Cardinals happy to be cleaning up passing game following Week 1 win

Sep 14, 2020, 2:29 PM
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. (92) pulls down Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyl...

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. (92) pulls down Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

(AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

Perfect? Far from it.

Pretty? Definitely not.

Coming out with a season-opening win over the NFC champs from 2019 leaves little room for complaints by the Arizona Cardinals. Still, there were hiccups in a 24-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers that had to do with their second-year head coach and second-year quarterback.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury admitted he was “rusty” with his play-calling in the first quarter Sunday, and finding a rhythm with quarterback Kyler Murray took some time.

By the end, Murray completed 26 of 40 passes (65%) for 230 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

He also rushed for 91 yards on 13 attempts, including a touchdown scamper. And there appeared to be so much more room for improvement — even though Kingsbury said Sunday night that it was the “most proud” he’s been of Murray.

“First game type stuff,” Kingsbury said Monday of what he saw from the film. “Made some tremendous plays like he always does and there’s some things he’d like to have back.

“That was kind of to be expected without a preseason, without a lot of live action. And then you’re going against one of the best defenses in the league and one of the best fronts in the league. Proud of the way he battled, but we’ll definitely get better from that.”

The box score indicated balance. Murray threw 12 passing first downs and the Cardinals added 13 more on the ground. They went 7-of-14 on third downs and 2-for-2 in the red zone.

It just looked sluggish to start and underwhelming with dink-and-dunk passes as Arizona found a rhythm. Murray averaged a mere 5.6 yards of depth per targeted pass, according to Pro Football Focus, and many of his 14 connections with receiver DeAndre Hopkins were on quick slant patterns, a staple of an Air Raid offense that might come across as limiting.

Kingsbury sees it as necessary.

He wanted to stretch the defensive front horizontally early on to set up a north-south rushing attack later. The quick hits prevented a physical defensive front from getting on top of Murray, who was sacked twice for minimal losses.

“They played a lot of two high-safety looks, and we tried to be efficient as the game went on — and we started slowly,” Kingsbury said. “We’re always looking for chances to push it down the field, but we want to get first downs and do what is working.”

Arizona wanted to tempo the 49ers early, a reason why Kingsbury didn’t call a run play over eight plays in the first two series — a running misdirection play that Kingsbury stole from Tennessee got Arizona on the board with a Chase Edmonds touchdown following a blocked punt and recovery.

Maybe because most of Murray’s runs were not called in by his head coach, the Cardinals appeared to have balance with 36 rushing attempts and 180 yards to 40 passes for 224 yards. They’re just satisfied the second-year quarterback had the decisiveness and feel to make winning plays out of broken ones.

“I don’t think it was a part of the game plan,” Murray said. “The guys that they have over there getting up field have a tendency to sometimes get out of rush lanes, get tired. That’s when the offseason work, the conditioning, that’s when it kicks in for me and I do whatever it takes to win. Those plays weren’t meant for me to take off, but whatever I got to do to get the win, I’m going to do.”

Life Changer Loans


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Arizona Cardinals

Zach Ertz #86 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on against the Seattle Seahawks during the third quart...
Character Counts

Zach Ertz is Cardinals’ Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for 2022

The Walter Payton Man of the Year award is given to Zach Ertz for his community service and excellence on the field.
10 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals OL Kelvin Beachum gives back to Champion Schools: South Mountain on Monday, Dec. ...
Tyler Drake

Giving back more than just checking boxes for Cardinals’ Kelvin Beachum

Kelvin Beachum has made it his mission in giving back to the local communities around him in hopes of setting up the future for success.
1 day ago
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick reviews print outs of previous plays during the firs...
Arizona Sports

Behind Enemy Lines: ‘Too hard’ for Patriots to make big offensive changes

Entering a Week 14 tilt against the Arizona Cardinals, the New England Patriots offense led by Mac Jones is faced with question marks.
1 day ago
Lecitus Smith #54 of the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Inglewood, Calif...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals’ Lecitus Smith: People mistake Kyler Murray’s passion for ball

Cardinals OL Lecitus Smith was the latest teammate to come to the defense of QB Kyler Murray following recent criticism from Patrick Peterson.
4 days ago
Arizona Cardinals OLB Myjai Sanders (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)...
Tyler Drake

How the Cardinals should attack the final 5 games

With little hope of turning the season around, it's time for the Arizona Cardinals to turn the page and look to the future.
1 day ago
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) breaks up a pass intended for Arizona Cardinals w...
Kevin Zimmerman

Patrick Peterson says he has no beef with Kyler Murray, adds more criticism of Cardinals QB

Patrick Peterson's attempt at cooling things down after his comments about Kyler Murray on his own podcast included more criticism of the QB.
5 days ago
Cardinals happy to be cleaning up passing game following Week 1 win