not able to get back on the field as the Cardinals ran out the clock. 

The Arizona defense stopped the Niners on four of their five fourth-down conversion attempts and made life difficult for Lance. The third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft totaled less than 200 passing yards and an interception with zero touchdowns. 

However, the health of multiple key players on coach Kliff Kingsbury’s team remains a question mark. The Cardinals entered Sunday’s game without cornerback Byron Murphy due to a rib injury, and Arizona also saw tight end Maxx Williams (leg) and center Rodney Hudson (ribs) leave the game vs. San Francisco early.

While the Cardinals don’t yet know the full extent of either injury, Williams might be out for the rest of the season. 

Arizona will look to extend their winning streak to six when they head to Cleveland this Sunday to take on the Browns. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. local time.