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Defense has been the difference for unbeaten Arizona Cardinals – Arizona Cardinals Blog



GLENDALE, Ariz. — What took place Sunday afternoon inside State Farm Stadium showed how capable the Arizona Cardinals are of winning when things don’t go their way.

The Cardinals escaped with a 17-10 victory, but the San Francisco 49ers used a talented defensive front to pressure Arizona and it worked. Arizona had averaged 35 points per game through the first four weeks of the season, but San Francisco put a lid on those offensive fireworks. The Cardinals scored their fewest points of 2021 by two touchdowns on Sunday.

But when things didn’t go as planned on offense, Arizona’s defense picked up the slack. The Cardinals stopped San Francisco on four of their five fourth-down tries, including a vicious and violent goal-line stop of Niners rookie quarterback Trey Lance.

That play, not giving up that 1 yard, was “championship football,” wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said.

“That’s huge,” said quarterback Kyler Murray of the defense. “That’s what you want to see. Complementary football, of course, I think today, we leaned on them, they held it down, and we scored when we needed to in the end.”

As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as style points, and the Cardinals are still the NFL’s only unbeaten team at 5-0.

“I’d take them any way I can get them, especially division wins,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

Since Murray took over as the franchise quarterback of the Cardinals in 2019, the team had not won a game while scoring fewer than 24 points. They scored seven fewer than that against the 49ers and still came out on top. For the season, the Cardinals are giving up just 19 points per game, almost four points fewer than last season.

Winning a game like Sunday’s will go a long way inside the Cardinals’ locker room and shows that this team can win in multiple ways.

“I think it was good for us to kind of prove that we could win a gritty game like that, the defense could win the game,” defensive lineman Zach Allen said. “I think the only real test that we truly had was probably that Minnesota game, and I think we kind of lucked out with a missed kick so, I mean, we’ll take it, but to kind of prove that we can win a close game like that the way we did is definitely good.”

To win that way showed Hopkins the Cardinals are tough, both physically and mentally, for not giving up even though the game wasn’t going Arizona’s way. Safety Budda Baker, whose interception against the 49ers was the team’s 10th forced turnover, described the Cardinals in a word: “resilient.”

It may be early in the season, but Sunday’s win was the type of game Arizona will likely see at some point in the postseason, should they continue their torrid pace and get to the playoffs.

“It’s not always gonna be sweet and pretty flashy and have a lot of touchdown and stuff like that,” Murray said. “You kind of got to capitalize when you can. That’s a great team over there. It was definitely, to our standards, maybe a ugly one offensively, but we got it done and that’s all that matters.”

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After uncharacteristic rash of turnovers, Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes says he has to ‘reevaluate what I’m doing’



KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes took responsibility for what’s ailing the 2-3 Kansas City Chiefs, saying after their 38-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night that his turnovers are to blame.

“It starts with me,” Mahomes said after throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble against the Bills — three of his team’s four turnovers in all. “It’s something I’ve not usually done in my career, but I have to reevaluate where I’m at, what decisions I’m making.

“I’ve been a crazier player as far as scrambling and making throws. But in my career I’ve never been someone who throws a lot of interceptions. I have to look at it now, reevaluate what I’m doing, and I have to cut it out.”

After the teams traded punts to begin the second half — the start of which was delayed an hour by lightning — Mahomes slung a bullet that bounced off Tyreek Hill‘s hands and right to Bills safety Micah Hyde, who had nothing but mushy green field in front of him. He returned it 26 yards for his first career pick-six.

The Chiefs quickly drove into the Buffalo red zone on their next possession, but Mahomes threw a pass that Greg Rousseau batted at the line of scrimmage. The rookie defensive end managed to corral it for another interception.

“We weren’t on the same page with the receivers and where they were going and with Pat,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Gotta do better with that. Got to make sure that takes place.”

Mahomes has committed six turnovers in his past three games, including five interceptions. He has six interceptions this season, putting him on pace for 20. His career high is 12, in 2018.

“We know we can do better on turnovers, big plays — I know what we are capable of,” Reid said. “I see that. We just have to get that done.”

Mahomes has 16 touchdown passes this season, but he has just 2.67 touchdowns for each interception. The lowest percentage of his career is 4.17 in 2018, when he threw 50 touchdown passes to go along with 12 interceptions.

“We know we have what it takes to be great,” Mahomes said. “It’s a matter of coming together now and finding a way to do that.”

The Chiefs head to Washington next Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Notable bets – ‘By far our worst Sunday of the season’



Texas A&M’s upset of Alabama produced the biggest win of the college football season for sportsbooks, and Tyson Fury knocking out Deontay Wilder in a thrilling heavyweight title fight capped a lucrative Saturday for bookmakers.

Sunday was a different story.

“Today has been by far our worst Sunday of the season,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, told ESPN on Sunday night.

Craig Mucklow of Caesars Sportsbook said his book lost seven figures on Sunday: “Not horrendous, but not great,” he wrote in a text message. “We can’t win ’em all. We would have no customers if we won every week.”

So, get out the tissues and prepare your sympathies, as we dissect how the sportsbooks took it on the chin in this week’s Notable Bets.

NFL Notables

· Favorites went 10-4 straight-up and 8-6 against the spread Sunday. There were nine overs and five unders.

· Books got crushed on the Packers’ 25-22 overtime win over the Bengals. Here’s why: Professional bettors jumped on the Bengals when they opened as 3.5-point underdogs, eventually driving the line down to 2.5 by kickoff.

Meanwhile, the betting public loaded up on the Packers. At DraftKings, 87% of the money wagered on the spread was on Green Bay. At PointsBet, there were more bets on the Packers minus the points than there were on any other team. The action was lopsided on Green Bay everywhere.

So, when Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby, who missed three straight field goals earlier in the game, finally connected on a game-winner in overtime, the books lost all the bets to the professionals who took the Bengals +3.5 and also all the bets from the public on the Packers -2.5.

“We got middled,” said Jeff Stoneback, director of BetMGM sportsbooks in Nevada. “There was that earlier money on the Bengals, and then the public late today and yesterday was betting the Packers -2.5.”

“It’s been a strong Sunday for bettors, with Crosby, in particular, eventually, doing the public a favor and getting the Packers to cover -2.5, the most popular bet of the early slate,” said Jay Croucher, head of trading for sportsbook PointsBet.

“The Bengals outright could’ve really helped us limit the damage,” Murray of the SuperBook said.

· Caesars Sportsbook reported taking six bets of $500,000 more on Sunday games:

$600,000 on the Buccaneers -600 money line (Won)
$550,000 on the Buccaneers -550 money line (Won)
$500,000 on Eagles +3.5 (Won)
$500,000 on Broncos -1 (Lost)
$500,000 on Vikings -7.5 (Lost)
$500,000 on Bengals +3 (Push)

· “We had some house players [casino VIPs] post monster numbers this weekend,” Murray said.

· The Titans covering the spread in a 37-19 win over the Jaguars was the second-best game for the betting public.

· The three early games that attracted the most-lopsided point spread action (money wagered) at BetRivers sportsbooks were: Buccaneers, Titans and Packers. All three covered the closing spread.

· The point spread on Browns-Chargers opened as low as pick ’em. The Chargers closed as consensus 2.5-point favorites, and the line was very much in play in the final minutes, with the Browns leading 42-41.

With less than two minutes left, the Chargers were in position to drain the clock and potentially kick the winning field goal. Austin Ekeler chose to slide down after picking up a first down, instead of scoring a touchdown, on a run that set up the Chargers at the Cleveland 3-yard line with a 1:38 to play. The Chargers tried to take more time off the clock on the next play by handing off to Ekeler, but in an effort to get the ball back, the Browns held him up and pushed him into the end zone for a touchdown. Cleveland failed to score on their final possession, and the Chargers covered the spread in a 47-42 win.

· The betting on Bills-Chiefs was very balanced. Two hours before the primetime kickoff, Stoneback said MGM sportsbooks in Nevada had just 12 more bets on the Chiefs than the Bills.

College football notables

· Alabama closed as a 19-point favorite heading into its loss to Texas A&M, making it the second-largest upset in Nick Saban’s coaching career. The Crimson Tide were 24.5-point favorites in a loss to Louisiana-Monroe.

The Crimson Tide’s defeat was especially costly for a bettor at Caesars Sportsbook who placed a $569,738.60 three-team money-line parlay on Ohio State (-1,600), Cincinnati (-7,000) and Alabama (-1,000). The bet, which was the largest college football wager this season for Caesars, would have paid a net $105,656.

The Aggies’ upset led to seven-figure decisions in favor of the house at Caesars Sportsbook, according to Mucklow.

“Texas A&M [winning] outright was our biggest win of the college football season to date,” Murray said. “So many money-line parlays and even a lot of straight money-line bets on the Crimson Tide.”

“We won as much on the first half as we do on a very good result in any college game,” Stoneback of MGM said. “They just kept betting Alabama in the first half, which has been popular the last couple years. We probably won as much on the first half as we did on the game overall.”

· Updated odds to win the national championship via Caesars Sportsbook:

UGA +140
Alabama 2-1
Ohio State 9-1
Oklahoma 14-1
Iowa 20-1
Cincinnati 25-1
Michigan 30-1

· Notable opening lines from Circa Sports, which posts the first weekly point spreads and totals in the U.S. at 11 a.m. PT on Sundays.

Auburn at Arkansas -4, 55.5
Ole Miss -4, 85.5 at Tennessee
Alabama -15, 52.5 at Mississippi State
TCU at Oklahoma -12, 66.5
BYU at Baylor -3, 49.5
Oklahoma State at Texas -6, 65.5
UCF at Cincinnati -16, 56.5

· “My updated line would be Georgia -3 over Alabama.” — Matt Metcalf, sportsbook director for Circa Sports.

What were the odds?

+950: Texas A&M’s odds at PointsBet to beat Alabama when the Aggies were down 38-31 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

+850: Oklahoma’s odds to beat Texas when trailing 41-23 late in the third quarter, according to PointsBet. The Sooners outscored the Longhorns 32-7 from that point for a dramatic comeback.

+155: Deontay Wilder’s odds to win Saturday’s heavyweight title bout after knocking down Tyson Fury twice in the fourth round, according to Circa Sports. Those were Wilder’s shortest odds of the fight, which generated significant live betting interest.

“This was one of our largest in-game [betting tallies] in terms of handle for combat sports we’ve ever had,” Circa Sports risk supervisor Nick Kalikas told ESPN. “Ended up being a decent night for us overall.”

-5,000: Fury’s live odds entering the 11th round at Circa Sports. Fury knocked out Wilder in the 11th round.

Fury-Wilder notables

· The Fury-Wilder fight attracted more betting handle than every NFL game on Sunday. Three times as much money was bet on the fight than is bet on a non-primetime NFL game on average, according to Caesars.

· “We had great handle on the fight,” Murray of the SuperBook said. “We were flooded with Wilder bets all weekend (at +250, +240, +230) and did very well with Fury winning. It was a very positive result and an unbelievable fight. It’s awesome to see a great heavyweight boxing fight like that in Las Vegas.”

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Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen teams up with fans to sell retro high school sweatshirts



BUFFALO, N.Y. — Supporting both quarterback Josh Allen and a good cause? Count Buffalo Bills fans in.

Before and after the Bills’ Week 4 win over the Houston Texans, Allen represented his high school, wearing a gray Firebaugh Eagles sweatshirt. Upon seeing photos of Allen’s look, Bills fans immediately wanted to know where they could get their own versions of the sweatshirt.

Based on the significant demand, the Bills worked with Firebaugh High School in Firebaugh, California, to sell the sweatshirts through the One Buffalo website. The school had no longer been making the “throwback” look prior to Allen’s fashion statement. The school’s athletic teams now use a logo that resembles the Philadelphia Eagles, not the one Allen was wearing.

All proceeds from the sale went toward supporting the high school, per Allen’s request. Thus far, hoodie sales have generated over $80,000 in donations for Firebaugh High School, ESPN confirmed. The hoodie is being sold for $40. Sweatshirts remain available for presale purchase until 5 p.m. ET Monday, per the high school.

Firebaugh has a population of about 8,300 and is located west of Fresno, California. The school has around 650 students. It has not been announced yet what the proceeds will go toward specifically.

Bills fans have shown their support for Allen in various ways in the past. Last year, over $1 million was donated to Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo in honor of Allen’s grandmother, Patricia, who passed away during the 2020 season.

The Bills are coming off a big win vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. Allen completed 15 passes for 315 yards, averaging 21 yards per completion. That’s the most yards per completion by any quarterback in the last two years.

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