DAN BICKLEY

Cardinals’ win over Bengals highlighted by Kyler Murray’s resolve

Oct 6, 2019, 1:46 PM | Updated: 8:32 pm

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray runs the ball in the first half of an NFL football game ...

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray runs the ball in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

(AP Photo/Gary Landers)

Mark the date. Remember where you were. The Cardinals are out of the basement.

Kyler Murray has his first victory. So does Kliff Kingsbury. The zero is gone. There is tangible proof of progress.

This 26-23 victory over the Bengals wasn’t much. It won’t change Arizona’s fate in 2019, a team guaranteed to finish in last place of a very good division. But it was a testament to a young quarterback who would not let them lose, who would not let this game end up in the dumpster.

Murray’s game-winning drive averted an epic collapse from the secondary. It will ease the vitriol directed at the general manager who has given us a leaky ship. It validated where this franchise is going, and the quarterback trusted to lead them all.

This outcome means the Cardinals are officially better than the dregs of the NFL, no longer at a table with the Bengals, Redskins and Dolphins. Those are the teams that don’t have a quarterback or a future to embrace.

It proved Murray is only short on experience and qualified teammates. He played resolute and hardcore football. He rewarded Kingsbury’s first real gambit of the season, when the head coach decided to go for it on fourth-and-two early in the game.

On that play, fortune favored the bold. Murray scored on a play that showcased all of his transcendent skill, including inner-fire, and it was an important lesson for Kingsbury to learn. He was a head coach who desperately needed validation in the win column. A head coach accused of being too conservative by some, too cute by others.

The look on Kingsbury’s face after Murray scored illuminated everything, opening a true window into the inherent pressure he’s feeling, into the life of a rookie NFL head coach.

Later in the game, Murray did something else that felt profound. He stood inside a collapsing pocket, delivered the football, absorbing a big hit in the process. The play also drew a roughing the passer flag. It was something of an initiation for Murray.

It was a play and a game that proved he has all the cojones he needs to be great.

This game was also proof that Chase Edmonds is the future and David Johnson is the past. Not sure what happened to the former MVP candidate, but Johnson is no longer explosive, missing holes and turning huge gains into three-yard runs. He needs to be reassigned to the passing game immediately, where he still makes impactful plays.

This game was also the perfect gift for Kingsbury and the beleaguered Keim.

The Bengals were a wretched opponent with an overrated quarterback. Their leadership is so daffy that they didn’t even target the tight end until the second half. They ran a quarterback sneak out of the shotgun on fourth-and-very short. A head coach can get impeached for that.

For most of the game, the Bengals should’ve been booed off the field. But that would’ve required their fans actually showing up.

I’ve never heard a football game where you could hear individual fans screaming, where the public address announcer’s voice echoed throughout the stadium, bouncing off empty spaces. The lack of hostility in the audience turned this road game into one of the easiest platforms a new, winless regime could’ve ever enjoyed.

And the Cardinals still nearly blew it.

Seconds after the game-winning drive led to the game-winning field goal, Murray found his head coach, and slapped him on the backside. It was a congratulatory gesture to celebrate the disaster averted, the first real gift from Murray.

For the head coach. For all of us.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

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