Run game picks up Cardinals’ Kyler Murray in his return to AT&T Stadium
The hype was inescapable for Kyler Murray in his return to the Dallas area for a Monday Night Football game against the Cowboys. Arguably, playing at AT&T Stadium yet again got to him for whatever reason.
His Arizona Cardinals came away with a 38-10 win, and Murray’s 9-of-24 passing performance for 188 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions wasn’t the stuff of legend.
Because of it, the Allen High School product and Texas-raised quarterback said he couldn’t fully appreciate the dominating win that moved Arizona to 4-2 on the season. Although, the smile on his face over a Zoom call might’ve led on that he was enjoying it enough.
“Part of me wants to, but a lot of me is frustrated right now just cause it wasn’t as good as it should have been,” he said.
It was the first time in the Super Bowl era that the winning team’s leading passer was 25 or more completions short of the losing team’s passer. Andy Dalton went 34-of-54 for 266 yards, a score and two picks in his first start for the Cowboys since Dak Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury.
It was also the first time since 2013 that a team scored as many points with nine or fewer completions.
On Monday, both the Cardinals and Cowboys sputtered in the first quarter, with Arizona’s first three drives dying. Two were three-and-outs.
Murray failed to connect with receiver Andy Isabella on two deep throws, while another pass to DeAndre Hopkins went the wrong way.
The Cardinals only got the lead after their defense forced two Ezekiel Elliott fumbles. Arizona’s offense capitalized with two short touchdown drives of 54 and 27 yards.
Starting on those drives, Murray began to make up for the touch-and-go passing attack. He finished with 10 runs for 74 yards, including a touchdown.
“Had some close throws that I think we’ll make in the future — may have been a little too revved up,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I thought throughout the game, he continued to make plays with his feet that extended drives.”
It reminded of the times he couldn’t get it going through the air as a passer back in high school, when he in some games turned to his legs to help him finish his prep career with a 5-0 record and three Texas state championships at AT&T Stadium.
Murray did have his pivotal moments as a passer on Monday, too. He connected on a key 80-yard touchdown to Christian Kirk to put Arizona ahead 21-0 with 4:43 left in the second quarter.
From there, the Cardinals turned to the ground game, bashing Kenyan Drake up the middle for 164 yards on 20 carries, including two touchdowns. Drake’s 69-yard touchdown run with two minutes left in the game was an exclamation point for an offense that rolled up 261 yards on the ground on 7.5 yards per carry.
“That cat knows how to finish games,” Kingsbury said of Drake. “You get him in that fourth quarter and the game’s on the line, he’s going to find first downs and find the hole and run physical.
“He worked really hard this week. He was frustrated last week with some things, and I thought he did a great job of refocusing and really played at a high level tonight.”
Kingsbury admitted watching his team perform so well on the Monday night stage mattered a lot, moreso than his own return to Texas.
Meanwhile, Murray may have left Dallas with a more bittersweet feeling heading into a short week before the Cardinals face the 5-0 Seattle Seahawks. But still, he admitted the homecoming meant something, even if he had issues with his own performance.
“It was fun. It brought back a lot of memories,” Murray said. “Felt like I had been playing there every Sunday, honestly. Comfortable, felt good. Started off sloppy. Personally, for me, the whole game was sloppy.
“Besides me, running backs ran well, O-line played great, our defense — can’t say enough about them and what they did tonight. Receivers made plays when we needed to. We can still be a lot better. Starts with me.”