Kyler Murray turns in 2-TD, 2-pick outing to close out rookie season
Just like that, Kyler Murray’s rookie season has come to a close.
The Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback turned in his eighth multi-touchdown game in the team’s 31-24 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
The only issue?
The rookie, who was questionable with a hamstring issue leading up to gametime, committed a total of four turnovers in the outing, throwing two interceptions and fumbling twice in the loss. The total marks the most by the QB all season.
But while the giveaways show up on the QB’s statline, head coach Kliff Kingsbury isn’t one to dwell on the negatives.
“The fumbles weren’t on him, one we snapped it and we weren’t prepared for. The other was a good toss and [Kenyan Drake] took his eyes off it, just things you can’t do,” Kingsbury told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Paul Calvisi after the loss. “And those throws, if he’s 100% I think he makes. He’s a little out of wack playing with that banged up hamstring, but he kept battling and gave us a chance to win at the end.”
Even hobbled by injury, Murray still had the juice to move the ball down the field.
Following a Rams field goal and Cardinals punt to start the game, Los Angeles got greedy. After struggling to find much of anything offensively, the Rams sent out the punt team. But instead of flipping the field, L.A. pulled out the fake punt, trying to catch Arizona asleep at the wheel.
Instead of picking up the fourth down at their own 23-yard line, the Rams were met head on by the Cardinals defense, turning the ball over on downs and handing Arizona incredible field position.
Murray wouldn’t need much to turn the Rams’ blunder into Cardinals’ points.
Needing just one pass to find pay dirt, Murray hooked up with tight end Dan Arnold for the 23-yard touchdown. The score marked the second in three games for the tight end since joining the team Dec. 5.
Murray ended the half with 145 yards and the score on 10-of-20 passing. He did not register a single yard on the ground as the team looked to limit his ground attack with the injured hamstring. Murray did, however, get credited with both of the team’s fumbles in the half.
“You didn’t see him run all game, I think that tells you something,” Kingsbury said. “He couldn’t really kick it into fifth gear, I thought he did a good job managing it but it defeinitley affected his mobility. But this is the most proud I’ve been of him and his performance. To come on the road, to not be 100% and hang in there and continue to fight. Even through some tough circumstances I thought he played his tail off.”
The turnover frenzy poured into the second half.
Looking to tie the game on the opening drive of the third quarter, Murray went back to work. But instead of finding the end zone, the rookie found cornerback Darious Williams in Rams territory for his first pick of the evening.
Murray wouldn’t hesitate to go back to the air on the next possession.
Completing six of his eight passes in the drive, Murray made the opposition pay, connecting with wide receiver Damiere Byrd for the three-yard touchdown and tying things up at 17-17.
But the Rams would not go down quietly, stringing together another scoring drive to retake the lead and forcing Murray to go back to the air yet again.
In need of an answer, the Cardinals went pass heavy for most of the drive. But just as they crossed over into Rams territory, Murray committed his second mistake of the afternoon.
Looking for All-Pro WR Larry Fitzgerald, Murray let it fly from Los Angeles’ 42-yard line. But it was CB Taylor Rapp, not Fitz, who came down with the ball for the interception.
And if the turnovers weren’t enough, Murray was shaken up in his second straight game, sitting out for half of a drive later on in the fourth quarter.
Down, but not out, Murray returned to action with one last chance to tie the game.
Unfortunately, a holding call doomed the drive before it really even had a chance, pushing the Cardinals to their own 15-yard line. With no timeouts, the clock quickly ticked from a minute to two seconds in three plays, leaving the offense with one shot.
Instead of heaving the rock down the field, Murray went for the quick pass to Byrd. The WR made the catch, but was quickly met by Rams defenders. Trying to pitch the ball to a teammate, Byrd was forced toward the sideline, fumbling the ball for the team’s fifth turnover of the season.
Finishing with 325 yards, two scores and two interceptions through the air was not what Murray had in mind with one last game on the docket.
But even with his third outing of two or more picks, his head coach sees the positives in it all.
“Throughout his career there’s going to be plenty of times where he doesn’t feel 100% and he has to go out there and be the face of the franchise that he’s going to be for the next 10-12 years and give it his best,” Kingsbury said. “his teammates respect that, his coaches respect that and I thought he did a heck of a job under the circumstance.”Array