Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said last week that he expected quarterback Kyler Murray to have his best career game in the Wild Card round.
That didn't happen, as Murray had his career-worst passer rating (40.9) in Arizona's 34-11 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
The third-year quarterback said he was disappointed in his own and the team's performance, but Kingsbury believes Murray still is on the right path.
"He's made big strides each and every year," Kingsbury said. "I think we've got to stay on that path. Obviously, we didn't finish the season the way any of us would have liked. But that doesn't take away from the big strides he's made."
Murray had a career-year throwing the ball, despite missing three games with an ankle injury.
He set career bests in completion percentage (69.2), passer rating (100.6), touchdown percentage and interception percentage.
Only Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals had a higher completion percentage while Murray finished ninth in the league in passer rating. He was 18th in 2020.
However, his numbers prior to the team's bye, are much more fruitful than his production down the stretch. Injuries to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and several other offensive players made impacts, and the Cardinals struggled to adjust.
Murray had just as many interceptions as touchdowns over the final six games, including playoffs (5).
"In the back half we didn't play our best, there's no doubt," Kingsbury said. "But when you look at what he was able to do through some of the tougher games, keep us in it, battle, stay in it when it was kind of grimy and ugly.
"Those are all steps that people don't see that you've got to be able to do in this league. Anytime you get playoff experience, it's invaluable . . . He's gonna learn from it, he's gonna be better moving forward and hopefully we're in that position again and we can all be a lot better."
The offense put a lot of Murray's shoulders this season, and his ability to throw accurate passes downfield while on the run or off-balance was a major weapon.
Murray, aside from improving as a passer, took a step forward in checking plays at the line. Kingsbury and other offensive players have noted this throughout the season.
That shows growth as far as being able to read a defense.
Still, he has to make improvements with his reads. There have been tendencies to miss open receivers while his eyes are elsewhere, perhaps on his first read.
On Monday, he threw an interception returned for a touchdown as he attempted to fling the ball away while being sacked in the end zone. He did the same thing on Christmas night against Indianapolis and was fortunate the "pass" wasn't intercepted. Those mistakes have to be avoided to be considered and elite quarterback.
He spoke with reporters after the game Monday and did not have much to say about his future.
"Obviously, just losing, I haven't really thought about the future or anything like that," Murray said. "Trying to try to soak all this in. There's a lot of emotions. Proud of the team, proud of the way we fought. It was definitely unfortunate, we didn't play our best tonight."
Murray is entering Year 4. He was an MVP candidate for much of this year before the late-season slide.
The Cardinals have a lot to figure out when it comes to offensive personnel for next season. But something Kingsbury hopes he can count on is Murray's progression going forward.