In their words: Cards, Bills walk through Hopkins’ Hail Murray
The drive began with 34 seconds left in the game and followed a 21-yard strike from Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs that gave them a 30-26 lead.
It ended with a miraculous catch by Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins via an on-the-run throw by quarterback Kyler Murray that traveled 52 air yards.
Hopkins made a high-point grab over three Bills defensive backs for a 43-yard reception with two seconds remaining, giving the Cardinals 32-30 win over the Bills. The victory moved Arizona to 6-3 on the year and put the team right in the middle of a competitive NFC West race.
Here’s how the game-winning play coalesced, in the words of the Cardinals and Bills coaches and players.
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said he made a concerted effort to get the ball to Hopkins early and late: I went out of that game last week (in a loss to the Miami Dolphins) regretting we didn’t get it to (Hopkins) in crunch time. We had a good talk this week.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray felt the uneasy flow of the game for both teams before a flurry of a finish: We were just kicking field goals, not finishing drives, putting ourselves in tough situations, putting our defense in tough situations.
Kingsbury: Felt like it was back-and-forth, both teams kind of sputtering at times.
Cardinals safety Budda Baker said Arizona’s defense got stronger as the game went on. That was until the Allen-to-Diggs connection: Second half, we were playing very good defense. Josh Allen was kind of getting confused (by) what we were doing. That last drive, they get paid, too. Great play, great catch, great throw.
After the touchdown to Diggs, Allen felt good about Buffalo’s chances: I have an extreme amount of confidence in our defense.
Baker even admitted he didn’t feel great about Arizona’s chances to score: For me, at the time, they were up with 30, 40 seconds to go. We always believe in our offense but how they get that touchdown … nine times out of 10, the offense is not going to get that touchdown.
Cardinals LB Jordan Hicks watched the final play with his position coach from the bench: We were on the sideline, weren’t sure if (his Cardinals) were going for the end zone or not. I was actually sitting there with Billy, Coach Davis. He said, “Watch this play.” Glad I did.
Murray: Play was designed for me to get out left. They had a guy containing, had to make him miss.
Bills coach Sean McDermott: You don’t want the quarterback to extend the play there, number one, stating the obvious. Thought we had him on the run a little bit there, and we had him towards his sideline and looked like we had a rusher fall down and another guy coming.
Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes: Us on defense, we got to do a lot better job of understanding the situation and getting upfield.
Baker: I was on the sideline standing up on our sideline in the very back. Seen Kyler roll to his left and was like, man, this guy is so elusive, just get the throw off.
Hopkins: I seen him scrambling around. I knew he was going to try to, hopefully … give me the ball or one of the big guys downfield, that can go up and pinpoint it, Larry (Fitzgerald) and Dan (Arnold). I saw him back there doing what he do, making guys miss. I knew I needed to put myself in position if it came my way.
Murray: I felt like the only person I saw down there was Hop. Let it go, give him a chance … I wanna say I knew when it left my hand it had a chance, just cause, you play quarterback, you can tell trajectory, the touch of the ball. I think I was looking at the sideline, I just got the reaction from everybody. I don’t think I saw him catch the ball. I really don’t remember, it happened so fast. I knew once it left my hand it had a good chance.
Kingsbury: Just to get the pass off was incredible if you watch the replay. I mean, he’s running and dodging and ducking. I didn’t think he’d get it off. Then to put that kind of loft on it and give him a chance.
Hopkins on what he was thinking with the ball in the air: Coming down with it, that’s what I’m thinking about. I try not to panic — I never panic when the ball is in the air. I stay calm, being calm, going up and doing what I do. I know I have an advantage of jumping higher than some DBs, especially with my hands. If I can get my hands on the ball, I’m coming down with it. Only thing for me is trying to get a feel for the ball so I can come down and grip it best I can so nobody gets it out.
Murray had never played receiver but thought the odds of a catch seemed slim: I’m thinking like … it’s a 50-yard trot down there. He’s got to post up there with three dudes that are NFL athletes. I don’t know, that’s a tough, tough catch.
Bills receiver Cole Beasley had seen former Cowboys teammate Dez Bryant make a similar Hail Mary catch: With those type of players, anything can happen when that ball’s up in the air.
Kingsbury: At that point, I couldn’t see much but saw the crowd going crazy. Kept asking our guys, “Did he catch it?”
The answer was, “yes.” Hopkins knew he’d Mossed three Bills: In basketball terminology, that’s what they call this — (Hopkins pauses to tap the top of his head, as in putting it on someone’s head) — when they get dunked on. They were in position, it was just a better catch by I.
Murray: It was a group of four people and all I saw was black gloves.
Baker: All I see is D-Hop’s big hands, caught the ball.
Bills defensive back Jordan Poyer, who along with Tre’Davious White and Micah Hyde was in coverage: I mean, thought we guarded it pretty well … had three people around him. Just got to find a way to make a play.
Hicks: Disbelief was the emotion. That dude is one of a kind.
Hughes: Tip your hats to Murray and Hopkins. That was a huge play, but, man, that sucks. Huge gut punch.
McDermott was asked if he wishes he would have done something different as a coach on the final play: Could I have done any better? Of course I could have done better. That’s why I said what I said … very first question when I came in here, as a coach, you always think what you could have done differently. That’s the very first thing I said. What could I have done differently? What could we have done differently? You ask the players the same questions … knock the ball down. You can’t be interception-minded in that situation. Knock the ball down. At the end of the day, give them the credit, they made a special play.