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Kliff Kingsbury calls sequence leading to missed OT kick a ‘complete debacle’

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray #1 look on from the field in the fourth quarter of the game against Seattle Seahawks at State Farm Stadium on October 25, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

On a night overflowing with plays that could be described as the biggest for a typical football game, it was a decision by Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury that might rank as number one from a bizarre, wild 37-34 Cardinals win over the Seattle Seahawks.

“It was pretty bad,” Kingsbury said. “Pretty much a complete debacle.”

Tied at 34 in overtime on Sunday Night Football, Arizona got the ball back after stopping Seattle on the opening drive of extra time. A field goal would now win the game, and with 4:58 left on the Cardinals’ second play, running back Chase Edmonds broke a run for 32 yards that officially put Arizona in range to seal it on the Seahawks’ 33-yard line.

Another Edmonds run for nine yards was followed by a gain of six by quarterback Kyler Murray, putting them from “field goal range” to a spot on the field — the Seahawks’ 18-yard line — where they could feel extremely confident in kicker Zane Gonzalez.

There was still 3:36 left on the clock, though, and Murray had the offense rolling. More often than not, football logic leads coaches to let their quarterback keep going until momentum is halted, before ultimately settling for the field goal. Usually, that’s on fourth down.

But after a botched play resulted in Murray getting hit for a loss of five, Kingsbury had seen enough. He didn’t want to take any more chances and felt comfortable to let Gonzalez kick from 41 yards, even with two downs still left on 2nd-and-15.

Unsurprisingly, that led his team into a bit of a scramble, and the special teams group wasn’t set in time as the play clock threatened to reach zero.

Kingsbury burned a timeout to not lose five yards for a penalty, but not before Gonzalez’s attempt (that would not have counted) went through the uprights.

After the timeout was called, Kingsbury elected to kick again, Gonzalez missed and the game rolled on.

“I got conservative and went for the field goal,” he said. “We did not execute our play, get our quarterback blown up and then we (are) about to get a delay of game and have to take a timeout, kind of freeze our own kicker.

“So it was about as bad of a coaching job as possible by me.”

The biggest criticism of Kingsbury in that moment easily comes from making that call while his offense was hot. From the second half until that kick, the Cardinals offense had accumulated 299 of its 519 yards.

Murray approached Kingsbury after the kick and made sure he knew how his coach felt.

“I mean, he told me, he said, basically, ‘Don’t ever be conservative again. I got you,’” Kingsbury said.

“Right there, at the end, I felt like we could of went and scored or attempted to score,” Murray said of that conversation taking place. “But at the end of the day, that’s coach’s call. I can’t be mad at it. We did all we could do at that moment (and) let Zane do his job.”

Murray proved he was right by correctly managing 42 seconds of a six-play, 19-yard drive after Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons’ interception that led to Gonzalez’s redemption from 48 yards for the win.

“And he went out there and won it in the end,” Kingsbury said of his quarterback. “Any time you’re going toe-to-toe with a guy like Russell Wilson, I know that meant a lot to him.”

Phillips Law Group

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