EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals want to feel the way they did a few weeks ago.
That was back when they were about to open the season with two straight wins. Coming off consecutive losses, they knew they needed to change their approach this week when they returned to the practice field.
“I think there was a sense of urgency,” Murray said. “I haven’t felt that urgency since before Week 1. Going into that game, you could tell it was a different vibe. … We’ve got to get back on the right track, and I think you could feel that today at practice.”
The Cardinals (2-2) are heading to MetLife Stadium on Sunday, looking to end a mini-slump. And they’ll be facing the winless New York Jets (0-4), who are trying to avoid opening a season with five losses for the first time since 1996.
Arizona won’t be taking the Jets lightly, even though it looks to some like a major mismatch. Not after they were humbled in losses to Detroit and Carolina.
“Some of it has to do with focus throughout the week during practice,” tight end Dan Arnold said. “I think all of us know it, it’s been addressed. I think if we have a little bit more focus during the week in practice, really dive into what we need to do to be successful on Sunday, I think it will come.
“It’s bound to come. It has to.”
The struggling Jets know the feeling.
They’ve opened consecutive seasons with 0-4 records under Adam Gase, a dubious first in franchise history. That has the coach on an even warmer hot seat, and fans frustrated.
And, New York will have to go with backup quarterback Joe Flacco under center with Sam Darnold sidelined for at least this week with a sprained right shoulder.
“I’ve been with these guys a year,” Gase said, “and a lot of those guys that were on this roster last year that I watched fight through a pretty rough start and found ways to get better and found ways to win games, they know sometimes it just takes one game and things turn around.”
The 35-year-old Flacco will be making his first start since Week 8 of last season when he was with Denver.
Flacco injured his neck in that game and missed the rest of the season. He was waived by Denver in March, signed a one-year deal with New York in May and spent training camp on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from offseason surgery on his herniated disk.
It has been a tough road back, but Flacco believes he can still be a starter in the NFL — and he’ll get at least one shot with the Jets to prove it.
“You don’t want to overdo it in your head and give yourself situations where you’re going to go out there and try to do more than you should do,” Flacco said. “I’ve got to go out there and just play within the offense and do the best I can for this team and the situation that we’re in right now, and that’s focusing on this week and seeing where it goes from there.”
Murray completed 24 passes against the Panthers, but managed just 133 passing yards. The Cardinals like to use a quick-tempo offense that hits on some shorter passing plays, but coach Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged that the offense has to find a way to connect on some deeper passes. The Panthers did a good job of disrupting Arizona’s short passes.
“We didn’t have a good enough plan in place to make the plays down the field that we would have liked to, and that falls on me,” Kingsbury said. “I’ve got to call better plays when they’re taking certain things away.”
The Jets were charged with 11 penalties last week against Denver, including six personal fouls. Eight of the penalties, including all of the personals, were on the defense. That has been an area Gase has insisted will be cleaned up this week.
“I think the biggest thing is you double down on the awareness level, for sure, and getting the right guys in there,” the coach said. “If we can’t do it the right way, then we need to get different guys in there.”
The Cardinals hope Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker will be back in the lineup against the Jets, one week after he missed the Panthers game following thumb surgery.
That’s good news for a secondary that had a rough afternoon in the loss to the Panthers. The Cardinals were missing their top three safeties: Baker, Jalen Thompson (ankle) and Chris Banjo (hamstring). Kingsbury said Thompson and Banjo could also return for Sunday’s game.
But it’s Baker who is the unquestioned leader of the group.
“He’s one of the best players in the league and brings a lot of things on and off the field to our locker room,” Kingsbury said.
The Cardinals hope All-Pro linebacker Chandler Jones can make some big plays in his return to his home state of New York.
Jones — who played in college at Syracuse — had a career-high 19 sacks last season, but has just one through four games this season.
The 30-year-old Jones has some good recent memories at MetLife Stadium. He had a career-best four sacks against the Giants in Week 7 of last season. In five career games at the venue, he has seven sacks, 10 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles and five tackles for a loss.
AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Glendale, Arizona, contributed.
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