'Tired' and 'Frustrated' Murray Still Leads Cardinals to Victory
The talk around the Arizona Cardinals since the NFL schedule came out in May has been projecting the emotions of quarterback Kyler Murray in a Week 6 road game at AT&T Stadium in Frisco, Texas. After all, the legacy that Murray carries as a prep star in Dallas at Allen High and his undefeated streak in "Jerry's World," including while at college at Oklahoma, precedes him.
It all came to a head this week as the Cardinals finally prepped for what was Murray's homecoming. He was 6-0 at AT&T Stadium entering Monday night prime time, five of which were in high school games and once as a Sooner. With that, he had the opportunity to stay undefeated and win a game there at each level of organized, competitive football he has played. A rare feat to say the least.
Rare, but not impossible. Murray and the Cardinals blistered the Dallas Cowboys in their home stadium to the tune of a 38-10 drumming.
"It was fun," Murray said after the win. "It brought back a lot of memories. Felt like I've been playing there every Sunday, honestly. It was comfortable, felt good."
And while Murray can claim unblemished marks in Dallas once more, he was not overtly thrilled with his individual performance.
"It started off sloppy," Murray said. "For me, personally, the whole game was sloppy. Besides me, running backs ran well, o-line played great, defense, can't say enough about them and what they did tonight, receivers made plays when they needed to. But we still can be a lot better and it starts with me."
Statistically, Murray's humbleness is warranted. After all, he completed just 9 of 24 passes for a meager 188 yards, but contributed three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and 74 yards on the ground, good for second on the team and the game overall.
Initially, Murray started the game 0 of 2 and the first drive stalled on a three-and-out. He completed his first pass of the game on the next offensive series, a one-yard toss to tight end Darrell Daniels. He tested the Cowboys' secondary twice on deep shots to wide receiver Andy Isabella on the first two series of the game, but missed both.
"Part of me wants to (enjoy the win), but a lot of me is frustrated right now just because it wasn't as good as it should have been," Murray said. "Wasn't as accurate as I should have been. It just wasn't up to par with my standard, so I've got to get better."
Despite his assessment, Murray impressed the likes of his coaches and teammates. He continues to prove he can show up in big moments and make plays happen, whether that is through the air or on the ground.
The fact that the Cardinals were able to dominate the game from start to finish despite Murray's feelings about his performance is breeding confidence in the potential the franchise still can unlock.
"He understands how good it can be," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said after the game. "You go out here and are close on some things, didn't hit everything we wanted to, but it's exciting when you can coach in a 38-10 win and still feel like you have a lot of room for improvement as a play-caller and a quarterback. And so, we'll get back at it [Tuesday], hammer away at the game plan for Seattle and try and play better next week."
Although Arizona put up its best offensive numbers of the season from a scoring standpoint, there were points left on the board. Murray missed wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wide open in the back of the end zone and only hit wideout DeAndre Hopkins twice on eight targets, snapping his NFL-leading streak of consecutive games with five-plus catches among active players at 23. It is the second longest such streak all time behind the 36 games wide receiver Antonio Brown did it with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2013-15.
"Even just little detail things that we got to clean up, which lead to incompletions or timing deals," Murray said. "I missed a throw to Hop, which shouldn't happen. And then missed a throw to Larry. Just a lot of stuff left out there, a lot of opportunities left out there. Could have been a lot better.
"A couple little things early in the game. We detail those things up, it's probably catch. A couple of those bad throws on me. I was tired, which obviously can't happen. And then I missed [Hopkins]. I had an opportunity — he ran a go (route) and [I didn't] act on it. If I would have thrown it, it probably would have been a touchdown and we'd be all happy right now. I've got to be better."
Despite not connecting on a majority of his passes Monday, the plays the second-year quarterback did hit on were explosive. He found wide receiver Christian Kirk for an 80-yard touchdown reception, which was a career high, and Hopkins for a 60-yard gain to the red zone.
"He doesn't flinch," Kirk said. "At the beginning, we were just working some things out, seeing what they were doing coverage-wise. That's one of the things, when we get into a game, just some teams play us a little different than what we were expecting. Just feeling it out a little bit and then once we got the ball rolling, got our run game going and started completing some passes, everything went pretty efficiently."
For Kirk and the Cardinals' offense, his momentum-shifting touchdown grab could not have come at a better time. He said it was a play the team had designed and practiced all week, so when they got the defensive look they sought, he had to calm his jitters before making the play. It was even more critical given Murray and Isabella had not connected at the onset of the game.
"It was huge," Kirk said of the impact of the 80-yard play. "We had missed two of them early. Just in general, offensively, that's one of the things — I've always preached this about this offense — we're predicated on these deep shots, these explosive plays. And that was definitely a play that we needed to just spark us and put us over the top."
Overall, Murray did more than enough to lead the Cardinals to a Week 6 victory and a 4-2 record. Considering last season Arizona amassed five total wins, the trajectory of the franchise is moving in the right direction.
"I thought Kyler did a nice job," Kingsbury said. "That's not easy when that's all everybody's been talking about all week. And he's probably had this one circled on his calendar since it came out. But I thought he handled himself well.
"We were close on a couple of things early, had some close throws that I think we'll make in the future. May have been a little too revved up, but I thought throughout the game he continued to make plays with his feet that really extended drives and I was proud of the way he handled himself."