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Rapid Reactions: Cardinals find offensive groove in win over Falcons

Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) signals first down and goal against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Talk about an offensive showing.

Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals went right at the Atlanta Falcons’ defense on Sunday, scoring more than 30 points for the first time in 2019 and taking home a 34-33 victory.

The quarterback was sharp throughout, throwing for 340 yards and three touchdowns on 27-of-37 passing.

The running back duo of David Johnson and Chase Edmonds also impacted the game, combining for 169 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns.

The Cardinals defense, however, saw yet another double-digit lead slip from its grasp, allowing the Falcons to mount a 17-point comeback in the second half.

Luckily for Arizona, the Falcons shot themselves in the foot, missing an extra point late in the game, handing the Cardinals the one-point win.

Here are the rapid reactions from the 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station staff:

Dave Burns, Co-host of Burns & Gambo 

Kyler Murray thought Damiere Byrd fumbled the ball. So did Larry Fitzgerald. Both were fully expecting Byrd’s 58-yard reception in the second quarter to be overturned. It didn’t happen and in doing so you’re about to read some words that aren’t often written about the Cardinals.

They caught a break.

They caught a few, in fact. The Byrd catch. The Trent Sherfield catch.The missed PAT. I’m not suggesting the Cardinals don’t win this game without them, but as A.Q. Shipley noted after the game, the margin between winning and losing is so paper thin in this league that they helped.

Here’s what else helped: A red zone offense that went 4-5 in touchdown percentage, a phenomenal catch by David Johnson in the end zone, and a quarterback in Murray that continues to eclipse anything the previous first-round pick was able to accomplish in his brief time here. While Josh Rosen was getting benched in Miami, Murray was throwing for 340 yards and three touchdowns to the tune of a 128.2 passer rating. Say what you want about virtually anything else; that has worked out exceptionally well.

Now the defense gets Patrick Peterson back. It’s undeniable that he’ll help but can he fix everything in one week? Expecting a magic elixir is likely expecting too much too soon, which is too bad. If this team wasn’t so deficient defensively they could actually pose somewhat of a threat this year.

Vince Marotta, Co-host of Bickley & Marotta

It’s been almost a full year since Cardinals fans exited State Farm Stadium having tasted a regular-season victory.

A total of 350 days, in fact.

How long has it been since members of the Birdgang have enjoyed wins in back-to-back weeks? Well, 651 days to be exact, since the Cardinals closed out the 2017 season (and Bruce Arians’ coaching tenure) with a Week 17 win over the Seattle Seahawks that helped Arizona finish 8-8.

Sunday’s 34-33 win over the Atlanta Falcons wasn’t a thing of head-to-toe beauty — there are plenty of blemishes to fixate on. The pass rush is still unproductive. The pass defense is incredibly generous and if not for Matt Bryant’s missed extra point with 1:53 to go or several calls that seemed to go Big Red’s way (weird to think that, huh?), we’re not even talking about a win.

But progress is progress, and Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray are making it. Kingsbury called a good game — his offense rolled up 442 total yards and a season-high in points. It corrected major red zone issues and scored four touchdowns in five trips inside the Atlanta 20.

And Murray is just ridiculous. The top overall pick completed 27-of-37 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns and iced the game by picking up a first down on a five-yard scramble with 1:38 left.

How rare is a 340-yard game with three scores and no picks? Murray is just the fifth Cardinals quarterback to accomplish that feat since the AFL merger, joining Boomer Esiason, Kent Graham, Neil Lomax (twice) and Kurt Warner (twice).

Like I said, there is plenty of work to be done with this team, but it’s almost impossible to feel like the Cardinals haven’t nabbed a quarterback who will hold down this position in the desert for the next decade, and that’s what was number one on Steve Keim’s 2019 to-do list anyway.

Luke Lapinski, Host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski

This is the type of game I was expecting a lot of this season. Absurd offensive numbers from both teams, and then something crazy happening to decide the winner. It just took us a few weeks to get here.

Steve Keim told Doug & Wolf this week that the Cardinals’ offense could be “pretty scary” if they cleaned up the red zone. And, at least for one week, he was right. Arizona went 4-for-5 inside the 20, and seemed capable of scoring at will in the second half. After Atlanta punched in the tying touchdown with 1:53 to go, did anyone really doubt Kyler Murray would move the ball down the field for the win?

He would have. I’m convinced. Except he didn’t need to, because the Falcons’ “tying touchdown” actually gave way to the Falcons’ game-deciding missed extra point. And if you’re wondering just how rare it is for 18-year vet Matt Bryant to botch an extra point, well, he’s missed a grand total of eight in his career. And he’s attempted 574. That’s not even an exaggeration.

We saw Kliff Kingsbury open the playbook up even more, letting Murray air out a few deep passes to Damiere Byrd and Trent Sherfield. We saw Murray make throws he probably shouldn’t be capable of making, ultimately completing passes to nine different receivers. And we saw David Johnson and Chase Edmonds give Atlanta all kinds of problems out of the backfield.

Granted, the Falcons aren’t exactly a dominant team. They can pass and pass and pass… and not really do much else. It’s why they only have one win and their head coach is squarely on the hot seat. And yes, the Cards gave up 444 total yards, plus another touchdown to a tight end (that’s seven in six games). But the bottom line is they’ve won two in a row for just the fourth time since the 2015 season, they’re essentially within a half game of .500 and they’ll have Patrick Peterson when they take the field in New York next week.

They’ll also enter a game with a better record than their opponent for the third consecutive time next week. That was unthinkable 12 months ago.

Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter

Things are beginning to click for the Cardinals. The offense has grasped onto an identity with clear roles divvied out to its many wide receivers. Kliff Kingsbury is leaning more on his tight ends and building all this around his two dynamic running backs. Kyler Murray has settled into a role as game manager — for as much as he’s asked to throw, what he is doing fits in his skillset and hasn’t overwhelmed him.

Forget the defense nearly blowing a two-touchdown lead once again, and it’s easy to pull mostly positives out of the win over the Falcons. Progress has been made in the last several weeks, and most importantly the rookie head coach has taken six games to find his team’s offensive identity. It’s an impressive feat considering we were just talking two weeks ago about how much the talent deficit was hurting Arizona.

John Gambadoro, Co-host of Burns & Gambo

On the day Josh Rosen got benched in Miami after throwing for 85 yards and two picks, Kyler Murray led the Cardinals to a second straight win and threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns with a QB rating of 128.2. There is no doubt, and there really never should have been, that the Cardinals did the right thing in moving on from Rosen after one year and taking Murray with the top overall pick.

But the numbers you may like the most with Murray are these — No turnovers. No sacks. The offensive line as I said a few weeks ago is much improved. It’s very noticeable and has been for the past few weeks. None of the sacks Murray has taken on the season have been a sack he didn’t see coming. And now with him understanding the importance of throwing the ball away and living to play another down and not taking negative yards, the offensive line is getting its due. They have been very good. The rushing attack had 102 yards and more importantly 29 carries which allows the offense to be more balanced and keeps the defense guessing. Arizona connected on three of four trips to the red zone, so check that box as an improvement, and have now scored 131 points through six games — a whopping 59 more than this time last season.

Yes, the defense has major issues you have to hate that the blew a three-score lead in the second half and allowed Atlanta to tie it. And yes it took a 44-year old kicker missing an extra point that prevented Atlanta from tying the score with 1:53 left. But hey, sometimes you need breaks in the game and Arizona got one right there.

Bottom line is they did just enough to win and now they head to New York with Pat Pete coming back and a chance to get to .500 seven games into the season. This Cardinals team is making progress week by week. They are getting better, competing hard and giving Cardinals fans hope that the future will be very bright.

Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter

Hello offense, my old friend.

I had a feeling there was going to be a barrage of points scored in this one and was not disappointed.

The duel between vet and rookie signal caller was real on Sunday, as both Matt Ryan and Kyler Murray combined for 696 yards and seven touchdowns.

Murray held his own against the proven QB, picking up chunk plays when needed and keeping calm, cool and collected throughout.

The duo of David Johnson and Chase Edmonds can’t be denied either. The one-two punch in the backfield had their hands all over the football, with DJ finishing with 102 scrimmage yards and two scores, while Edmonds added 67 more yards and a two-yard TD.

The biggest issue from Sunday’s game was how the team closed things out. Much like the Bengals game, the Cardinals held a double-digit lead late. And yet again, Arizona allowed Atlanta to claw back into the game, only to be saved by the Matt Bryant misfire on the extra point.

The Cardinals have now tasted winning in consecutive games, something that couldn’t be said last season.

And oh yeah, they also get P2 back in the fold next week, adding to the jubilation in the locker room.

It’s on them to seize that feeling and use it to their advantage with winnable games on the horizon.

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