Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones recorded five sacks in a season-opening road romp against the Tennessee Titans, an effort that garnered him a nod as the first NFC Defensive Player of the Week of 2021.
Such a showing also heightened chatter about Jones pursuing the NFL single-season sack record and the leverage it may provide the veteran as he seeks a contract extension.
Jones said he is keeping the focus on Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings in Arizona's home opener in Glendale, Ariz.
In other words: Save the speculation.
"I'm not going to go that direction," Jones said. "I remember last season I was kind of talking about my season-ending stats. My goal is to do better than the previous year. Whatever that is, I want to do better than I did last year."
Jones notched only one sack in 2020, as he was sidelined with a season-ending biceps injury after five games.
Jones helped deliver a message from the Cardinals' defense as quarterback Kyler Murray excelled on the other side of the ball for Arizona, passing for 289 yards and a career-best four touchdown passes while rushing for 20 yards and another score.
"I just think being in the offense for three years now, having the experience, the reps, seeing a lot of looks, you know," Murray said. "Now knowing what to call at the line, what to check to instead of rookie season, knowing that maybe I should get out of this play but not knowing what to check to."
Minnesota (0-1) is opening the season with a pair of consecutive road games for the first time since 2013. The Vikings are coming off a 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.
Officials whistled the Vikings for three false starts in their first seven snaps. By halftime, Minnesota had been penalized 10 times for 91 yards.
Running back Dalvin Cook didn't see a lot of daylight, rushing 20 times for 61 yards while contributing six receptions for 43 yards. Cook pledged this week to move past the overtime fumble that turned the tide in the Bengals' favor.
"You get the ball so many times in a football game," Cook said. "The value of taking care of the football is like the world is in my hands. I've got to take care of it. I'm moving on and getting that bad taste out."
The next challenge for Cook is Jones and the Arizona defense that bottled up reigning NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry of the Titans in Week 1, holding him to 58 yards on 17 carries, a 3.4-yard average.
"They loaded up the box," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "They want to be a single-high team, for the most part, if they can. They'll mix in a little bit of quarters and two deep, but ... they want to make you one-dimensional. Stop the run and make you throw it."
Minnesota is 17-11 against Arizona, but the Cardinals boast a 7-6 edge in games played at home.
Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) did not practice Wednesday, and his status remains uncertain. Barr missed the season opener, but Zimmer noted he is "doing better" this week.
--Field Level Media