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Cardinals hope Kyler Murray learns from worst loss of his career

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) is tackled by Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Samson Ebukam (50) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Kyler Murray did not lose in high school. In college at Texas A&M and then Oklahoma, he never played in a game and lost by 27 points — or close to it.

So by objective measure of score and by gut feeling, a 34-7 Arizona Cardinals loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday was truly the worst loss of his career.

Murray went 19-of-34 for 163 yards against the Rams at State Farm Stadium.

He threw a pick-six that made it a 34-0 Rams lead in the heart of the third quarter and could have been intercepted on multiple other occasions if it weren’t for dropped balls or Cardinals-friendly refereeing.

Murray also took six sacks.

“Obviously we got our (expletive) kicked today,” guard Justin Pugh said. “I can only look at myself in the mirror right now: I let Kyler get hit early. Going against a guy (like Aaron Donald) … you let him get in Kyler’s face, it’s not a ton of good things.”

Murray’s rough outing wasn’t impacted by a hamstring issue that led to the quarterback appearing on the Friday injury report. He said it didn’t bother him even though the Cardinals listed the quarterback as questionable to play Sunday.

“I wasn’t going to play if I couldn’t be myself and I felt fine today,” Murray said.

He also wouldn’t blame the flat play and resulting blowout on last week’s bye. That said, Murray admitted earlier in the week and again on Sunday that he didn’t enjoy the time off.

“Everything just felt off,” he said.

It certainly looked it for everyone on Arizona’s sideline.

The Cardinals defense got diced through the air by Rams quarterback Jared Goff for 424 yards, and the offense struggled to get going against a front led by Donald. Murray admitted that maybe he was skittish from early pressure created by Donald, who had 1.5 sacks.

“For me personally, I didn’t do a good job sitting in there and trusting (the protections), maybe because of the pressure, but next week I’ll be better,” Murray said. “If I get hit, I get hit. I just have to stand in there, it’s part of it.”

Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury did not go away from Murray in favor of backup Brett Hundley even though the rhythm of the offense was off for three quarters.

The team did not consider pulling Murray to protect him. Instead, it wanted the starters to close out the game and get a semblance of a rhythm. The Cardinals at least got that.

Arizona had just 81 net yards of offense by the start of the fourth quarter and finished with 198 thanks to an 80-yard drive that was capped by Murray’s 15-yard touchdown run with 8:35 left in the game.

“I’ve said it all year, every one of these is going to be a learning experience, and he needed to stay in and try to work through a tough situation, get completions and settle in,” Kingsbury said. “Even the negative experiences, you have to learn from, you have to get better from, and this was certainly one of those.”

RB rotation in flux

Murray was far from the only one to blame for a meager offensive outing.

Arizona got just 35 rushing yards out of an attack led by starter Kenyan Drake, who got the clear majority of snaps over David Johnson.

Drake had 13 carries for 31 yards, Johnson added four for 15 and was utilized at points as a wide receiver, while Chase Edmonds, back from a hamstring injury, didn’t see time in the backfield.

“We just, offensively, never got into a rhythm. We couldn’t get anything going, never sustained drives, a bunch of negative plays, sacks that put us in third-and-forever situations,” Kingsbury said. “We just never had a flow where we could get all those personnel groups in the game.”

Kingsbury added that the running back rotation will continue to be a week-to-week consideration.

As for wholesale problems that need to be cleaned up on the offensive side: “I can’t pinpoint one thing (that went wrong offensively). The negative plays were huge, and I wasn’t calling good plays, wasn’t getting us in rhythm. I can’t point to one thing. I think overall, we didn’t play well and didn’t coach very well.”

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